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Miles of Style

From buzz to snip, from follicle to tip, meet the North Bay's hair experts

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The Colorist

Kerri Valentine, Elle Lui

Like any good punk rocker, Kerri Valentine started dying her hair vivid and wild colors at the age of 15, even though her parents hated it. Subsequently, at the age of 23, she decided to get serious about hair, beginning as an assistant to a master colorist before attending beauty school in Napa. More than 10 years later, Valentine is a certified hair colorist at Elle Lui salon in Santa Rosa with a long roster of dedicated clients, who are her favorite part of the job. "I get to interact with clients on a one-to-one basis and meet really neat people," Valentine says.

Valentine takes her job seriously, and it shows. She passed the American Board of Certified Hair Colorists master exam on the first try (a significant percentage fail), and she teaches coloring classes to up-and-coming hair stylists. Yet she's still excited about working with clients everyday. "It's like, really, I get paid to do this?" Valentine says with a laugh, taking a break between appointments on a Friday afternoon at the bustling Railroad Square salon.

With her tattooed arms and sleek, black bob, Valentine looks like she could be in a band. Music, not to mention musicians' style, is a big inspiration when it comes to creative hair color. "I feel inspired by DIY stuff," says Valentine. "Sometimes, when you don't have boundaries, you can do whatever you want and that gets me thinking, 'Wow, I never thought of that!'"

With coloring, finding the right tones for each individual person while figuring out exactly what will make the client happy is key. Valentine's face lights up when she describes working with people, learning their life stories and seeing them walk out of the salon happy. "Communication is a really big part of it," she adds.

In the end, Valentine's approach is all about joyful creativity mixed with expert knowledge. "As much as you can imagine," she says, "you can do."

Haircuts: starting at $50

Coloring: starting at $60

—Leilani Clark

Elle Lui, 205 Fifth St., Santa Rosa. 707.575.1474.

The High End

Yureesh Hooker, diPietro Todd

On the outside, diPietro Todd might seem intimidating with its upscale design and stylists, but in reality the clientele runs the gamut from schoolteacher to world-renowned artists, says Yureesh Hooker, stylist at the Mill Valley salon for the past eight years.

"There's not a type of client that I don't get here," explains the New York transplant. "It's definitely not about a snooty attitude."

Hooker is a perfect example of diPietro's embrace of the creative mindset. He spent part of the early '90s drumming in the Casualities, a hardcore East Coast punk band whose fruit-colored Mohawks could be pegged as his inspiration to eventually style hair, but Hooker maintins it was his training as a graphic artist and illustrator that eventually led to his vocation.

After moving to California, Hooker began work as an assistant at diPietro Todd in San Francisco, followed by study in the salon's world-class development workshop, essentially a graduate program for hairdressing. Soon, the freshly trained stylist was placed in Mill Valley, where he has built up a strong clientele. Hooker eventually became an instructor at the diPietro Todd academy for continuing education, a role that he relishes since it keeps him in a fresh approach. "I love it, I'm constantly inspired," says Hooker.

When asked what he enjoys most about the work, he talks about the lost ability to make connections in society. "In a world where everybody's emailing and texting, I think the value of sitting down with another human being for an hour straight, person-to-person, is becoming more rare and more special," explains Hooker. "To me, that's become even more essential for us as human beings as time progresses. The job I have is particularly unique in that regard. I'm a part of that move toward connection, and not a part of people growing apart."

Cut and style: starting at $85

Coloring: starting at $90

—Leilani Clark

diPietro Todd, 250 Camino Alto, Second Floor, Mill Valley. 415.388.0250.

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