The Inner Beauty Of Leon Hamme

malcolm mcdowell

I don’t know if a picture of Leon exists? I always thought he looked like Malcolm McDowell, which is why I’ve included a picture of him (above), to give you an impression and set the scene! This picture of McDowell is very Leon.

My first memory of Leon was the two of us sitting in the back of a London taxi one dark, wet winter’s night in 1972/3. We were late, as per usual, travelling from Ricci’s George Street salon to the King’s Road salon for model night. He was a well seasoned hairdresser, probably at his pinnacle and I was a n00bie Junior in my renaissance. We talked of my progress, he casually told me not to worry and that I’d do well. I was hanging on to his every word, but by his tone I knew he didn’t care.

Leon talked as if I wasn’t there, he soliloquised about ‘creating The look’ and ‘bringing out a client’s personality’, his lofty words floated way above my head and I struggled to take it all in. Unfortunately our ‘conversation’ was cut short by our arrival and we didn’t ever talk of such things again.

I moved to the King’s Road salon and after a short time Leon left Ricci Burns. I asked Tina if she had any memories (I nearly wrote mammaries – Freudian slip) of Leon? Tina replied, “Once, Leon was finishing his 5 o’clock client and Reception were getting his client to pay so they could cash up. When they presented her with the bill, Leon noticed that her name was Mrs. Odsog, and proceeded to start giggling as he had recently had a ‘smoke’ and he found her name hilarious. It turned out that he had a friend who had a cat called Odd-sock and he told the client! She wasn’t amused at having the piss taken out of her!” And I thought, oh yeah – That was so typically Leon!

Skip forward a few years until about 1980/81; I’d been to Paris to do a fashion show and photo session, on my return I ended up in Windsor waiting for a lift home – I think. Anyway, I was in Windsor, looking around, killing time – And there he was, Leon, standing outside a hairdressing salon (Chess-Set, Church Street, Windsor) having a smoke. He greeted me like a long lost friend, eager to hear of past times. He looked totally out of place to me. And we became friends for a short time – maybe for four or five years.

We would normally meet-up for lunch and sometimes we’d swap haircuts. We talked of old times, and apart from the drugs, we discovered we had had carbon copy career paths – almost. But, Leon Hamme, my creative role model, was now on a downward spiral. He floated from salon to salon, Chess-Set, Cassidy, the Holiday Inn, he was freelance, he was probably on heroin! And the last I heard of him, was that he was going to do a film – 1985 Max Headroom (TV movie) (Leon Hamme: assistant hair stylist)!

Fast-forward to Tuesday 26th November 2013, I’m reading the news and I see, Where fantasy ends and reality begins: Unnerving images show multi-ethnic women digitally merged with Barbie dolls – Epiphany. There it is, a photograph that makes clear Leon’s dream like soliloquy.

Sheila Pree BrightSheila Pree Bright’s ‘Plastic Bodies’, like Katie Piper, transcend what most people think of as real beauty and asks us to look at the individual within. We all have a complex range of ideas of what Beauty is, these ideas are mainly foisted upon us by the commercialisation of society – I think that the Barbie doll itself, is a perfect example the false, airbrushed, synthetic, siliconed and plasticised world we live in. And Sheila Pree Bright’s beautiful and fascinating images give us all a slap around the face and say Wake Up – They did to me anyway!

Hair colourist Lester Baldwin once said to me, “Leon Hammé is the world’s best hairdresser by far.” I don’t know the final part to his story, I’m pretty sure he popped his clogs in the 1980s! He certainly had an inner beauty and he was way ahead of his time.

Hazards Of The Job

Tip of left finger nearly cut off

I was helping Streaters cut his holly bush into the shape of a rampant dachshund, when the hedge-trimmer slipped and nearly cut the tip of my finger off. Luckily I was wearing gloves. “Go over to Maddie’s field and stick your finger up a cow’s bum. That’s the best course of action and you won’t need any stitches,” Streaters said; and he should know because he was in the Royal Army Medical Corps.
“But that’s a bloody mile away” I said, “I’ll bleed to death before I get there!” Anyway, I trundled off to Maddie’s field with my hand wrapped in an old tea towel. On the way I met the farmer’s daughter, “Hi Ian, what’s wrong with your hand?” she said.
“Oh, I’ve just cut the tip of my finger helping Streaters cut his hedge. He told me to go over to Maddie’s field and stick it up a cow’s bum.”
“Aw, you don’t need to walk all the way over there, that’s nearly a mile away, you can stick it up my bum if you want.”
“Up your bum?”
“Yeah, it’s just as good and you won’t need any stitches.” And she took down her pants and bent over.

“Oi!” she said, “That’s not my bum.”
“Well,” I said, “that’s not my finger!”

Anyway, Koo took me to Heatherwood Hospital minor injuries dept., where they filmed Carry On Matron way back in the 1970s, and of course lucky me, the beautiful Barbara Windsor did the needlework and mopped my brow. The bone is okay we think thank God.

Hair Colour and Cancer – Part 2

Model: Kate Doweson. Photographer: Chris Roberts 1982. Hair: Ian Robson. Deauville, France

Hair Colour and Cancer again! Have you read in the Daily Mail, Hair dyes used by millions of women are linked to chemicals that can cause cancer? Well, you can call me an old sceptic, but I’m always extremely suspicious when a company, in this case Green Chemicals – who are about to launch a new ‘ultra-safe’ range of permanent hair tints, uses sound scientific evidence to gain a competitive advantage. Still, fair play to them, it’s a difficult world!

Being a sceptic doesn’t mean that I am not concerned about hair colourants and cancer, on the contrary, I’m very interested, which is why I wrote Hair Colour and Cancer ~ an important message for all my clients who colour their hair – ages ago (it reads a little out of date now!)

Obviously I am very interested in offering my clients the very best products, and to that end I’ll be keeping my eye on Green Chemicals and wishing them well with much success. Looking at Green Chemicals’ list of benefits, see Permanent Hair Dyes, I’m interested to find out about lifting the hair colour – and BTW, what’s all this about ‘Hair Dyes’; for as long as I’ve been in hairdressing we’ve called them ‘Tints’, semantics? Yeah, there’s more to this than meets the eye me thinks!

I firmly back the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association’s (CTPA) and the National Hairdressers’ Federation’s "Colour With Confidence Campaign." If you’re thinking about getting your hair tinted, whether it’s the first time or the hundredth, make sure you get an Allergy Alert Test 48 hours in advance – Please Get In Contact For More Details.

Especially for Rachel: the CTPA’s consumer website,, holds a wealth of information about the science behind products, explaining about safety assessments, ingredient issues and the strict rules governing the safety of such products as toothpaste, hair colourants, sun protection, make-up etc.

SlashHair Update

Persephone, Bath

I’m in the process of updating to make it a little more interesting and colourful, and at the same time turning it into a weblog. Here are the links from the old site: SiteMap – on with the new!

Written by Ian Robson
SlashHair the sex, politics, religion and philosophy of the fashion industry, from the perspective of session hairdresser & stylist Ian Robson – “When you look good, I look good.” Find Ian on Facebook and Twitter. © SlashHair is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License, which means: quote me and steal my images, but give me credit by Linking Back.