‘My clients are like family’

Noble has been styling Islanders’ hair for 59 years.

Longtime hairstylist Ray Noble’s clients follow his scissors and razor wherever he goes.

Now at age 81, Noble has been performing his job with those vital implements in hand at several locations on Mercer Island since 1964, and now he’s cutting his loyal customers’ hair at The Bellettini retirement community in Bellevue. He’s set up shop at that location for the last three years and works three days a week to shape the locks of both males and females over the age of 10.

About a dozen of his clients from Covenant Living at the Shores on Mercer Island gathered on July 11 to celebrate Noble’s birthday with lunch, cake and plenty of pleasant conversation. A handful of those party attendees still receive the Noble hairstyling treatment while sitting in his chair at The Bellettini.

“I’m very appreciative. My clients are like family. I’ve gone through some four generations,” said Noble as he lunched with customers Gail Layman and Carole Tye at the Shores on the afternoon of Aug. 8.

Listening to what his clients want in the hairstyle department is a crucial part of Noble’s job. Conversations also flow freely within the salon.

“You can tell your hairstylist anything. I remember asking, ‘Ray, who do you use for your insurance?’ and then he told me and then I started using that person for my insurance,” Layman said. “I just think (he’s) been a wealth of information for me in many, many areas.”

Tye has been strolling into Noble’s salons since 1965 and jokingly told her husband that their marriage also includes a hairstylist. Tye’s mother and daughter also received copious haircuts from Noble over the years.

Noble — the former owner of the Island’s Au Courant — is ultra-attentive to detail, said Tye, who added that, “People will stop me on the sidewalk and ask where I get my hair done.”

During COVID, Noble cut his own hair and nowadays he hires a hairstylist to do the job. He still directs her along the way, he said with a laugh.

He remembers everyone’s hair style and especially enjoys cutting short hair. While the salon is a place for friendship, Noble said that three times over the years he’s had to eject customers who were being too demanding.

“I’ve been through so many hairstyles, we’re back to the beginning again. Back to the Farrah Fawcett again,” he said of the mega-wavy ‘do.

When it came to a career decision in his younger days, Noble was eyeing business machines, but found that job to be boring. His mother was a beautician, so he gave that job a try, stuck with it and the rest is history.

“I’ll keep on doing it as long as I can — ‘til I drop dead behind my chair, probably,” Noble said as laughter ensued at the lunch table.