- Edition 1, Chapter 4 -
Getting a haircut can be freeing, terrifying, traumatic, or sometimes as uneventful as clipping your nails. I made the decision a few years back to chop off my long, straight, brown hair after returning from a solo road trip to California. It is a common moment in pop culture, especially for a female character, to radically change her hair at a pivotal point in the plot. Impulsively, separating my hair into pigtails, I took a pair of fabric scissors and cleaved it just above my shoulders. I relied on my hair as a security blanket to keep me safely within cultural bounds of femininity, but I wanted to shatter some aspect of my “beauty.” I wanted to cut it off and be left lacking.
What started as a spontaneous decision to get rid of what I was tightly holding onto escalated into a way to manipulate how people saw me. The more I cut and dyed, the more I relished some sense of control over my message to the world instead of being told how to look, dress, and behave, and then be accused of vanity when I conceded.
One night while closing the cafe I work in, I discovered an article about Hairstory in an issue of Nylon a customer left behind. I was enthralled. I spent the next day poring over their stories online, falling in love with every single one. I had never found a company, hairdresser, or salon that came close to the kinds of ideas I imagined. I was ready to put myself into these stylists’ hands who dedicate their lives to making powerful changes for people. I applied to be a Hairstory model.
When I stepped out of the elevator into an entry room with shoes lined up against the wall, I was asked to remove mine and led to where two other girls sat on on a huge wrap-around couch waiting to be transformed, and if I wasn’t prepared with a book (I always am), there was an entire library I could have occupied myself with for hours. I noticed how quiet the place was – calm, controlled. A woman briefed us on the day’s events, and New Wash, the company’s coveted solution to the shampoo epidemic that apparently solves all hair problems ever to exist. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I thought; I was most interested in Wes and Roxie, the hair magicians and I couldn’t wait for them to get to my head. Little did I know the impact that little bottle would have on my life, competing quite winningly with the magic woven by the two artists.
We each went through our consultations with Roxie and Wes with many other eyes glued in quiet absorption in our direction. “Be charming, be charming, don’t say anything weird,” I intoned before it was my turn. Perched like a little bird on a cushioned stool, I was appraised, reviewing the qualities I had going for me, discussing my history. When I admitted that I was open to anything, they settled on decisions about what direction my look was headed.
I was then washed, rinsed, and seated in Wes’s chair. Conversation slowed as he made cuts with his razor. It seemed as if he considered each section and altered individual parts of my head. When he was finished, I had a choppy little bob with bangs that leaned slightly towards a bowl cut. Roxie finished me off with a deep, rich red-brown color, and I was made up and styled for photos with a lion’s mane, a shiny face, and large eyebrows – weird in all the good ways.
Once they had gotten the lighting right, everyone gathered around as Michael Gordon was handed the camera. He mildly smiled at me before he took his first shots. He peered down at the camera display and raised his eyebrows.
“I’m going to rate this one. I never do that. Five stars. That’s how good it is,” he said.
“Wow,” I said.
“You like it?”
“The hair looks amazing.”
He laughed and rolled his eyes. “People never admit that they’re impressed with how good they look.”
My hair used to be unimaginably soft, the kind you see in those old shampoo commercials when ladies have orgasms in airplane bathrooms. But I destroyed it with so much bleach and dye that it had become kinky, brittle, and fell out in the shower. By the end of my Hairstory visit, the few cleansings with New Wash returned my hair to something that resembled hair. It felt familiar again. I haven't used shampoo since and I don’t think I ever will.
The fact that no one wears shoes in the studio might be the perfect example of how the company and its participants approach their work. It is a detail of the kind that permeates everything they do, from developing revolutionary products to how each artist handles an individual. It is a symbol of thoughtfulness.