Hairstory

Destroy the Hairdresser: Part One: Michael Gordon

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Change Is The Only Constant In The Universe.  An alternate version of that is Everything Flows, Nothing Stays.  Chalk that one up to Greek philosopher Heraclitus and keep this theme in mind; it keeps poking its head out in the world of Hairdressing over and over and over and over…and over.

‘Everything changes’ is something founder of Hairstory, Michael Gordon, noted.  What are some of the changes he has noticed?

  • In the past ten years that the number of hairdressers who have left traditional salons and are renting chairs or suites has reached, according to industry figures, almost 50% of the hairdressing population in America.  
  • Most hairdressers are now faced with hundreds of bottles on shelves and feel ill-equipped to recommend anything to anyone.
  • The economic situation in 2007-2009, was so powerful that it was felt in the hairdressing world, which up till that point had always been recession proof. 
  • The rise of barbershops and blow dry bars draw clients away and hairdressers in salons were earning less money.
  • Thanks to the advent of e-commerce sites, bloggers, vloggers, social media, etc., magazines which were highly profitable for years are now finding themselves struggling.   The budget for beauty editorials has shrunk.

What does all this mean?  It means the times, they are a changin’.  Enter Michael Gordon, and Hairstory.  

At first glance, Hairstory can seem very intimidating.  It is part think tank, part production house, part product company, and more.  Created by Michael Gordon, the founder of Bumble and Bumble, the website (click here now.  No seriously, now.  It is amazing) introduces the reader to the Hairstory line of four products and asks 'Are You A Hairdresser?' in such an understated way that I almost said 'not that kind of hairdresser.'

But I am.

We all are.  

Hairstory is a salon experience, an editorial headquarters in NYC, a product line, and curated content from videos to collections to podcasts designed to encourage and elevate hairdressers from Istanbul to Bangkok, Boise to Ithaca.  Miami.  Kansas City.  Spokane.  St. George.  Narnia.  Neverland.  Middle Earth.  Hoboken.

Destroy the Hairdresser sat down with founder Michael Gordon.  In Part One we explore Hairstory from the founder's perspective.  In Part Deux we talk with stylist Brian Casey who joined the Hairstory movement on the ground floor.  Two different perspectives.

These are their stories.  (insert Law & Order sound cue here)

DtHWhy did the business model of salons have to change?

M. Gordon: It’s not so much that we feel that the industry needed a wake up call as that it just happened. This new independent model (of renting chairs or suites) is giving stylists more of an opportunity to do well, make their own hours, and earn more money.  What they don’t have is a sense of community, inspiration, or great product to use and recommend. That’s what Hairstory can provide. We offer small opening orders for our line, making it easier for independent stylists to purchase product for their shelves and, in addition, we connect the hairdresser and client with a digital tether allowing the hairdresser continued commission if the guest purchases product from the Hairstory website. We’ve designed our system to help empower the independent stylist and offer them the tools necessary to succeed.

DtHHow are four products (three styling products and a wash) designed to meet all hair textures of the worlds' needs?

M. Gordon: There might be 100, 200 types of hair textures in the world, but there are also thousands of shampoos and conditioners, all promising that they are the perfect thing for your hair type. Sounds good, but you’ll discover that all of them have the same ingredients. Shampoos all contain SLS or some derivative of it; it makes your hair tooclean and dry. It’s so unmanageable that conditioner, masques and styling products are required to fix it. I can tell you emphatically that our one cleanser, New Wash, works on any hair type in the world, on any age, simply because it does not contain detergent. If you don’t damage your hair, you don’t have a lot of fixing to do. If you air-dry, Hair Balm is perfect. We have an amazing blow-dry lotion called Dressed Up for those who like a little polish, and Undressed is an amazing texturizing spray that is almost invisible but brings out the natural texture perfectly.

'Accurately catches the mood of how women want to look now'

DtHWe love that every collection on Hairstory has an in-depth essay about where and why and what if, not just how-to. Why are those details important to you?

M. Gordon: We try to make what we do here with beauty at Hairstory into more of a meal than a snack. Most magazines today don’t seem to shoot a lot of great original content on their own. If you go back and look at copies of American Vogue in the 60's, you’d be shocked to see how incredible the beauty stories are in both imagery as well as writing.  We want to bring that back.

DtH: How does Hairstory modernize education for hairdressers?

M. Gordon: It's unfortunately just not practical for most hairdressers to fly to NYC. This makes it difficult to get enough education, and even the most enthusiastic salon owner can probably only get away once a year. As Hairstory grows, we want to be able to allow stylists to click on their phone before work, see what we’ve done that day, and get inspired daily.  It must be working to some degree, because we get a huge amount of traffic from hairstylists and the public at large who are inspired by what we do. 

Because we had Mr. Gordon on the line, of course we had to ask him about top tips for our Destroyers starting out in the industry.  

  • Get a job as an assistant in the best salon you can find.  If you can't find one, consider moving. 
  • Be patient.  Spend a year or two learning how to learn how to begin to be good.  It's not possible to come straight out of beauty school and be proficient.
  • Stalk the editorial stylists you admire.  No...stalk their agents and let them know you're willing to do anything to work with them.
  • Do your research.  Look at models.com, learn who the stylists are doing the best work, buy inspiring magazines, train your eye.  

Any no-no's?

  • Hair shows
  • Industry magazines
  • Laziness

Something that can help train your eye is getting in touch with the roots (small pun intended) of our industry.  Michael Gordon's book 'Hair Heroes' and the accompanying mini-doc are predecessors to Hairstory.

Embracing change.  Offering options in an industry that is in a philosophical revolution.  Advocating for the study of art, books, architecture, and nature instead of Instagram. The creation of a well-rounded hairdresser is what Michael Gordon and Hairstory push for.  Spreading their message is an honor.

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