Hairdresser. The word can strike terror into the most valiant of hearts. Who among us has not skipped innocently into a posh-looking salon, placing our manes in the hands of an assumed professional, only to skulk out half an hour later looking like a refugee from the land they call Mullet?

Take my current travelling companion (I’m writing this from the road). Last week she entered her local Supercuts possessed of a gleaming ebony do reminiscent of Jacqueline Onassis. Twenty minutes later: Jackie Chan.

So when you find someone who respects both you and your hair, you stick with them. It’s certainly been the secret of success for Glen Sanderson, owner of Distinct Hair Design. “I want every person who walks through our doors to feel a sense of welcome and comfort,” Sanderson says. “Even before they sit down in the chair, I want them to feel like we’re glad they’ve come in.”

Certainly the salon’s décor plays a large role in the space’s sense of relaxed elegance: the walls and work stations are sleek and fuss-free, with a lack of clutter and product posters that is both refreshing and classy. At the back of the room are two sets of French doors, opening up to a secluded courtyard shaded by a beautiful lilac tree.

“It’s a great place for both us and the clients,” Sanderson says. “People can sit out there and process their colours instead of just sitting inside. It’s peaceful and creates the feeling of a nice connection to nature.”

It also dovetails nicely with the salon’s emphasis on ecology and natural alternatives. Sanderson is what one might call a practical conservationist, utilizing eco-friendly products wherever possible, while still maintaining a high professional standard.

“I won’t sacrifice the quality of what’s walking out the door of this salon,” he says. “But there are many eco-friendly products that are every bit as good, or better, than the old standards. Our main colour line here is Schwarzkopf’s ammonia-free line, and we use a wonderful biodegradable shampoo called Sojourn.”

Sanderson admits that his commitment to lowering both his personal and professional eco-footprint can occasionally mean a more slender profit margin. “If that costs me a dollar or two more, then so be it. We’re all citizens of the world, and we’ve got to take ownership of it or we’re going to lose it.”

The ability to make such decisions is definitely part of the delight that he takes in owning his own business. A latecomer to hairdressing, he formerly worked as a wig stylist and window designer for The Bay, while moonlighting as co-host for the now-defunct Bar 501’s infamous window shows and drag bingo in the guise of Mr Bunny LeBlanc. Giving up a regular salary — with benefits — was a scary prospect, but the lure of entrepreneurial freedom was too strong to ignore.

“I went back to school in my mid-30s,” he says. “I haven’t looked back since. My goal was to own my own salon by the age of 45, and, well, mission accomplished!”

Now just more than a year old, Distinct is doing a bustling business — enough to keep Sanderson and his team of stylists busy five days a week (they’re closed Sundays and Mondays). They stay on top of trends and techniques with courses and seminars, and, miracle of miracles, seem to genuinely enjoy working with each other. It’s a busy life, and Sanderson loves every hectic second of it.

“I really like the responsibility,” he says. “I like that when our clients leave happy, whether I was the stylist or not, I can take pride in that I created this business and created this atmosphere. That makes me very happy.”

Distinct Hair Design is located at 97 Maitland St.

See distincthairdesign.com or phone 416-551-2266 to book an appointment.

OA_show('Leaderboard - incontent article/blog');