A wise man once said “I am not very smart”. That wise man is me, and I aren’t. I am writing this in order to inform you of the obvious. Some people see the obvious, take heed, and apply. Some people, people like me, never see the obvious in the first place.
The obvious is this; in order to be a good hairdresser, you must play with hair. You are probably rolling your eyes at this point. Perhaps I’ve just invalidated this entire website, I don’t know, but if you are like me, this is a revelation.
It all started at New York Fashion Week a couple of seasons ago, when I was expected to cornrow hair away for a specific look. A look keyed by James Pecis, James is a man that you do not want to look incapable in front of. I knew that I was not capable of pulling this braid off, so I had to step back and let a real hairdresser take over. There is a good chance that this debilitating moment went unnoticed by everyone but me. It was at that moment though, that I decided not to ever be put in that situation again. So I quit doing hair.
At that point, I flew back to LA and upon landing, I braided once a day, everyday, for about 5 weeks. This was probably the most I had advanced in hairdressing in years. Even though I learned something new, the aforementioned statement is kind of sad. This is the career that I chose to consume the majority of my time for the rest of my adult life. Why would I stop practicing? I’ve had a creepy mannequin head staring at me for the better part of my almost 15 years as a hairdresser. Why would I not pick her up and give her old dead hair some attention?
This is hard to admit, but with hair, I have to force it a bit. Styling hair doesn’t feel like a natural thing to me. That doesn’t mean that I cannot do it. It may just mean that there is enough fear and discomfort with this particular textile (hair) to somewhat stifle my creativity. Aside from that, there’s always so many eyes on you as you’re trying to conceptualize a look. Perhaps a look that you’ve never executed before.
I’ve been doing much more hairdressing these days. When I say hairdressing, I’m particularly referring to styling. The more I do, the more comfortable I get, but I’m also feeling like I may be doing the same thing over and over again. That is as bad for the client as it is for me.
Why is this happening? Well, I never really play with hair. Let me repeat, I do not play with hair in my free time. After my braiding epiphany, I fell back into the same habits. I have plenty going on to fill my time in between the salon and photoshoots, but this should be an absolute priority. I spend hours sifting through editorial hair to post on our Instagram account. I feel like I have developed my eye faster than my hands. All of this inspiration should naturally incite someone to want to go try this on a real (or fake) head of hair. I really feel that it’s what you do in between jobs that usually makes the job successful. There is a difference between doing just enough and going above and beyond the clients expectations.
If the world could be embodied as a person, I’m pretty sure it would be the most annoying friend you could ever make. Constant calls, constant texts, constant notifications. Problem after problem, oh wait, that’s just my iPhone. I tend to let myself get consumed with such distractions. Not saying that hair comes before everything but, it’s your career, give it the time and attention that it deserves. Being scared of the canvass is the worst thing I can imagine for a painter. Being scared of hair is a similar scenario. How are you going to express yourself when your textile owns you, terrifies you?
You may deal with none of these issues. Really, in the end, I am just speaking to myself. Maybe some of you can relate. Nobody is above practice though, I do not care if you’re an assistant, or you’re Eugene Souleiman, everyone gets rusty, everyone gets stagnant. You must play with hair.
At New York Fashion Week, about a month ago now. I am again working under James Pecis. We are doing hair for the Martin Keehn show. Lots of cornrows, and I am as confident as I have ever been. Happy that I get to utilize the time and practice that I’ve put into my craft. I can feel James looking over my shoulder, I start to sweat, the braid is looking pretty good, so I think I might be ok. James says “You know, your braiding would be a lot more efficient if you just used these three fingers” showing me his thumb, pointer, and index finger “and keep your palms facing down, that’s how I’d like you to practice”. A small part of me dies inside, but that’s ok, I’m mostly dead inside. Back to the mannequin I go, it’s time to play with some hair.
Martin Keehn SS15 – NYFW