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By Julia Lee

Puccini Hair Design is located at 237 Atwood St. in Oakland, a five-minute walk from the Cathedral of Learning. The salon was founded in 1974 and has won 10 “Best Of” awards since its inception. Right now, it’s owned by Salvatore Puccini, a 37-year-old Pitt alumnus who has been there since 2003.

Puccini is a hair salon, but they also offer a free personal health assessment that anyone can take on their website. The assessment was launched in January 2015 by Dr. Lauren Loya, a graduate of Duquesne University. The assessment is based on thousands of medical and scientific studies and uses more than 5,470 algorithms to process the information that you provide to formulate a customized IDHealth Score and IDreport. It asks for personal information in regards to allergies, dietary patterns, lifestyle habits, physical characteristics and medical conditions. After you submit all of your personal information, it designs organic and vegan options such as supplements, sleep aids, energy drinks and other tools for weight management that someone can choose to purchase if they wish.

The salon offers a wide variety of services including haircuts, blowouts and chemical services. Their chemical services include all-over color, balayage, ombre, highlights, lowlights, relaxers, perms and more. Clients come in with various requests, from wanting to go back to their natural hair to dyeing it dramatic colors, to cutting off a significant portion of it to donate. Although people sometimes want an outcome that isn’t necessarily something the salon can provide given the condition of their hair, stylists always work with the client to figure out an alternative that will satisfy them. They also make a point to carry only products that are ethically endorsed, so the only brands they carry are Paul Mitchell and Purvana — Paul Mitchell’s products are not animal-tested, and Purvana’s products are organic.

At Puccini, every appointment is a collaborative experience, as the stylist and client have to be flexible working as a team. The stylists are there with the person, hand-in-hand, guiding them through their experience from when they walk in to when they walk out. Often, they both walk away with more than what they came for.

“Hair to me is just the medium and everything, but I think it’s a distraction from really what the business is about, and I think it’s about the relationships,” said Puccini.

They have a diverse clientele, from college students to people in their late 50s. Some have been coming for 40 years, while others stay for a year to four years before moving to different places. Regardless of the amount of time they’ve known each other, the stylists always work to build and maintain rapport with every single person they work with.

Sometimes when someone wants to do something drastic, like cutting their hair short when it’s halfway down their back, it indicates to Puccini that something else is going on in the peripheral. He’s had vulnerable experiences with clients in which they’ve confided personal things in him that they haven’t even told their friends or family. Often, when external stresses occur and they want to do something drastically different to their appearance, it can be a way of them wanting to feel as if they’re in control.

With a lot of clients, their stylists are treated like trusted advisers, and he describes the special relationships he has with his clients as mutual therapy.

“The hair business can kinda serve as a therapeutic relationship and source of life advice, more so than the outcome,” Puccini said. “For us, getting the hair on point is easy. The real challenge is, we’re looking to connect with people on a daily basis, and to make an impact on people’s lives.”

He experiences several interpersonal moments with different people that keep him engaged with his work. Standing on his feet all day and being hunched over a sink can be physically demanding in ways people may not initially realize. Despite that, he’s “committed and bonded to it to the point where [he] can’t walk away from it, almost like family.”

Appointments can be booked by calling their phone number at 412-621-2087, or filling out the online form on the Contact tab on their website. They also offer walk-in specials that include wash, condition, cut and basic style for those on the go, with no appointment necessary.

Sponsored by: Puccini Hair Design