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Jeffrey Dauksevich might be Boston's biggest salon secret, but this man is no stranger to the hair world. His trajectory was a serendipitous one, having assisted on a photo shoot more than twenty years ago and trying his hand at hairstyling, never looking back. After much mentorship in New York, the Massachusetts native relocated back home, opening the revered Umi salon in 2000. He closed Umi in 2011 after over a decade run, taking its beloved product line with it into the vault.
In January 2012, Jeffrey splashed back onto the salon scene, to the delight of his clientele nationwide, with a team of just seven staff members. His product line has just been revived under the name Jeffrey.Products, using the same formulas that had industry people as far as Europe desperately ordering cases of products to reportedly sell on the black market. The current salon, JEFFREY, sits above Newbury Street with white walls, modern furniture, art books, and funky bric a brac as music hums from a vintage record player. After chatting with the entrepreneur and stylist, we've uncovered why Jeffrey is much more than just Boston's most expensive haircut.
What do you think is the biggest perk of having an intimate salon setting?
When I first opened Umi fifteen years ago it was very different. Especially for Boston, in that there was a specific system through which people would train and move through salon management. Because of that, now there is a massive sterility in the salon industry where they all mentor pretty much the same. I decided I wanted to go back to old school apprenticing, where I'll choose quality character if I can find it and mentor one-on-one through a career. So many salons have evolved to a point where there are so many layers of management. This is one of the few like it industry-wide. I was mentored by some of the best in the industry, so I'm passing it along and that does transfer to the client experience.
Do you recruit outside of Boston? Is it hard to find people who meet your standards for apprenticeship?
Yes, all over. It used to be back in 1999 that for every ten or twelve people I'd find one. Now it is one or two people for every few hundred. Before it used to be that I didn't care where they came from. It would be like bootcamp. Now I look for existing talent. People know how to do basics but I look for that nuanced elevation and point of view. Everyone is looking at finished glossy photos and creating a mystery is a challenge now. One way to do it is through authenticity—it's almost the new mystery.
Is there any signature detail to your cut and look?
We keep the lines really fitted to the bones. Everything really is bespoke. What I like to do is make something beautiful then kind of fuck it up a little bit. I've always been a fan of classically pretty and rough. That uptown-downtown stress. Our shoots always end up looking like film stills. It's creating a question mark and that seems to work with a very specific clientele.
What compelled you to develop your own line?
So the first thing I did was our powder, which I did because the one I used for years was discontinued. We went to do it ourselves, which took two years to do. Through that process I've learned a lot about developing products and I thought let's do the whole thing. The media picked up and it became hugely popular.
Yeah, that's almost like a whole separate career.
Well I spent a lot of time consulting other companies so I had a little bit of background in testing. It's a closed thing, you have to know where to start. Again, it was a totally new experience; if I had planned it, I couldn't have done it.
And it seems like the start of your career was kind of a happy accident. Do you believe in fate? It seems fateful.
Total accident. Belief is a funny word. I think you just have to be open to let things happen. I studied physics in college, got into photography, and through that got into hairdressing. It's like a kaleidoscope. Back in the 1980s when anything in the world could happen.
And hairstyling runs in your family.
My grandfather opened the first barbershop in the Parker House Hotel. It's still there. I think it's still called John's.
Were there any techniques or lessons you got from him?
He was one of those genius Sicilian guys who had to make it on the street through handshakes and hard work. He had the ability to take two pennies, rub them together, and make a dollar. As far as styling goes, being around a Sicilian barber will have an influence but I can't honestly say that's where my inspiration came from.
Why do you keep your salon in Boston?
Only half my clientele here is from Boston. Most of the traveling ones come from New York. So why the hell would I go to New York if they are coming here? Boston is arguably infinitely more beautiful to live in. At the end of the day when I think about what I want, I'm in New York all the time anyway. I have the best of both worlds.
Is there a certain design element of the JEFFREY space that you especially like?
The whole thing. It's just where I spend my time, it's my studio. What you see, there's no pretense about it. I like the blankness of it, because when people are in here, they're the thing that looks good. Most of the products are kept in these pods behind the client, and it's not cool because it's a shiny bottle; it's meaningful because this person is using it.
Where is your favorite place in Boston to pick up books, records, and decor?
Abodeon is one of my favorite spots to waste a couple hours on a Sunday. I find amazing records up in Portland, Maine.
· JEFFREY Boston [Official Site]