Celeb stylists are too busy be­ing fa­mous to ac­tu­ally ‘do’ hair

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - FASHION/BEAUTY - PaulStafford

There was a time when I used to so­cialise reg­u­larly, and I mean ev­ery night. The Nineties were an in­cred­i­ble decade — there was a sense of pos­si­bil­ity, po­ten­tial and pos­i­tiv­ity.

Sadly, like in the Six­ties, it didn’t last, but for a short time it seemed any­thing could or would hap­pen.

For my part, it was mag­i­cal — I was reg­u­larly on TV and ra­dio, had an ex­clu­sive prod­uct line, was trav­el­ling the world and owned a suc­cess­ful salon.

Of course, I had a pretty good work ethic, de­ter­mi­na­tion and pas­sion for my craft, and that, com­bined with a fair chunk of good luck, meant that my life was a roller coaster of ex­cite­ment, fun and ad­ven­ture.

In the Nineties, all over the world, hair­dressers be­came overnight su­per­stars whose opin­ions and thoughts on ev­ery­thing from fash­ion to cur­rent af­fairs and even pol­i­tics were sought out by the fash­ion me­dia, so­cial pages and the hard news press ev­ery­where.

Nicky Clarke was prob­a­bly not the first but def­i­nitely the most suc­cess­ful — be­fore him Ray­mond, Vi­dal Sas­soon and John Frieda achieved fame, but Nicky was on a dif­fer­ent level. Not un­like the War­ren Beatty char­ac­ter in the hit movie Sham­poo, he was good-look­ing, cheeky, and had the look with his leather trousers, but above all he was se­ri­ously ta­lented.

Nicky was man­aged bril­liantly, nat­u­rally suited to TV, had an en­vi­able celebrity clien­tele and a May­fair salon. His work­ing-class roots gave him a mild bad-boy im­age, but with a clien­tele com­pris­ing roy­als and rock stars, Nicky was hair roy­alty and for a time the king.

The Nicky ef­fect had an im­pact on us all, and al­though it was un­likely that in Belfast or Birm­ing­ham there were many peo­ple des­per­ate for £300 hair­cuts, all over the coun­try a crop of su­per stylists popped up. This glam­or­ised an in­dus­try that had be­come stale and an­ti­quated. It brought new skill and a lit­tle swag­ger, traits that chefs would have a gen­er­a­tion later.

Th­ese troubadours were busi­ness-minded, me­dia-savvy en­trepreneurs, but the bedrock of their suc­cess was raw, real, hard-earned tal­ent, honed for many years in sa­lons and col­leges around the coun­try, work­ing (for free in many cases) for long hours and learn­ing from great men­tors and un­sung teach­ers who never got the credit they de­served.

Of course, the celebrity hair­dresser ‘thing’ didn’t last, but the in­dus­try be­came a bet­ter place, with staff train­ing, client ser­vice, bet­ter salaries, great work­ing con­di­tions, amaz­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and, above all, a life­long ca­reer that was re­garded as one of the lead­ing in­dus­tries in the western world.

I was at an event re­cently at which I met a ‘hair­styl­ist’ who, when I in­tro­duced my­self, said: “Oh I fol­low you on In­sta­gram”. Of course, I was flat­tered, but then he said some­thing which com­pletely shocked me. When I asked what area of the in­dus­try he was in, he replied: “I don’t do much hair any­more. I’m a con­sul­tant... or I think the new term is ‘in­flu­encer’.”

I laughed: “How does that work ex­actly?”

He replied: “Oh, I use my so­cial me­dia base to ed­u­cate or men­tor hair­styl­ists on how to cre­ate brands that are at­trac­tive to the gen­eral pub­lic, giv­ing them the edge on their com­pe­ti­tion by clever po­si­tion­ing within the mar­ket­place or pub­lic view.

“My aim is to em­power the salon owner to take con­trol of how they are per­ceived within the pro­fes­sion, there­fore en­abling them to stand out from the madding crowd. I re­alised when I was work­ing in a salon that my true skill was in lead­er­ship — when I spoke peo­ple lis­tened.”

I asked him if he was a good hair­dresser. He smiled: “It’s so­cial me­dia, buddy, we’re all amaz­ing.”

The rise of so­cial me­dia has, of course, im­pacted greatly on our in­dus­try. Celebrity hair­styl­ists on In­sta­gram rarely, if ever, have sa­lons, few have celebrity clien­tele and some have bought their fol­low­ers. Like ev­ery­thing on so­cial me­dia, the per­cep­tion is greater than the re­al­ity.

The sad thing is, the new celebrity stylist is too busy be­ing a celebrity to do hair. In the Nineties, Nicky Clarke, Charles Wor­thing­ton and An­drew Collinge en­joyed the highs of the celebrity stylist life and, when the fad passed, they con­tin­ued do­ing what they did be­fore they were fa­mous — hair. I won­der where all our hair in­flu­encers, blog­gers and so­cial me­dia su­per­stars will be when the light dims. Paul Stafford, 671 Lis­burn Road, Belfast, tel: 028 9066 2554


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