If you told me Tony Paris was 40, I’d believe you. If you told me he was 60, I’d also believe you. With his jet black dyed faux hawk, tribal tattoos and silver jewelry he falls into a category of people with an unknowable age and unmistakable spirit. He runs a salon in downtown Vientiane (17º57’54”N 102º36’12”E) near War Ong Teu. Two black chairs, one orange chase lounge connected to a sink for hair washing and a flat screen TV playing tennis fill the small space.
Corey had been to Tony twice for a haircut; she has short hair that requires frequent maintenance. Tony was recommended to her as someone who spoke good English and cut Falang hair. He did not disappoint. “I do you sexy!” He told Corey before he buzzed the side of her head. She asked him if he could dye her hair purple. He said he could do anything if she brought in a reference photo the day before. We decided to give him a go. Again, no appointment required. This is such as foreign concept to me as my colorist in Chicago books up over a month in advance.
Tony was born in Laos but lived in France and seamlessly floats back and forth between speaking Lao, English and French. I went in with Corey to show Tony some reference photos of dyed hair. My job for the past 5 years has enforced a very strict dress code for employees (no unnatural hair colors, no piercings, no tattoos, no denim, no sandals, etc.) and now that my work dress code is a Lao sinh, covered shoulders and dress shoes without restrictions on hair color, I decided to go a little wild. I requested blue and purple dye towards the bottom of my hair, keeping my dark roots. Tony really wanted to cut my hair as well, but seeing as growing it out to pony tail length has been a 5 year endeavor, I was hesitant to let him near me with shears, even though he said, “Only a little bit, long layers.” Sorry Tony, maybe next time.
In response to the photos I sent after meeting with Tony, he sent me three voice memos on WhatsApp confirming “Blue and purple? Blue and purple. No red.” And “Blue and Purple, see you tomorrow!” I came in at 10 when the salon opened and Tony decided to start with blonde highlights up to the roots. This was when I knew my reference photos were going to be simply a suggestion and my locks would be Tony’s canvas to play around with. I was nervous but tried to relax. I told myself If I hated it, a box of black dye would cover over pretty much anything.
While the bleach set, Tony told me, “You can go outside and have a cigarette. Come back in 20 minutes.” Never was a more French statement ever uttered. I told him I didn’t smoke and he offered me his neighbor’s WiFi password as condolences. 20 minutes passed and I reentered through the sliding glass doors. “Five more minutes.” I sat down next to Tony. He was watching the US Open and told me he used to be a tennis instructor in France. He also told me that Lao was much easier of a language than English and that he cuts and colors his own hair, “Of course! It’s easy.”
The Blue and Purple went on in thick zebra stripes without foil. My cheeks and forehead became dyed with stray strands and Tony’s assistant kept wiping away the color with cotton balls. A French woman came in. A British woman came in. I was the youngest client by far. The moment of truth. I laid back in on the chaise and Tony’s assistant washed out the colored dye and Tony started the blowdrying process. He told me the same thing every hair dresser has ever told me; I have an awful lot of fine, straight hair. At least I’ll never go bald! He wouldn’t let me see the final results until the very end.
Is it what I wanted? No. Has it grown on me immensely? Absolutely. It’s very subtle. From a distance, you can’t even tell it’s dyed. Then from about 20 feet it looks iridescent, sort of silvery (so I’m told.) And when you're up close it’s a very natural looking blue and purple intersperse with my natural brown. It’s hard to take a picture of.
Corey went the next day for a full peroxide blonde followed by vibrant purple. It’s anything but subtle, but looks really great. While Tony was putting purple in Corey’s hair he decided to dye part of his own locks and a streak on our friend Sarah’s hair who was hanging out with Corey in the salon. I am happy to report that neither a horrific smell nor any burning accompanied my dye job the way it did Corey’s. I’ve been there and I don’t think I’ll ever go blonde again. The color just isn’t worth the itchy, burning scalp! Tony’s the man. He’s an intuitive hair artist with a flair for the creative. When I’m back in Vientiane for our mid year check in I would certainly let him work his magic again.