A Wig for Jan
A Client’s Passing Reminds One Stylist Exactly Why He Loves His Craft
If you ever needed a last minute gag gift, a 15-foot blowup Space Needle or you just felt like perusing aisles upon aisles of the vintage goods from yesteryear, Jan Cole’s Daily Planet Antique Store in Seattle was the place to go. She opened her antique shop in the ’70s, co-owning at first but eventually running the show on her own. People remember the quirky antique store lady as both hilarious and charming—a people pleaser at her utter core. But by no means was she an extrovert. She kept a close-knit group of friends and was never someone to boast or brag about herself—or anyone else for that matter. Still, her “wicked” sense of humor touched every part of her life and lives of those around her. Those naughty, up-to-no-good jokes are what Salon Circa hairstylist, Randy Evans remembers most about his dear friend.
“She would walk in with this Charlie Brown smile like ‘I think I might get myself in trouble, but I’m not sure.’ I knew she was always up to something all the time,” recalls Randy. Randy has been a hairstylist for 34 years, servicing the downtown Seattle crowd. Jan had been coming to Randy for 33 of those 34 years. When she came into Randy’s salons on Saturdays, she always came in with a bag from her store. “It was always a gag gift,” laughs Randy. “One time during Christmas, she brought in four year old, expired black Peeps as my Christmas present. Another time, she knew I was a water skier so she brought in this 1950s bright, ivory blue Banana Boat belt to wear around my waist. Just whacky stuff! And I’d open it at the back table and my staff would just laugh about it all day. She was quite the character.”
Back in January, however, Jan came into Randy’s salon with some bad news. She was diagnosed with cancer and was starting chemotherapy immediately. “She came in and found out she had cancer and started chemotherapy all within six weeks. I told her that I do custom wigs so, of course, I set out to do her wig,” explains Randy. Being that Jan ran an antique shop most of her life and had an admiration for all things vintage, she had a very special request for Randy. “She had ’30s and ’40s ringlets of hair from her favorite great aunts, and she wanted those sown into the wig,” says Randy.
Long before curl sets and perms, women would grow their hair to extremely long lengths—we’re talking eight to 10 inches of hair—with the sole purpose of cutting them out to form into hair ringlets. The hair would be weaved into curls, affixed to a metal loop and then threaded around the loop with a pin. These ringlets were then stuck to the roots. These bolts of ringlets would create large, elaborate updos, like the styles Golden Age celebrities would wear in old cinema. “You should see the workmanship,” gushes Randy, “I’ve never seen something like this before!” Being that these were from Jan’s great aunts, they came to Randy wrapped in a bonnet, like you would see on “Little House on the Prairie.” Randy was astonished: “Jan was really in tune with the past and how people lived. She appreciated older people and their lifestyles—and she lived it!”
Randy received the finished wig a week later.
In late April, a phone call came into Randy’s salon. It was Jan’s family. On May 2, her family and friends were gathering to inter her urn at Acacia Cemetery and they invited Randy to say his final goodbye. The family, however, had one final request: “They made a special request that I bring the wig and I thought ‘Well, that’s interesting.’ Maybe they want to keep it as a memento or donate it to the cancer center. So I shampooed it up, styled it and made it pretty for Jan. I expected to hand it to the family at the end of the service.” As everyone stood at the podium sharing fond memories, Randy heard his name called. “They said ‘Randy, did you bring the wig?’ and I said ‘Yeah,’ and they then said ‘Would you mind bringing it up here?’ I remember thinking ‘I don’t know where this is going!’” says Randy.
Randy went up to the podium, in front of the urn, and introduced himself. He received a huge applause. “They all knew about me or heard about me from Jan,” says Randy. “Jan was a very private girl, I would never think of her as the type of person that promoted someone else.” It was then that the family asked Randy to put the wig on the urn. “‘She would think it is hilarious’ they said. And I’m like ‘Oh my God, I have never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be doing something like this,’” laughs Randy. “But then I realized, yeah, Jan would laugh at this.”
So he got to work. Being that he was coming to her memorial, Randy was entirely unprepared—he only had a bottle of hairspray in his bag. “I take the wig out and make her favorite ponytail. I just kind of winged it and tried to place it like how she liked it. I’m just looking down thinking this is the most surreal thing I’ve ever done in my life!” explains Randy. “It’s endearing, it’s cool, it’s funny but it’s also a little whacky—but I love that I’m doing this because Jan had such a great sense of humor.” As he was styling, Randy got a whiff of the styling product he was using. It immediately transported him back to the salon, styling his favorite long-time client’s hair. He shared a final laugh with his client and turned around to reveal the newly styled urn. He then said his classic line that he always says in the salon: “Welp, just another day at the office.” People fell off their chairs laughing!
After Randy returned to his chair, everyone received a rose to place in Jan’s coffin. Randy got in line. As the procession began, Randy overheard her family and friends saying with a smile: “Oh Jan… You’ve never looked better!”
Being a hairstylist for 34 years, Randy attests that some stylists would become jaded, bored or tired of their job. But this moment reminded him why he has never been more proud to be a hairdresser and thankful for his client and dear friend, Jan. “The thing that humbles me to my bones is that you don’t realize how much of a difference you’re making in someone’s life until something like this happens,” says Randy. “It brings me right back to the reasons hairdressers go into being hairdressers—it’s to help people and make them feel better by making them look better. I was so thankful to do Jan’s hair for 33 years, and this moment brought me back to where I need to be. I feel like I just got out of beauty school, and I’m ready to go! I am damn proud to call myself a hairdresser.”