When you sit down in Dianne Hetland’s chair at Hair Designs in Rhinelander, there’s a lot of experience behind you. That’s because Dianne has been in the beauty business for 50 years and will be noting that milestone this month.
“The day after I graduated from high school I signed up for beauty school,” she said. “For 50 years I’ve been inspired by the beauty profession.”
Dianne grew up near West Bend and graduated from Kewaskum High School. She was raised on a farm, the oldest of eight children. While attending high school she focused on becoming a secretary until one day, shortly before graduating, a student recruiter for the City College of Cosmetology in Milwaukee came to Dianne’s bookkeeping class. She was intrigued.
“She was so attractively dressed and she made attending cosmetology school sound so interesting,” she said. “I decided right there that’s what I was going to do.”
Dianne’s dad wasn’t interested in his oldest daughter going off to school and told her she would have to find her own room and board. With the help of the cosmetology recruiter, Dianne got a job as a nighttime nanny while she took classes during the day.
“It worked out well because these people had a daytime maid who was also a nanny when I was at school,” she said. “After school I was the nanny. I felt very lucky because I had a nice room with my own bathroom and I really liked the family.”
Dianne loved learning all about cutting hair, permanents and other beauty techniques. Back then beauty courses were nine months, and the day Dianne completed her classes she got a job back in her hometown.
“I didn’t come home for nine months because I didn’t have a car and no one would pick me up,” said Dianne. “But I liked being back in Kewaskum.”
Dianne started out in a shop where the wife owned a beauty salon that was attached to her husband’s dental office.
“I worked there four years and during that time I got my manager’s license,” she said. “I became very close to that entire family.”
Then tragedy struck. While going to pick up her daughter from college, Dianne’s boss suffered a fatal stroke. It was during this time that Dianne did something that she thought she would never be able to handle.
“I was still pretty young and not too familiar with going to funerals or seeing dead people,” she said. “But my boss’s husband asked if I would go to the funeral home and do her hair. I agreed to it and I’m glad I did. Now I do a lot of hair for the deceased and it gives me some satisfaction that I can help families who are grieving.”
During these years, Dianne got married and had two children. The family enjoyed spending many vacations in the Northwoods and when her husband lost his job, they decided to move here. Shortly before the move, they visited the area to try and find a place to live. One night Dianne found herself in a hotel room, bored, and pulled out the phone book.
“I looked up beauty salons and called the first one asking if they had any openings,” she said. “The lady told me as soon as we made the move, I had a job.”
It wasn’t long before Dianne was working at Judy’s For Beauty in downtown Rhinelander.
“I didn’t know a soul when I started and that’s hard when you are a hair stylist because you need a steady stream of regulars,” she said. “But I was glad to have the job, so I washed permanent rods, swept the floor, and shampooed hair.”
When her boss decided to move on a few months later, Dianne “inherited” all her customers and she was on her way. Always looking for challenging opportunities Dianne also worked at the Cut Above for a few years and then House of Hair which she managed and then owned before selling it.
Dianne admits that the beauty industry has been through lots of changes in the 50 years she has been in the business. For instance more men come to hair salons now.
“When I started a man wouldn’t be caught dead in a beauty salon,” she said. “Men went to barbershops but I think a lot of wives and girlfriends changed that.”
The industry has also seen some changes as far as what clients experience when they come to a beauty salon.
“We used to color hair in a separate room because woman didn’t want their neighbors to know they dyed their hair,” she said. “And back then beauty salons only really focused on doing hair. Now some places offer tanning, manicures, pedicures and lots of other services for their customers.”
Today Dianne enjoys her clients at Hair Designs and is especially fond of her co-workers there, who regard each other as family. In fact, this fun-loving and feisty great-grandma enjoys her career so much, that retiring right now is out of the question.
“When you become someone’s stylist you get to know them over the years,” she said. “You know about their family, the ups and downs of their lives and they become your friend. That’s what I’ve always loved about this business. Getting to know my clients and making them feel better about themselves. Right now this is exactly where I want to be.”