I Love My Job

Dearest Thomas West Salon clients and friends!

Emilia Jane Photography

I am continuously blown away by your loyalty and generosity! Some of you have been my client for over four years and I have loved getting to know you and hearing about your life!

As you’ve likely noticed, my books have gotten increasingly busier. I often have a four week waiting list. Though I do my best to accommodate everyone, sometimes even working 12-14 hour days I can’t get everyone in. Some say this is a good problem to have, but I’m always concerned with keeping you happy, and apologize for any inconveniences regarding my schedule.

Typically stylists increase their prices somewhat regularly. As their business grows, so does their price point. I’ve worked hard at Thomas West Salon for over four years, and never increased my prices. After a recent meeting with Tom, we have decided to increase my prices.

I hope you understand, and continue to see me! This increase was a difficult and big decision, but in my industry, it’s like getting a raise, and I hope you feel I deserve it!

As of April 1, 2014 my prices will be as follows:

Women’s Haircut $80

Men’s Haircut $50 (no increase)

Blow Dry $50 (no increase)

Color/Base Bump $80

Partial Foil $150

Full Foil $200

Thank you again for being so amazing! I hope to see you soon!


Photo by Emilia Jane Photography

THAT moment.

Andrew&Rachel_1076 See that moment? You can even feel it can't you? THAT'S the moment I live for. The very second my bride sees her hair on the most important day of her life, and loves it.

Today I am feeling extremely grateful for the love I'm continuously surrounded by. Thank you to all of my brides, for making me the luckiest girl in the world. You are all so stinkin' special to me.

I love you. AJ

Photo of the lovely Rachel captured by Stoffer Photography

Adios February

Sometimes life runs according to plan, and sometimes is doesn't at all. My February was full of surprises. FEB RECAP:

Travel hair I drove down to Florida with Sammy for Spring Training. Hard to believe it's Spring Training when Chicago is getting lambasted with snow right now.

Union Hotel

We stopped in Nashville along the way for a night of live music and authentic BBQ. We stayed at the Union Hotel which I HIGHLY recommend.


Florida was magic. I ate at my same favorite restaurant like four times in a matter of days.


I was back in Chicago for less than a week, but worked two full work weeks in that time. Then, it was off to Vegas for the Project & Magic apparel shows for Bonnie & Clyde. We wrote some fresh new lines, attended seminars, and even had a second to dip our toes in the pool. All good "I miss Sammy" distractions.


While I was out west Kina took some photos of me in the desert! We had too much fun hiking in heels and singing Sara Bareilles as the sun set. Love that girl.


As soon as I got back I spent two days revving up the courage to apply for the Allure Magazine Beauty Blogger competition. Part of the submission asks for a video, so I finally worked up the courage to post a video tutorial after two years of terrifying anticipation.

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 9.51.13 AM

The NEXT day I got a call from Goody. They had just seen my video and were interested in shooting tutorials with me in NYC for the weekend. So I refilled my suitcase for the third time in three weeks and headed to the airport with my gorgeous and talented friend Lindsey for the weekend. Friday was a long day of consulting and test shooting, and then yesterday during the awards we recreated looks we saw the celebs rocking and released them right away. You can view them all HERE.


As soon as I was done, I learned my flight for this morning was actually cancelled. I've spent a combined four hours on hold and still won't be getting into Chicago before 9pm. So, I'll make the best of it with amazing coffee and even more amazing spoons. (Photo by #EATPRAYPHOTO)


Ask and you shall receive.

Put yourself out there, you have nothing to lose. Really.

Friendship is weird. In a good way.

NYC has the best latte I've ever had. If you visit check out Happy Bones.

The camera adds ten pounds but I clearly have more than that to lose. Back on the paleo grind effective immediately, but more importantly, excited to get serious about working out. I'm craving that healthy routine and feeling really good and light. Who wants to go to yoga and Flywheel with me this week?

I appreciate Chicago.

My family is pretty awesome. They acted like I was actually a celebrity instead of just mimicking celeb hair.

I'm continuously blown away by Sammy. I have learned so much about life and hard work from that man. So proud of him.

How was your February? Cheers to March!


The Best Advice I've Ever Gotten

Emilia Jane Photography If you know me, you know I take on a lot. I work double work weeks and have my hands in a lot of hot pots!

I work full time at Thomas West, work weddings on the weekends, blog in between, buy apparel for Bonnie & Clyde, and date long distance. I give 100% of my time and attention to my career, because I want to.

I started getting some grief from clients about being too booked and chatted about it here, but it's only gotten worse. And by that I mean better! I have a 4-5 week waiting list, which means I'm doing something right, but clients can sometimes be frustrated that I'm not available.

So when I want to travel, to do something for me, or my relationship, I feel beyond guilty. I feel like maybe I shouldn't be posting pictures of a sandy beach when I know clients are waiting to get their color touched up. In my mind, I work double time to be able to do those things, but I fear that clients following on Instagram or the blog won't understand both sides.

I wasn't going to come down to Spring Training with Sammy this year. This will be our fifth baseball season together, and I almost didn't take the 22 hour road trip down with him. I thought it might look bad.

Until one friend gave me the best advice I've ever gotten.

You must invest in yourself and your relationship as much as you do your business. 

Duh. Why didn't I think of that? I'm so thankful for that advice. An important reminder I really needed to hear.

So here I am. Blogging from Florida while Sammy's at the field. We have two more days together until weeks will pass with only the phone and iChat to feel connected. And then, in about five weeks, I'll probably be traveling again. Only this time, I won't feel guilty. I work my butt off to be able to travel. I'm 25, madly in love, LOVE what I do, and love to be stimulated by variety and adventure. It's healthy, and I have balance.

My career will always be my focus. It's what I live for. That being said, my personal life deserves just as much dedication and attention. Yours does too.


photo by Emilia Jane Photography



GP For months I’ve been working as the Director of Style for goldplaited, and I’m finally able to tell you all about it! Goldplaited is the marriage between a blow dry bar and makeup studio. Umm… perfection? That’s what I thought too when the LA sisters behind the idea asked me to join them in bringing it to life right here in Chicago!

I have helped to create the service menu, style for photoshoots, select premium product lines, and now, I’m ready to help audition and train Chicago talent to create the best team around.

We’re looking for passionate, fun, talented hair and makeup talent to launch the flagship location: 2803 N. Sheffield Ave. (Sheffield & Diversey)

If you’re interested, please send your resume and cover letter to gals@goldplaited.com soon, as auditions begin next week!


Now Hiring: Elle Woods


Your Stylist AJ is growing faster than I anticipated, and I’m ready to hire an intern!

I’m looking to hire a local Chicagoan to potentially become a permanent assistant to work alongside me.

Are you…

  • Organized?
  • Self motivated?
  • Interested in photography?
  • Down to let me play with your hair?
  • Lover of beauty and fashion?

If you’re all of the above, I can’t WAIT to meet you!

You’ll be assisting me with everyday tasks for Your Stylist AJ, helping me execute some amazing ideas, brainstorming with me to create new ones, shipping care packages to brides and giveaway winners, while maintaining office organization. Bonus points for Elle Woods tendencies. (I'm only half kidding.)

YSAJ may be a small business, but it’s surely a sparkly one, with BIG things on the horizon.

I believe in optimism, music, post-it notes and hairspray. I’d LOVE to find someone who believes in the same, who can add a little extra energy around here.

If you’re interested, please email your resume to info@yourstylistaj.com!



Growing Pains

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 9.42.30 PM Many of my clients have been with me for years, a handful fly in from other time zones, or drive from two states away. Most of my clients have become my closest friends. I've been with a few from their first date to their wedding day. I've been trusted to listen to their most personal stories, and some of them have listened to mine.

I've been struggling with the best problem an independent gal can have, being too busy. But while this is a "good problem" to have, it's still an issue.

When I started at Thomas West Salon, I was working six days a week, and passing out free haircut cards to get busy. Fast forward almost four years, and I'm down to three days a week, while owning a bridal business, maintaining a pulse on this blog, and fulfilling my role in our family business. It's a lot, and I LOVE the juggling act, but I also understand how that affects my salon clients.

Thank you so so much to my loyal regular clients who have stuck by me even though my schedule is harder to get into. I love and appreciate every single one of our visits together! I am not naive to the fact that it was once easy to get in with me the same day, and now you're asking to be "squeezed in" sometime in the next two weeks. Thank you to those who are understanding, and proud of me.

To those who are frustrated with my schedule and not being able to get in right away, please remember that I am a person. A super hard working girl who does what I do because I adore it. If you can't get in with me TODAY, please recognize that as a good thing. If I was still that available after years of building a clientele, it would speak volumes of my talent. I do the best I can to accommodate everyone, and will continue to come in early and stay late when necessary.

Thank you x10


photo by Emilia Jane

Lately's Lessons

xtensions Sammy showed up at our apartment Saturday and totally surprised me so I went four days of forgetting I have a blog, or that anyone besides Sam Palace exists. My bad. Now I'm playing total catch-up and have to move over to my inbox, but first must share some of the lessons I've been learning lately...

Keep a clean house. We're adults, you never know when someone might pop on over, a friend is locked out and needs to crash with you, or your long distance boyfriend surprises you!

Lonely isn't a dirty word. Loneliness is forced upon us and sometimes it sucks, but it makes company so much sweeter.

Wash your face EVERY night. No matter how tired you are. My sheets are sad.

Look cute even on your day off. It's your time to feel awesome, and you won't have an awesome day if you don't feel great.

Dry shampoo is underrated. Shampooing and styling is hours spent you'll never get back.

Extensions, (done right), are also underrated. I do extensions on so many girls and I'm still always shocked by how magical they are. What are you waiting for?

Flower yourself. I've been buying flowers for myself every week of 2013, and it's money well spent.

Flower someone else. Just because.

Listen. No one wants to hear about you as much as they want to talk about themselves. Let them.

SAVE money. So when you find your dream kitchen table and couch in the same week you can get them. Wait, that's not exactly saving then...


Mrs. Gruits

tea About this time every year, as the summer becomes more permanent and the evenings are so light so long, I remember our summer with Mrs. Gruits.

I grew up in a small town, with nothing to do but build forts in the woods and rollerblade 'til the streetlights came on. Courtney, my neighbor, and I, were always seeking adventure. We created "The CA", a combination of our initials named our secret territory in the woods beyond our subdivision. We put decorated milk jugs on sticks stuck into the ground to claim it as our own. We went there everyday, improving it, making it beautiful, until one day a man with a shotgun warned our parents that we were on his property. Devastated, we packed up our blankets and turkey sandwiches, and whimpered back to the paved land.

We were almost to my house when a very old woman was struggling to collect the paper from the end of her driveway. We naturally ran to meet her mid reach, pick it up, and hand it to her. Grateful, she invited us inside. Courtney and I hesitated, knowing what was safe and what wasn't, but hungry for a new adventure we went inside.

Mrs. Gruits chatted with us for hours, treating us as equals, not as children. Her house smelled like a library, and though the house had central air, she didn't turn it on. We were all sticky in summer humidity, and Mrs. Gruits insisted we drink cold tea with her. I remember it being my first time drinking the bitter watery awfulness, but being so thirsty I'd drink cup after cup.

After loosing her husband, the poor woman only had two little girls to hear her cries. She looked so old to me. Definitely older than anyone I'd ever known. She was openly so sad, lonely, and unhealthy. I now know she knew she was dying.

Some parts of the story get fuzzy. I'm not sure how often we went to her home, but we had frequent life lessons over casual tea parties. I don't know how we kept going back. It wasn't an appealing environment for kids, or anyone really. It was depressing and confusing, but the moment I left, I felt so wonderful. She was so grateful every time we visited her, and I understood just how influential we were to her happiness. Looking back, we continued to visit her because we loved the feeling of such selflessness. We too kind of knew she was dying, and that we were making her days.

School started back up, and it had been a couple months since we stopped by. One day Courtney came running to my house, her mom had told her an ambulance had gone to the house and left while we were at school. We went to our old place in the woods, and cried together. We never saw Mrs. Gruits again.

People ask how long I've known I wanted to be a hairdresser, and I explain that around my freshman year of high school I started figuring that out. But it was years earlier that I knew I wanted to be a daymaker. I wanted to do something with my life that made people feel better. I went back to Mrs. Gruits' home over and over because I was addicted to making her feel good, to making her day.

I know that doing hair doesn't require a college education, it could be perceived as vain, or easy, but I do what I do because it makes me feel good to make people feel better about themselves, and being creative is a great bonus.

To my clients, thank you so much for the opportunity.

Your Stylist, AJ


Try Me

photo 7 "Wedding planning" is a pretty way of saying making a ton of tough decisions. I know this, I appreciate it. That's why when my brides choose to hire ME as their hairdresser for the most important day of their life, I don't take it for granted. That decision to choose me... it makes me so excited!

Hair trials are SO important. I do have brides that decide not to do trials, and they've never been less than obsessed with their hair on the day of, but a trial helps me to understand your vision, and gives you the opportunity to see it come to life. Sometimes seeing a photo of Jessica Alba rock glamour waves is all you think about, but when you see that same hair on your head, maybe you realize you kinda want it up! Scheduling a trial not only solidifies that you love the look, but alleviates day-of stress. On your wedding day you should sip your mimosa, hang with your besties and know exactly what I'm doing behind the chair. No guessing or hoping that you'll love it.

TIP: I recommend scheduling a hair trial for two months before your wedding!


Nurturing YSAJ

enjoy When I started working at Thomas West Salon three and a half years ago, I was there six days a week. Two years ago I went down to 5 days a week. Now... I'm going down to four.

When I started Your Stylist AJ a year and a half ago, I was kind of setting goals as they happened, and it wasn't until this winter that I really started making YSAJ such a large focus. I LOVE working in the salon, and I plan on working in the salon forever, but going down to part time has been the goal for a while now.

I'm dropping Tuesdays at Thomas West, leaving me in the salon Wednesday through Friday, and the Saturday's that I don't have weddings booked. This will still be a full time schedule, and I will absolutely be able to get everyone in! I'll still be at Thomas West almost 40 hours a week.

Your Stylist AJ is a two part business, the blog, and the bridal. I need the extra day to really nurture YSAJ and give my brides the attention they deserve, while delivering amazing blog posts five days a week. This new schedule means that I'm on the right track, change is happening, and my business is growing!

I'm so excited for this shift! Thank you to all of my loyal clients, (most of you have become friends), for being such a huge part of my life.

Love, AJ

P.S. Thank you for all of the emails and texts regarding my last post. I'm so humbled by the love I received. You guys are amazing.

original photo taken by Joseph Mark 

Girl Time



A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to collaborate with two of my favorites to play hair and makeup! Shannon perfected the makeup, and Emilia made these everyday girls look and feel like professional models!

Thank you to my dear friends for spending a few hours out of your comfort zone for us, you're all stunning!

XO AJ P.S. More of these shoots to come! If you're interested in being a model and letting us play dress up with you, please use the contact page to leave me a note!

Shannon O'Brien www.shannonobrienmua.com

Emilia Jane www.emilia-jane.com

Happy Mother's Day

Missing my mom this Mothers Day weekend, who’s really more like a sister. She’s a trendy, boutique ownin’, has never skipped a day shaving her legs…ever, strong, corvette drivin’, total rockstar! We consistently inspire each other, and I take comfort in knowing she’ll forever have my back.

Thank goodness for my mom, or I wouldn’t be a hairdresser.

Growing up, my mom, sister, and myself were sent to the salon with a blank check from pops every 3 months. We’d be SO excited for our fresh highlights, three silly blondes giggling our way through the front door of the salon.

The drive home was always a little less exciting, followed by my mom locking herself in the bathroom for the rest of the night. My poor dad, living with all women, even our yellow lab a girl.

This cycle never changed, my mom never loved her hair, her stylists- (emphasis on the plural)- never really listened, her experiences weren’t relaxing, and the ticket wasn’t cheap. My mom, the most beautiful woman in the world, didn’t feel beautiful.

Fast forward a few years, yours truly had enough. It’s in my make up to care and concern for the happiness of others, what better way to provide that than to make people feel beautiful every single day? So! I went to beauty school. Being recruited by an Atlanta salon and leaving my madre wasn’t in the plan, nor ending up in Chicago, but you can bet my mom has an amazing excuse to see me every six weeks!

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman responsible for Your Stylist AJ. I love you.