In August of this year, I was introduced to John Nguyen of Genray Salon in Rockridge. I had decided to cut over 12 inches off my hair, I was a little scared, and I heard John was the best in town. When I described the asymmetrical bob I desired, John’s eyes lit up. He was excited for the challenge; he took his time and his skill was evident. In about an hour, he transformed my look from hippie-girl-next-door to grown-up-sophisticated-badass. I have been wanting to cut my hair for at least a year, and John’s work is even better than I imagined.

John and me, with perfect hair, of course.

John and me, with perfect hair, of course.

Originally from Vietnam, John fled on a boat as a teenager, living at a refugee camp in Thailand for 8 months, then in the Philippines for a year, where he learned English. He came to the States as a high school freshman (ask him to tell you the story of signing up for P.E. football, thinking it was soccer. It’s hilarious). John trained at Vidal Sassoon in Santa Monica and has been cutting hair for over 25 years. His favorite part of cutting hair in Oakland is that his clients are down-to-earth and easy to work with. Plus, he has a blast giving us the funky haircuts we Oaklandites so often desire.

John loves a hair challenge, and I brought him one recently. If you read my workshops article last week, you know I recently did an embarrassingly bad job putting purple streaks in my hair, while drunk and feeling sad. I called John, told him what happened and he got me in that afternoon. When I showed up he took one look at me and declared, “I didn’t think it would be that bad but you look like a clown!” I love that John is so blunt. He was also so right. We laughed about my epic hair fail and took some funny selfies together. He fixed my mistake by dying my hair a rich chocolate brown and now it looks better than ever.

John fixing my drunken mistake.

When we posed for a selfie together during this interview, John insisted on fixing my hair first. He warmed up his straightening iron, quickly and skillfully smoothing and subtly curling my hair. He is proud of his work and it had to look perfect for our photo. He is a hair perfectionist, which is good news for our Oakland coifs. “When I look at people’s hair, I know what is good for them. I know based on the texture of their hair and their face shape what style will look good on them.” He is honest with his clients about what works and what doesn’t, so if you’re unsure about what to do with your hair, just listen to John. When it comes to hair, he’s always right.

When you get a haircut from John, he greets you with a hug and then entertains you with jokes and stories as he expertly cuts your hair. He is proud of his work and excitedly told me that former 49ers linebacker Bill Romanowski has been a client of his for many years. He is also very proud of his two daughters, and loves to brag about the older one’s cheerleading career and the younger one’s recent win as 1st Place All Around Gymnast in the State Championships. As if John couldn’t be any more endearing, he even brought me fresh tomatoes from his garden last time I saw him. From his skill to his sense of humor to his pride in his work, John is the best hairdresser in Oaktown. Don’t you and your hair want to see for yourself?


To get fabulous hair yourself and get in touch with John, vist Genray Salon at 6093 Claremont Ave or check out his 5-star yelp page here.