Hairstylists have always held an intimate and fabled position in the creation and maintenance of female charm and beauty. The role of the hairstylist as magic worker, beauty artist, and perhaps even more importantly, as confidante, friend, and advisor, who constructs the safe haven in which women can be transformed into their idealized selves, has been mythologized in film, on television, and in magazines and newspapers. By the 1950s and ’60s, some male hairdressers were as famous as the icons whose hair they styled. One known simply as Alexandre de Paris had clients including Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren. Kenneth Battelle, better known as Mr. Kenneth, became internationally known for Jackie Kennedy’s bouffant and made the cover of Glamour magazine, while West Coast playboy Gene Shacove, who once boasted that hairdressing was a “license to touch married women,” was the inspiration for the 1975 film Shampoo starring Warren Beatty as the motorcycle-riding hairdresser who seduced much of his female clientele.
Coupled with the continued aggressive advertising and public relations campaigns, many in the beauty industry, but perhaps most prominently the hairstylist, achieved a celebrated status that continues today.
One of the best-known celebrity hairstylists today is arguably the great Vidal Sassoon, a British hairdresser who rose to fame in the 1960s. Sassoon, born in 1928 and as skilled a business person as he was a hairstylist, rose to fame when the geometric bob cut he created in 1963 made him a household name. Sassoon was also known for his wash-and-wear perm, but his modernist edge, his ability to create geometric shapes, to create lacquer-like shine with very few products, and his precision and dedication to pushing the industry forward set him apart from his peers. His incredible talent, coupled with his business acumen, changed the hair industry forever. Sassoon was one of the first to envision the beauty and hair industry as a multimillion dollar industry. He had a short-lived television show called Your New Day with Vidal Sassoon in the mid 1970s, and has also authored several books. Perhaps most well-known is a line of professional products he introduced in 1973.In the early 1980s, Sassoon sold his manufacturing name to Procter and Gamble, which sold his products in mainstream markets across the United States. Now, his salons, schools, and products may be found globally.
Vidal Sassoon not only helped to create the new hair care industry; he was also mentor and teacher to many other stylists who would rise to fame in his wake. Paul Mitchell, born in Scotland in 1936, was the son of a hairstylist mother who entered beauty school at age 16. After winning numerous competitions, he joined Vidal Sassoon in the 1960s and became one of the most sought-after and popular hairstylists in London. Gambling on his fame and reputation, Paul Mitchell left Vidal Sassoon in 1966 to open salons in the United States, where he achieved even more celebrated acclaim. Although he was well respected and famed for his styles and cuts, Mitchell soon achieved celebrity status when, in 1980, he joined with business partner John Paul DeJoria to launch a professional hair care system. The centerpiece of this system was a revolutionary new styling tool, a sculpting lotion. The lotion was soon joined by other styling products, shampoos, and conditioners. The 2008 Adam Sandler film You Don’t Mess with the Zohan played on Mitchell’s fame when aspiring hairstylist Zohan (Sandler) seeks to work for the best, Paul Mitchell. In 1989, Mitchell died of pancreatic cancer.
British stylist John Frieda also followed in Sassoon’s footsteps in the late 1960s. Frieda got his start at a London salon owned by one of Sassoon’s protégés, Leonard Lewis. He quickly became Lewis’s top assistant, which also brought him much attention. While Sassoon certainly had some famous clients that made his famous haircuts even more popular (Nancy Kwan, for example, wore a Vidal Sassoon bob in the movie, The Wild Affair, in 1963 and inspired tens of thousands of women to seek the same, sleek angular bob cut), Frieda used the celebrity connection to even greater advantage. Frieda began to develop a celebrity clientele of his own— including Diana Ross and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Similar to Sassoon, he developed a signature haircut that was featured in the popular television series, The Avengers. Perhaps Frieda’s most famous client was Lady Diana Spencer, later known as Princess Diana. Frieda also developed a line of professional products, a risky venture as Sassoon was the only previous example of this kind of entrepreneurship. He introduced the Frizz-Ease serum in 1990 in his newly opened New York salon. Because of a small marketing budget, Frieda did much of the publicity himself, which also brought personal attention to the stylist. Frizz-Ease continues to be one of his more popular products along with the Sheer Blond line first introduced in 1998.
Sally Hershberger, Chris Mcmillan, And Ken Paves
In 1999, John Frieda opened a salon with Sally Hershberger, a well-known celebrity hairstylist, most famous for creating Meg Ryan’s signature shag. Hershberger now works independently and has developed not only a line of hair care products, but also her own clothing label. Many other celebrity stylists developed name recognition because of a well-loved, and copiously emulated, hairstyle. For example, Chris McMillan was an unknown stylist until he cut Jennifer Aniston’s hair for the hit show Friends. The Rachel helped McMillan gain a following—not only did women want Rachel Green’s haircut, but they also now sought out the hairstylist himself. McMillan currently also styles Lindsay Lohan and Kate Walsh, has appeared on the Oprah Show, and blogs on www.huffingtonpost.com. Ken Paves—whose clients include Jessica Simpson and Eva Longoria—is not only an in-demand stylist, but also has his own products—including hair extensions— which his celebrity clients help to sell. He has also been a fixture in the tabloids, often pictured with his clients at his salon or out on the town.
Some stylists, like Jose Eber, Kim Vo, and Jonathan Antin, are as known for their personalities as they are for their hair. All three have appeared on television shows dedicated to the art, and business, of hairstyling. Eber, long time stylist to Jaclyn Smith, has appeared on a hairstylist Bravo TV contestant/reality show she hosts, Shear Genius. Vo is co-host with Smith and has also appeared on various entertainment and style shows, offering tips, opinions, and makeovers. Shear Genius follows 14 hairstylists vying for a cash prize and name recognition. Indeed, Bravo TV’s Tabatha’s Salon Takeover features Tabatha Coffey, a former contestant on Shear Genius, who gives floundering hair salons a makeover. Bravo TV, capitalizing on America’s fascination with celebrity hairstylists, has been aggressive at the forefront of beauty television. Its show, Blow Out, followed hairstylist Jonathan Antin as he struggled to start his own high-end salon. The Style Network, an entire network devoted only to style and beauty, has also been concentrating much of its programming on hairstylists. Peter Ishkhans, a celebrity stylist whose cuts are “mindful of balance and form,” hosted a popular show titled Peter Perfect, in which he would give failing businesses, and their staff, makeovers. Oprah Winfrey has dedicated entire episodes to celebrity hairstylists. Although many of these stylists gained fame because of their celebrity clients, many have become celebrities in their own right and their status as pop icons is evidenced in their appearances in tabloid magazines and in popular curiosity about their lives outside of the salons.