Celebrity Hair Cutting Shears

Century Classic - hair cutting shears

My current hair cutting shears: Century Classic, Tondeo, made in Solingen, Germany 6″ (68mm blade) (1998-ish)

After over forty years of hairdressing my hair cutting shears have become a part of my hand. They’re as much a prosthetic, two razor-sharp fingers, as they are a hand tool. I love that I even get some sensation of touch; when I cut hair I can feel them cutting and the hair’s texture.

As was the tradition when I was a Junior (1973), my first pair of shears were given to me by my stylist, Robert Lobetta; they were engraved with a salon’s name: Andre Bernard. The shears were five and a half inches, blunt and pitted with the corrosion that is so typical of badly maintained scissors. I either gave them back to Robert or chucked them away, however, I have a feeling that he may have actually asked for them back.

Robert gave me another pair that were equally as bad, this time engraved with the name Artisan. So I dumped them and took myself off to Ogee’s on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Earlham Street to buy a brand new pair of hair cutting shears.

Such was my ego I didn’t want to look like a n00bie junior buying his first pair of hair cutting shears. I confidently strode up to the counter and pointed at a pair almost exactly the same as the Artisan shears. “Can I have a gander at those,” I said, and she handed them over. I cut the hairs off of the back of my hand like I would a client’s neck fluff, and showing off, I span them on my finger like a cowboy would his .45 Colt pistol, then I slapped them down on the counter saying, “I’ll take ’em.” What a douchebag I was. They turned out to be a pretty average shyte pair.

I don’t know if you’ve ever thrown a knife, but I spent the entire summer holidays when I was thirteen teaching myself how to throw my Scout sheath knife. Basically, what you do is: hold the blade of the knife between fingers and thumb with the spine of the knife towards the palm of your hand, and the handle pointing away from you and towards the target. Keep fingers and palm away from the point and the sharpened edge. Cock your wrist sideways towards your forearm, and throw the knife almost like a dart. The knife will rotate, cartwheel like, and hopefully the knife point will stick in!

The point of the matter being rotation. Spin any hand tool and you’ll soon discover its balance and sometimes its purpose of use. A balanced pair of shears will feel good in the hand.

Concorde - hair cutting shears

Concorde, FLAJ (inox stainless steel) 5.5″ (60mm blade) (1976)

Never buy a pair of shears because of what they look like. My grandfather used to say, “A bad workman always blames his tools.” Well I surely cussed those little fuckers.

I hold no sentimentality or affection for my shears, I usually give them away when I’ve finished with them. These were given to a friend who uses them to trim her fringe very occasionally – I was glad to see the back of them.

ECA - hair cutting shears

ECA, made in Solingen, Germany (rostfrei stainless steel) 5.5″ (50mm blade) (1980)

One of my favourite pairs of shears even though they were the only pair to really bite me – they cut a nice big V on the base of my index finger. Most hairdressers cut themselves with a new pair of shears at least once. I saw Ricci Burns slice through his knuckle to the bone, he got a trip to hospital and six stitches for his troubles – well, we thought it was funny at the time!

Jaguar - hair cutting shears

Jaguar satin, Easy Rand Rocket, made in Solingen, Germany (ice tempered stainless steel) 5″ (40mm blade) (1990-ish)

These were the only shears that I’ve had professionally sharpened – they fucked them up for me by grinding too much off of the blade. I usually sharpen my shears myself on my great-grandfather’s fine whetstone – it’s getting a little worn after about a hundred years.

A regular rub on the whetstone, a wipe with a thick chamois and a few drops of clear machine oil and my old hair cutting shears are back up like new again.

My most magical and memorable scissor moment wasn’t a celebrity encounter, and they weren’t even my scissors, it was when I cut my son’s cord with the midwife’s umbilical scissors – what sensational and emotional feeling.

Hair Talk – British Barbering

Me cutting 77

Me 1982. Photographer Keith Stubbs.

I had my hair cut last Saturday; seven months since my last do! However, I found to my horror that my hairdresser and old friend Richard, has turned all kinda Lumbersexual!.

Actually, I’m really pleased to see the resurgence in barbering.

I wonder how my dear departed friend, Brian Streaters Streatfield, would’ve reacted to this trend, or maybe I should say, this fashionable look that was popular in the nineteenth century which has now turned into a Dutch sub-culture? BTW, if for some reason I was unable to cut Brian’s hair, in desperation he’d go to Stroud’s barber ‘Chopper Guy’ who’d cut it for £5 – Meaning: he charged sixty quid an hour to fuck up Brian’s hair!

And that hurts – Yes, there needed to be a rebirth of British Barbering after all the shit they’ve been shovelling.

So there they were, Richard and his hairdresser mate, standing there, looking like a cross between Ricki Hall and Will Young – It’s a look that I’m not too keen on – and we got talking about hairdressing ~ or maybe I should say: precisionist hairdressing versus barbering in 2015.

Richard’s mate did most of the talking – 21st century hairdressing techniques and equipment.

I have been in hairdressing since 1973 and my philosophy is very simple, true beauty comes from within. Perhaps that sounds clichéd, but it’s how I feel, you’ve just got to look around at the people you love. And even though I describe my style of hairdressing as flowing precisionist, I say, precision cutting isn’t unnatural or wooden, it never has been.

I come from the philosophy of haute couture: style, rigour and technical expertise. And that philosophy is at the heart of my flowing precisionist creations – and perhaps that sounds like bullshit, but, precisionist hairdressing isn’t all geometric bobs with asymmetric fringes!

The barbering revival has got to be great news for established barbers like Truefitt & Hill in London, and also for innovative barbershops like Schorem in Rotterdam, who pride themselves in being at the forefront of traditional haircuts and shaves – which is not a million miles away from where I’m coming from, if you get my drift!

Richard cut my hair brilliantly – as per usual ~ I wonder what we’ll talk about next time: ladies only salons? Sounds a bit retrogressive! Or maybe, why the hell are barbers obsessed with wall mounted stag heads?

How To Become A Session Hairstylist

Session Hairstylist: Ian (me). Photographer: Chris Roberts. Hard at work light-testing 01:10:1981.

Session Hairstylist: Ian (me). Photographer: Chris Roberts. Hard at work light-testing 01:10:1981. Polaroid. Before digital cameras we collected Polaroids like Yu-Gi-Oh cards.

Becoming a session hairstylist

My first photographic session ever, was as Robert Lobetta’s junior when I worked at Ricci Burns – Over 21 magazine (1973). Photographer Willie Christie.

My first photographic session as a hairstylist (flying solo) was for Woman and Home magazine (1974) – No photo credits, just a fee of ten quid (about a hundred pounds today 2015). Actually, I was still a junior and about two months away from becoming a hairstylist!

…What happened was: Oliver, the manager of Ricci Burns, King’s Road, went around the salon, stylist to stylist, starting from Robert, asking if they wanted to do a photo-session after work that night – it was a Friday! Everyone was saying no because they were going out!

When Ollie finally asked me, out of utter desperation (because he obviously didn’t want to do it either), I said yes, and I was totally over the fucking moon. I was deliriously happy and unusually nervous, even though I’d assisted on countless photo-sessions. Ollie said, “Don’t tell them you’re a junior!” Robert said, “I’ll kill you if you lose it.” (I’d borrowed his session bag!)

About a week after the Woman and Home session, Ollie came over to me and said, “I’d like you to do a fashion show for Coco (a Chelsea boutique) tomorrow and by-the-way, Penny Ryder phoned to say that Woman and Home loved your work.”

So, is that how to become a session hairstylist? Join a noted London salon and train with the world’s best hairstylists?

No, there’s more to it than that, you’ve got to really want to be a session hairstylist, because there’s quite a lot of shit.

Get your name out there

In this age of connectivity, I think most of us know the power of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram coupled with owning a Website and having an email mailing-list. However, the one brilliant thing about hairdressers is our wonderful ability to do face-to-face.

When I first went freelance I decided to hawk my portfolio around to the magazines and the photographers that I’d worked with while at Ricci’s. And I thought that I may as well start with Brides magazine – Vogue House!

The assistant editor came out of her office and I stood to attention. She shook my outstretched hand and abruptly tore my portfolio from the other, and walked straight back into her chaotic office, opening the portfolio as she went – Out fell: a brown A4 envelope containing a number of contact sheets, half a dozen loose colour transparencies in their plastic and glass frames, three business cards and a scrappy piece of paper with a few scribbled notes for my eyes only! I frantically picked up the embarrassing spillage. In the meantime, the assistant editor had unceremoniously dumped my portfolio on her desk and flipped through its twelve pages faster than she could say, “Not Interested” and returned to the door while zipping-up the portfolio saying, “We’ll contact you – Goodbye.” I put the paraphernalia into the brown envelope, retrieved my portfolio, handed her a card and found myself on the other side of the door. The whole thing, which I laughingly call an interview, took about thirty seconds – and that’s being generous!

I was completely nonplussed and felt pretty dejected, my thick skin wore very thin that day.

Ages later the assistant editor phoned and asked me to do a last minute, “no credits, no fee,” photo session with the American fashion photographer Arthur Elgort with whom I’d worked before – awesome.

Never underestimate the super-human ability of a frantically busy, seasoned professional – I was so naive because I’d been mollycoddled by a salon, Ricci Burns.

Maybe life would have been a lot simpler if I’d joined a specialist agency for freelance session hairstylists – And maybe not?

The horrid truth – Move To London!

The fashion industry is London centric and I think it will be (for lots of reasons) for the next fifty years. A legacy of post war Britain, the Swinging Sixties and the art, film and music industries.

Obviously there are opportunities for session hairstylists in the major cities and provinces, but the focus is in London! #LondonFashionWeek?

Photographer: Chris Roberts. Hair & make-up Ian (me). Richard's studio 06:02:1982. Test Session.

Photographer: Chris Roberts. Model Cassie. Hair & make-up Ian (me). Richard’s studio 06:02:1982. Test Session Polaroid.

Build a portfolio by doing Test Sessions

If you’re a n00bie/wannabe session hairstylist: a test session is where a photographer, model, make-up artist and hairdresser (occasionally also: stylist and fashion designer) come together to create a photograph. A photograph that can be included in their portfolios.

Participating in a test session is the best way to start your journey to becoming a session hairstylist. Session work is all about teamwork – When a group of talented creatives with big personalities come together, something extraordinary usually happens; and when the buzz is right the results can be mind-blowingly sensational. But I hope you can also imagine what it’s like when things are not so awesome? Yeah, that’s what test sessions are partly for: understanding creative teamwork!

Test sessions are also magnificent for building connections and relationships; for instance, most of the young photographers you test with will be assistant fashion photographers: ‏Chris Roberts (who I did about three years of photographic sessions with) was assistant to Willie Christie and Patrick Lichfield – And you’d be surprised how far their networks spread.

On the other hand, you might test with someone like ‏Charlie Kemp, he wasn’t an assistant, his wife Maril was a top model with Laraine Ashton. Charlie and I did a lot of testing together throughout the 1980s, he specialised in portfolio work, and he knew everyone – we spent too much time in the pub – he taught me a lot.

Hitting Paydirt

When you’re standing behind a model in a tiny cupboard with a massive mirror and an arc lamp burning the back of your neck and the ridiculous advertorial that the newspaper is laughably calling a fashion feature actually represents an artistic boundary that you said you wouldn’t cross in a billion years, but you’ve got ten jobs exactly the same lined up for next week.

You’ll know when you’ve hit paydirt when Vogue fashion editor Alexandra Shulman gives you a ring!

And BTW, it’s a very, very small world.

Session Hairdressing Q&A On #HairHour

I’ve got to say that I was looking forward to this weeks #HairHour – a Q&A with @SydHayesHair on session hairdressing. However, I was sort of gravely disappointed because Syd Hayes didn’t follow the normal Twitter chat convention of using the bloody #HashTag! In the end I had to poke around for Syd’s insightful and razor-sharp answers.

Twitter chats are usually far too frenetic to miss out the hashtags: use a tool like ‏tweetchat.com or ‏tchat.io, they make it much easier to follow and participate, and they automatically include the hashtag at the end, so you won’t forget.

When you use the hashtag everyone can enjoy your wonderful tweet and at the same time you are helping to promote #HairHour – Spread The Love.

(BTW, that wasn’t a criticism aimed at Syd, just a general comment for anyone on #HairHour!)

Anyway, I thought I would gather the questions here and write My answers! If you want to read Syd Hayes’ answer, just click on the Tweet!

Q1: With the amount of stylists interested in branching into session work, what are your must haves to make it?

Talent is number one, fortitude and commitment follow close behind. And even though You are solely responsible for the hair, the ability to work within a creative team, and a bloody thick skin – you are going to get criticism; session hairdressing isn’t all fun. Yeah, it is!

Q2: What is it about session work that inspired you to pursue it as a career?

I’d been on very many sessions with Robert Lobetta as his ‏Junior at Ricci Burns – getting out of the salon was vital for my sanity. I must also mention Leon Hammé, whom I found extremely inspirational. Session hairdressing seemed a natural progression.

Q3: Being a salon director how do you how do you manage balancing your session and salon work?

One doesn’t need to be a salon director, session hairdressing is all about time management. Get yourself organised, being late is never an option!

Q4: Do you find the skills learnt in the salon are easily transferable to the session world?

Of course! It’s just that session hairdressing tends to be high speed, precision hair dressing – One never cuts a models hair during a session (maybe the odd fringe).

Q5: What qualities do you need to possess to survive and thrive in such a busy industry?

I totally agree with Syd Hayes, "Positivity and dedication! Be open to change in your work, adapt and adjust. Sometimes trying new things in a different way can work."

Also, the ability to watch, listen and understand. It’s not just a matter of keeping ones finger on the pulse of fashion, it’s more a matter of surfing the wave of fashion!

Q6: Where do you see hair trends going this upcoming season?

My styles predictions for 2015 posted on 18 January 2015 say: Finely highlighted with natural glossy highlights and lowlights mainly Blonde. Short bobs with a slightly 1980s to 1990s coupe sauvage-esque, dishevelled look that have a geometric precision that is out of place in today’s world. I was very happy with this prediction as it suits my style of hairdressing: a flowing precisionist hair-cutting technique! Precision cut short fringes.

David Tovey Fashion Show – 27 September 2015

Lucy Cates model

Model: Lucy Cates @LucyCates Hair: Rainbow Room @RainbowRoomInt Photography: Richard Miles @richmilesphoto MUA: Maddie Austin @MaddieAmua Styling: Clare Frith @songbirdwedding

A creative Hairdresser is required for a fashion show to be held at the South Bank on Sunday 27th September 2015. Unfortunately, they’ll be unable to pay! The organisers are looking for a Volunteer Hairdresser.

Yeah, look, I’m not okay with pay-to-play either; and I’m fully aware of the Twitter hashtag #NoFreeWork. But this fashion show is all about raising awareness to prove a broken man can succeed with a helping hand! And that broken man is: David Tovey @DavidTovey1975.

Let me tell you a little bit about David John Tovey:
He’s an Artist. For many years he was a successful businessman after leaving the British army. In 2011 he had a stroke and this was the start of a long battle with bad health and rotten luck. He is now on the mend, and helping others through charitable works. Please read his amazing story featured the Independent: David Tovey has weathered cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness – and he’s only 39.

This fashion show really is a wonderful opportunity for a young hairdresser to gain real experience and build a portfolio of work – think of it as a test session (which are never paid). Lucy Cates is one of the named models.

I don’t know the absolute full details, you need to contact @DavidTovey1975 for those, but I can tell you the location of the event is the South Bank. It starts from the Millennium Eye and works its way around towards the British Film Institute and then back again via the main road. The actual show kicks off around 1600, and will probably go on for 45 minutes.

Barber-Surgeons Set To Re-emerge?

Barber-Surgeons by Rebecca Hiscocks

Barber-Surgeons by Rebecca Hiscocks, artwork based on the anatomical etchings of William Cheselden (1788-1752) – member of the London Company of Barber-Surgeons.

Jayne McCubbin @Mrsmachack tweeted:

Jayne McCubbin got a bit of stick for that tweet, but the truth is, hairdressers have been looking after their clients’ health for hundreds of years. This Is Not New – The red and white striped barber’s pole, blood and bandages, is symbolic of the association with the barber-surgeons of medieval Britain.

BTW, have a gander at: Public health workforce in local community.

And what operations would the barber-surgeon perform? Obviously, hair cutting and shaving! Removing head lice, extracting teeth, blood-letting and any number of lancing procedures like boils, abscesses and cysts – to name but a few. Barber-surgeons were called upon partly because of their dexterity with the razor and partly because they were cheaper than real surgeons.

Today, hairdressers can act as unpaid, untrained psychotherapists!! We often spend our days being unloaded on, listening intently to our clients’ trials and tribulations – and of course we still spot head lice. But there’s more: dandruff (when severe seborrhoeic dermatitis), cradle cap (a form of dandruff that affects infants), ringworm (fungal infection, not a worm), folliculitis (bacterial infection of the hair follicles), psoriasis (a non-contagious skin condition), lichen planus (non-infectious skin disease) and many more of the indeterminate fleshy lump variety!

However, I’d love to point out to all Jayne McCubbin’s naysayers, A Haircut Could Save Your Life – many hairdressers can already identify melanoma; but I think all hairdressers in the future should be trained to spot the signs of skin cancer – I see more and more.

I do like the idea of Barber Barber jokes though:

Barber Barber every time I sneeze it goes CASHEW!
Obviously your nutty!

Barber Barber I feel like a pair of curtains.
Pull yourself together man!

Barber Barber can I have second opinion?
Of course, come back tomorrow!

Barber Barber everyone I meet thinks I’m a fucking liar.
No I’m sorry, I can’t believe that!

Barber Barber everyone keeps ignoring me.
Next please!

Barber Barber I feel like a pack of cards.
The juniors will deal with you later!

Barber Barber I keep feeling like I’m a packet of Ritz.
Yes, I think you’re a little crackers!

Barber Barber I keep thinking I’m a vampire.
Necks please!

Barber Barber I keep thinking I’m invisible.
Who the fuck said that?

Barber Barber I need something to keep my hair in.
Here’s a shoe box!

Barber Barber I think I need glasses.
You certainly do; this is the doctors!

Barber Barber I keep thinking I’m a dog.
How long have you felt like this?
Ever since I was a puppy!

Barber Barber I think I’m shrinking!
Settle down son; you’ll just have to be a little patient.

Barber Barber I’m a kleptomaniac.
Take these pills, and if they don’t work, nick me a laptop!

Barber Barber I’ve got a problem with my waterworks.
Have you seen a plumber?

Barber Barber I’ve lost my memory.
When did this happen?
When did what happen?

Barber Barber it hurts when I do this.
Don’t do that!

Barber Barber my baby’s swallowed a bullet.
Don’t point it at anyone until I get there!

Barber Barber there’s a strawberry growing out of the top of my head.
I’ve got some cream for that!

Barber Barber you have to help me out.
My pleasure, which way did you come in?

Barber Barber I keep seeing into the future.
When did all this start?
Next Tuesday!

Barber Barber I’m addicted to brake fluid.
Nonsense, you can stop any time!

Barber Barber I’ve just swallowed a roll of film.
Come back in the morning and we’ll see what has developed!

Barber Barber I think I’m a bell.
Take two of these and if it’s not better tomorrow, give me a ring!

Actually, what I’d like to see is more people being empathetic and caring; it doesn’t take five minutes to say, “Hello, how are you?” …Then one must listen – we’re all in this together ;-) x

My Top Ten Hairdressing Tips

hairdressing tips - Model: Anik, Photographer: Chris Roberts 1981, Hair: Ian Robson. London - Willie Christie's Studio

Hairdressing Tips – Don’t Try This At Home!

I often get asked online for hairdressing tips, I usually try to come up with something that matches the occasion! However, a client asked me, what is my top hairdressing tip! I wish I’d said, “it’s not that important.” Here are my ten, fairly random, top hairdressing tips – enjoy!

1. You’re Beautiful, I’m beautiful

Everyone has the potential to be beautiful because true beauty comes from within – it’s not about hair, make-up or fashion. It’s about how you feel about yourself and others. Confidence, Empathy and Love are the key words here. Be yourself and release yourself from the constrains of conformity – You’re Already Beautiful, that’s what makes my work so easy.

2. Obviously A Professional Haircut

The key to good looking hair is the haircut! But I would say that wouldn’t I. Get your hair cut every four to six weeks to preserve the style, and every three months to keep it healthy.

3. Gungy Hair

If your hair’s mingin and looking dull, you’ve probably got some form of product build-up or overload; wash it with a deep cleansing ‘clarifying shampoo’. I recommend you use a clarifying shampoo once every two to four weeks to wash away residue – Wella Pure Shampoo and Kevin Murphy Maxi Wash are good. Always use a compatible conditioner after deep cleansing because it turns your hair to straw!

4. Feed You Hair, Eat A Rainbow

Diet doesn’t only effect your health, but also your hair. If your hair is fucked up, feed it! Eat: peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, mango, papaya, apricots, blueberries, sardines, salmon, pumpkin & ground flax seeds, walnuts and wheat germ – I’m talking, lots of multi-coloured fruit and vegetables, oily fish, nuts, seeds and grains.

If you are losing your hair, start off by taking a multi-vitamin supplement, then check your diet and lifestyle.

5. There Are Three Products Everyone Should Have: Dry Shampoo, Argon Oil and L’Oreal Elnet Satin Hairspray

Dry shampoo is great for oil build up, it gives more time between washes and gives volume to fine hair – if left in! I like L’Oréal Professional Techni Art Fresh Dust and Batiste Original Dry Shampoo (Matt finish, slightly dusty, better on blondes than on brunettes).

Love hair oil – Argon to baby oil it doesn’t really matter what oil. Apply a microscopically small amount of oil to the scalp (1-3 drops for fine hair to 1.5ml on thick wavy hair). Put two drops of oil, say, on to your fingertips and massage gently into the scalp – Not the hair (in reality the oil will mainly be on the hair roots)! The oil will move down the hair shaft quickly and naturally to control the fluff and frizz.

(2 drops of oil plus dry shampoo is totally brilliant for chignons!)

Hairspray is the condiment of the fashionista. A tiny dash of hair sauce and you’re done! Elnet Hairspray is outstanding. Spray lightly on fingers and gently smooth down the fluffy ends.

6. For The Best Hair Day You’ve Had In Months

After shampooing and before conditioning, use a citric acid rinse. Prepare the rinse in a plastic measuring jug by completely dissolving approximately 1/2 (half) teaspoonful of citric acid crystals into 200ml of boiling water. Add 300ml of cold water (you’ve now got 500ml of warm citric acid solution) – give it a stir. (You could use an organic cider vinegar rinse instead if you want: 18ml vinegar + 500ml warm water). Carefully pour the citric acid rinse over your hair, avoid getting it in the eyes, leave it on for one minute, rinse off well with cool-cold water… then condition your hair as normal – voilà.

7. Chuck Away That Bloody Hair Dryer Nozzle

Give yourself a break from the dryer and let your hair dry naturally when ever possible; every haircut I’ve ever done will air dry perfectly well. And by-the-way, that fuckin’ nozzle on your professional hair dryer, concentrates the heat to damage your hair – chuck it away now, as it’s almost impossible for you to dry your hair yourself like a professional.

There’s a trend for blow dry bars – you’re not necessarily cheating on your hairdresser, but your hairdresser should do a better job, simply because they know you. I charge about £40 and I’ll give you a free lesson at the same time – if you ask.

8. Use A Toothbrush As A Back-Combing Brush On Thin Hair

Let’s face it, fine, thin hair may need a little extra help to look fuller. Regular back-combing tends to damage the hair, especially when one uses a comb (never under any circumstances use a metal comb for back-combing), however, a soft toothbrush is gentle and easy to use – BTW, just back-comb the roots!

9. Hair Bands Damage Hair – Repetitive Strain Injury

If you continually use one of those cheap ponytail hair bands with a metal joint, day after day, it will always damage your hair at the point of use/contact! I recommend using non-metal hair elastics like 4mm Blax Snag Free Hair Elastics or a ribbon! Nuff said!

10. Split Ends Can Not Be Mended

Split ends can’t be mended, they need to be cut off – not singed off with a lit taper.

However, a quick temporary superficial fix is a freezing cold acid hair bath (like in #6, but freezing-fucking-cold), plus a good deep-conditioner (like Macadamia Deep Repair Hair Masque), plus a leave-in treatment (like Redken Extreme Anti-Snap). And the stylist’s secret is all in the blow-dry – point the hair dryer downwards (from roots to ends) and dry without over heating!

11. Prevention Is Usually Better Than The Cure

That’s it! Need help? Get in Touch.

Junior Hairdresser

Junior Hairdresser
Phillip Andrew @PAGladwinHair wrote on #HairHour, I paraphrase:

I’ll be finishing my training soon, and wondering how it’s best to start getting my own clients, Can anyone help? I’ve been looking mainly for models, but I’m about 2 months off of finishing and wanting to start to find the clients.

I replied simply with: I wouldn’t worry too much about getting new clients, worry about the quality of your work, then they’ll come flocking! Because hairdressing is all about results!

Then the NHF for Hairdressers @NHfederation asked:

Why do your clients love you? #hairhour #DontBeModest

And I replied, tongue-in-cheek, “Because I love them.” But the real answer is much more complicated than that!

Later in the frenetic discussion that is #HairHour, HerPassion @thehaircampaign wrote:

Admire your clients lifestyles, take pleasure interacting with them, delight them, understand why they visit you, and your impact on them.

And I thought, let’s be frank, “What a sycophantic, self-serving load of Bollocks!” But then again, analysing your business isn’t a bad thing – it’s just that I have issues with banal statements like, take pleasure interacting with them!

When I was a junior hairdresser and about two months away from going on the floor (becoming a stylist) the last thing that was on my mind was building a clientèle; however, it was then that Oliver went stylist to stylist around the salon, starting from the top, asking them if they wanted to do a photo-session after work that night – It was a Friday! Everyone was saying no because they were going out! The photo-session was to be a ‘before and after’ shoot of a secretary with curly hair for Woman and Home Magazine – No photo credits, just a fee of ten quid, which is worth about one hundred pounds today!


When Oliver finally asked me, out of utter desperation (because he obviously didn’t want to do it either), I said yes, and I was totally over the fucking moon. I can’t describe how deliriously happy and nervous I was, even though I’d already been on numerous photo-sessions and fashion shows as a junior, assisting a stylist. This was my first solo event! Oliver said, “Don’t tell them you’re a junior!”

About a week after the Woman and Home Magazine photo-session, I was handing blue hair-rollers to one of the junior-stylists (my most hated task) in the custom of a typical douchebag, one blue roller pushed on to the end of each finger! Oliver sidled over to us and said to me, “I’d like you to do a fashion show for Coco tomorrow. By-the-way, Penny Ryder phoned to say that Woman and Home loved your work.” And off he slid.

I looked the junior-stylist in the eye to bring her back to reality, so I could escape the irksome chore, then at my fingers with the last two rollers stuffed on the top and it looked like I was giving her a massive blue plastic V sign, and we both burst out laughing. Happy days.

But at no time was I ever thinking about building a clientèle or why they love me and I certainly was not admiring their lifestyles – I was just doing it!

Why do only 17% of clients return to salons regularly

Bruno's book of haircutting

PhorestSalonSoftware – @thephorestword tweeted during #hairhour:

Well it really is a staggering statistic – I replied listening to my gut feeling, “Quality of work?” And when I say quality of work, I’m thinking; why would a client who’s happy with her haircut want to change her hairstylist?

Jump back in time to the mid to late 1970s, I was working at Ricci Burns in the King’s Road, Chelsea, London and I thought that hairdressers in the provinces (everywhere outside London) were rubbish! Sounds very snobby, judgemental and biased – I know, but it was born out of some personal experience. My clients demanded excellence, their careers often revolved around their appearance, an inferior, sloppy hairdo would not have been accepted. On the other hand, the demand for a high quality hairdo in the provinces didn’t appear to be there; dare I say that clients in the provinces (the general public) wouldn’t’ve even recognised a good haircut in 1976 – yeah, I know that’s a massive generalisation, but what I’m talking about is a demand that drives hairdressing standards.

For me, this whole journey starts in the period between 1970 and the late 1980s, maybe it was when Vidal Sassoon created his line of hair-care products in the early 1970s? Most London salons had their own line of ‘self’ branded hair-care products for sale, but I think Vidal Sassoon was the first to go into major production (with Helen of Troy Corporation), selling in the USA and Europe in 1980. This was the beginning of celebrity hairdresser branded hair-care and beauty products. John Frieda, another big name in the UK, followed suit in the late 1980s. Today there are a plethora manufactured by global beauty companies like: Procter & Gamble (Vidal Sassoon), L’Oréal (Jean-Louis David), Estée Lauder (Bobbi Brown – Makeup Artist) and Unilever (Tigi for hair salons, Toni & Guy)…

Then there was Toni & Guy who franchised their business in the late 1980s – obviously they had their own branded hair-care products! In my view, it was Toni & Guy who not only improved hairdressing standards in the provinces, but also pushed up the price of hairdressing, and they increased competition on the high street. I won’t talk about Unisex (1960s), but that too plays a part.

Over the last five years or so we’ve seen the massive rise of social media which has had a profound impact on television, celebrity culture, mainstream journalism and of course the general public. The image of the self, including the selfie and user-generated photos, take on a new meaning and importance – everyone and anyone can suddenly become a celebrity by going ‘viral’! The public demand for high quality hairdressing hasn’t only arrived, but it may have exceeded the supply! Hence, “Only 17% of clients returned to the salons more than twice.” …The general public aren’t getting the celebrity service they now demand, so they are looking elsewhere for better. They are salon hopping! Actually, they should be complaining.

There is another explanation though:

Firstly, I’m always very suspicious about surveys and survey results & analysis. Phorest, who conducted the survey and who asked the question, are a salon software business – so they do have a vested interest and they will have an angle! I’ve a strong feeling they will say that if you use the Phorest Salon Software, you will be able to identify what’s going wrong and grow your business?

With greater competition on the High Street, salon owners are under more pressure to maximise their income from floor space, so they are renting out chairs to freelance hairstylists, therefore these salons may only be able to accommodate a ‘walk in off the street’ clientèle? …Walk-in clients are not usually regular and loyal. It all depends on the freelance to experienced staff member ratio.

And don’t forget the old adage, “a hairdressing salon is only as good as its worst stylist!”

Cover Image: Bruno’s book of haircutting (Couper les cheveux soi-même) by Bruno Pittini. Copyright & published 1976, this edition by Sphere Books 1979 – My copy is the last one left (I think). The book is a step-by-step guide to cutting your own hair, so, if you’re tired of expensive visits to the hairdresser…

Bruno Pittini (deceased) and I did a couple of fashion shows together in Paris in 1980/81.