Getting a haircut is never as simple as it sounds, especially in this city. You’re gonna need some help, unless you have one or more of the following: a) extremely liberal views on what counts as presentable b) a steady pair of hands, and c) tremendous flexibility á la the double-jointed faction of showtime kids. Good luck with that whole finding-a-stylist thing, by the way. If you’re searching within a two-mile radius of Greenpoint alone Yelp turns up 218 hair salons. On top of that, professional hair choppin’ is a fiercely competitive scene, and yet salons still manage to be painfully expensive and, in some cases, rather uncomfortable.
“The North Brooklyn hair scene could be a reality show,” Julie Jaczkowski told me. A local stylist (who also happens to be my stylist) originally from Detroit, she’s spent the last few years expertly chopping away at hairs, sculpting, dying, and drying in a handful of Greenpoint salons. Recently, she and her business partner, Ashley Sullivan, have ventured out on their own to open Diamond in the Rough, a two-chair clandestine salon tucked into a unit at the back of a neighborhood motorcycle shop and shared auto, moto, and heavy-duty arts workspace.
It’s kind of like a speakeasy, only less drunk and not terrible. “There’s an artist across the hall, a designer down here,” Julie explained. “It’s a party space, you can bring a bottle of wine and chat with friends, but it’s also a great work environment for people who have been here for 15 years, it’s just not pretentious.”
All of which sounds way more chill than the “corporate salons” Julie had worked at until recently. “It was just a real bummer,” she said. Worst of all, she was never truly comfortable and felt totally out of place. One of these salons took advantage of rock n’ roll aesthetics to decorate the space. “But I was told I could not play rock n’ roll there because it would make the place seem dated,” Julie guffawed. “I was like, Kim Gordon would come in here right now and be so over this shit.”
I stopped by last week to get a good look (and good lookin’) at the place which Julie had dubbed her “anti-salon.” The setting immediately sets Diamond in the Rough apart not just from its area counterparts, but makes it an outlier in the city’s hair scene as a whole. But you wouldn’t know it from where you’re standing outside. After Julie let me in through a heavy metal door, I followed her through the dark-and-cold-as-hell space until we reached her spot– a calming little oasis with heat, rock n’ roll vibes, and exactly zero windows. Without a traditional storefront or even a sign, you gotta know someone who knows someone. That’s just fine for Julie, who said that at this point in her career, she’d rather stick with the built-in clientele she knows well, and reach new regulars by word of mouth. “It’s kind of underground,” she said.
Ok, so Diamond in the Rough isn’t exactly top secret, the salon does have an Instagram. But compared to all those corporate salons, clammering with yammering customers and stylists wielding sharp objects, hot tools, and tenuous patience for some of the grossest entitled-human behaviors you’re ever going to see in public, this place feels downright hermetic.
“People come in and settle down, and talk and it’s almost uncensored, like let’s skip all the small talk bullshit,” Julie explained. “It’s like real talk. And traditionally, a salon is a meeting place where you discuss ideas. Especially with everything being so crazy in the world right now, it’s nice to feel like you have a safe space for that.”