From the minute you walk in, Bull In The Heather feels more like being in the apartment of a particularly chic friend than a hair salon. The Greenpoint space, which the owners Tracy Rasmussen and Jill Syslo converted from its past life as an old Polish massage parlor, balances crisp white, tin ceilings, and dark floors with a relaxed environment inspired by Rasmussen’s California roots. We highlighted the salon as one of five of the best emerging salons in Brooklyn, and today offer a closer look at the local shop.
After studying at the Vidal Sassoon Hair Academy in Los Angeles, Rasmussen–who is a San Francisco native–returned to the Bay Area and spent some time training at Mr. Pinkwhistle, a salon with a crew of other former Vidal Sassoon students.
“Vidal Sassoon pretty much invented hair cutting,” Rasmussen said of her background at the school. “They’re known for their precise cutting and architectural style, they’re basically the leaders for hair-cutting in general.”
After living and working in San Francisco for quite some time, Rasmussen re-located to New York, where she spent several years working in other shops and further honing her skills. After deciding to open her own shop, she spent years looking for a space to no avail–it wasn’t until she decided to team up with her friend and former client Jill Syslo that things began to fall into place.
“Jill has been a longtime friend of mine, and she has worked in esthetics for probably about the same amount of time that I’ve been doing hair, so she’s familiar with the beauty industry,” Rasmussen said. “At the beginning we were trying to both open our own businesses separately. Then we decided ‘Let’s do this together, we’ll make like a beauty power couple!’ And it worked out better–it’s been great for us to be able to cross-promote each other.”
Syslo, who is a licensed medical esthetician, met Rasmussen after a mutual friend recommended she go to her for a haircut, and the two became friends in the process. She recently did open her own business, Sacred Skincare in Manhattan, but spends most of her time at Bull in The Heather. As a co-owner, she’s the first person clients see when they come into the space, and is invested in making the space feel as welcoming and community-oriented as possible.
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“We’re both really passionate about what our backgrounds are but wanted to put all of our energy into the hair,” Syslo said. “We want our clients to feel comfortable. We’re very Brooklyn-centric but we don’t want it to be like ‘we’re so cool and Brooklyn, we’ll charge all this money and make it feel too hip so you’re not comfortable coming here.’ Our clients are our neighbors, they wave to us, we go out and talk to them.”
But as much as the salon is embedded in Greenpoint’s community, there is a marked sense of the West Coast in the space. Rasmussen said her time there definitely played a role in the mood she created when opening her own shop. After finding the space about a year and a half ago, the gut renovation took an entire year in itself, and the salon officially opened their doors last November. The entirety of the interior was designed by Rasmussen, who noted that she wanted it to feel as far from business-like as possible.
“I feel like my time in San Francisco has really been a huge influence in my style,” Rasmussen said. “When I created the space that was a huge influence–I wanted it to feel like a California space. It’s casual but nice, almost like you’re in somebody’s really nice home.”
Of course, the presence of the shop dog, Minou, who is a miniature goldendoodle, helps make Bull In The Heather feel even homier. When I recently went in to the salon to get a cut color, the sweet and unassuming Minou helped make the space feel even more welcoming and laidback.
For my look, Rasmussen did a painted on ombre and a custom-made mauve toner–that’s the hint of purple you can see in the Instagram photo below. Then, she cut my hair into a textured bob with minimal layering and I texturized my bangs a bit to soften them up. As an emerging local business, Rasmussen and Syslo use their Instagram account to highlight before and after shots of their clients–and obviously more cute photos of Minou. It’s one of the best accounts I’ve followed recently, never flooding my feed and giving a steady stream of cute hair and other shots of their beautiful space.
As a West Coast native myself, the place is immediately familiar and the breezy styling syncs with my vibe. Rasmussen describes the aesthetic she wants to create as “messy femininity”–and delivers on that promise again and again.
“It’s based off my California vibes and being a laidback girl who also wants to look polished at the same time,” she said. “I’m trying to create that feeling with cuts as well as color. Obviously, we try to keep up with what’s trendy and hip in the moment, but we do it with a softness. We create hair that is very natural, you can air dry it and walk out the door–a messy femininity.”
That same tension between soft and strong is reflected in the salon’s name, which yes, is a Sonic Youth reference.
“The name is taken from a Sonic Youth song that’s about a racehorse,” Rasmussen explained. “It’s funny because my first job in New York was at a salon that was horse racing-themed–so it seemed fitting. The song is about taking a bet on the horse, and to me, I’m taking a bet on this salon. I put everything I have into doing this, and it really is a bet on the business and on the future. I like that a Bull is very masculine and the flower heather is very feminine. I feel like everyone has a little bit of toughness and a little bit of femininity.”