By P. Lopez
Are hairdressing and fashion dangerous?
He’s been called the “Simon Cowell of hair” due to his outspoken manner, but anyone can see Michael M. Haase is an artist.
IFDaily: Before I went to France, a French woman told me the philosophy of hair cutting in Europe is different than in the U.S.: that they look at the whole face and body and make the cut around that. Is that true, or is that basically the difference between any good hair stylist vs. a mediocre one? Is there any other difference between European and U.S. hair styling philosophy? What makes a great stylist, vs. a merely
MMH: The biggest difference between Europe and the U.S. in hairdressing is the professionalism and the training. European trained hairdressers create looks with a more artistic eye to detail for the individual: their bone structure, profile, lifestyle and fashion sense: the complete person. The work ethic is also completely different. The mediocre hairdresser seems to want to be noticed for what they can do and not take as much care in what or how the client feels with their look. A lot of “copy-cutting,” if you will. Hairdressing is not just about how the client looks, but helps create his or her persona with the right style and shape.
There is a huge difference within the craft between hairstylists working to get by or working for the pure love of the art. I find the latter to be very rare. Passion is something you can’t really teach; you have to be born with it.
IFDaily: It seems like every time I see a youth-market TV show or movie where the lead is supposed to be “dreamy,” he has the same look: basically a version of the Ashton Kutcher cut. (Before That ’70s Show I can’t remember seeing the shag around much except in pictures from the ’60s / ’70s.)
The same is true of musicians: there seem to be two haircuts going around at any given time: the shag and the long-hair-with-beard look. Music, even “indie” music, has become insanely homogenized, the reason being labels (and people!) have become profit “bean-counters” and popularity-mongers. (The “More is better, period” philosophy.)
Do you think the same is true of Hollywood? What do you think accounts for the decline in quality and variety in entertainment choices today?
What accounts for the stylistic and mental super-homogeneity we see all around us?
MMH: The one thing that Hollywood has forgotten about in recent years is true quality in hair and fashion style. “It’s not what you wear, but who,” seems to be one of the big problems as I see it. When celebrities are guided by individuals who feel they know fashion, I always like to see who is the one at the wheel. Most of the time, the one guiding really doesn’t know fashion at all.
I suppose the word “celebrity” has been misused for many years now. Bad behavior in public, drama, etc. in the right place can get you exposed, making you a celebrity for the moment. Our society has become very comfortable with being a celebrity with a lifespan of yesterday’s tweets – and with about as much substance. The style of Hollywood has become very casual because we don’t expect anything else; it’s good enough, at least for the moment.
The “Formula” as it’s called, is created for financial gain: if it sells, it’s good enough. This creates a comfort zone that does not allow the change for Hairdressing or fashion to move forward. The looks remain the same because the folks that guide the celebrity arena seem to be influenced by the hype or fad of the moment; making fashion financial instead of creating movement forward. [Editor's Note: And in music.]
The birth of the celebrity hairstylist is not for the artistic in the hair industry, it’s for the fame of being recognized. Nowadays, you can be anyone you want on the Internet and in the media, but once you walk through that door, you better have the skills to bring it. Hairdressing is an art that has of late been watered down and misused; everyone wants to be famous. Fame is a matter of importance, not quality.
IFDaily: Fashion is a funny thing, and closely tied to physical beauty ideals. I think it was Andy Warhol who said that back in the ’50s, it wasn’t especially important that models or women look super-young to be beautiful or glamorous. That the “youth-as-beauty” trend was something that came about from the advent of early rock “youth culture” in the ’60s.
To a certain degree, fashion is about giving us choices to express ourselves.
Do you think that when beauty ideals become overly homogenized, it restricts our ability to feel, think and BE in certain ways? Doesn’t that mean fashion can have a dangerous side?
MMH: If properly influenced, fashion and hairdressing can be very dangerous. (Thank goodness!) When you have your own style, people sometimes think you’re weird because it’s different. Most people don’t get fashion. Yet, designers and hairdressers may see this as a fantastic new look and trend that can influence the next seasonal collection. Fashion isn’t about being the same as everyone else, it’s about creating your own style … your own trend.
Youth is of course beauty and it is what we are used to recognizing. However, there is also immense beauty in a mid-aged woman with her own style – the confidence to wear fashion well and have a hairstyle that compliments that style and her personality.
Looking at hairdressing greats like Vidal Sassoon, Robert Lobetta, and Alexander of Paris, you can see how they influenced fashion in hair by creating looks for some of the most famous Hollywood movie stars — the real celebrities of our time.
Without that danger, the creation for hair history would never have been noticed.
Fashion icons such as Betsy Johnson, Galliano, Gaultier, and Alexander McQueen, all have taken their visions to create newness in a very stale environment of “ready to wear.” If not for these and other talented and dangerously thinking individuals, fashion and hairdressing would be wearing sweats with “uggs” over-dried, lifeless long hair in a banana clip, believing this is fashionable.
To have your own style takes guts, you will separate yourself from the crowd.
IFDaily: You have a number of celebrity clients but you’ve said you don’t want to use them to further your career. Is there a deeper personal philosophy behind that, or is it simply out of respect for them?
MMH: It’s a little bit of both. What Hollywood considers celebrities today is unfortunate because it can’t distinguish the difference between the well-trained professionals and the minute-by-minute wannabes looking for a few minutes in the spotlight. Celebrities that have the experience, the manners, the work ethic, and the social skills that made Hollywood what it was, required a grace that well-trained fashion designers and hairdressers understand. This deserves respect and an appreciation for their art form as they respect ours. It’s a mutual collaboration in beauty. What society today considers a celebrity is quite laughable. The lack of manners and less than spectacular styling, seem to be the flavor of the moment that peole want to be like. It’s really disappointing
Give me Grace Kelly, Charlize Theron, Natalie Wood, and Marilyn Monroe anytime … and you will see real professionals and true elegance in the hairdressing and fashion world. True celebrities.
IFDaily: Returning to our earlier theme, fashion has always tread a line between new-yet-recognizable looks (what it means to be “in style”) and individual expression. What and where is that line? (If it hasn’t been addressed already.)
MMH: The line is created between street style and the couture houses of Europe. The synergy between them is where hairdressers and fashion designers get their influences. The blending of both creates the danger of modern design. And it also creates the history in the making of new trends. There is a great difference between European and American style. The European grace and elegance of street style is much more individualistic than the brand recognition of casual wear in America. It would be nice to see a change to wearing a logo-less garment that represents the individual rather than the corporation.
IFDaily: You support Unite Eurotherapy. What is Unite Eurotherapy? What makes it different?
MMH: I started working with Unite Eurotherapy about 5 years ago. Unite is a premium boutique product brand driven by the fashion industry and supports hairdressers with education.
What made it so unusually exciting for me, was not only did the products work well, but they exceeded what was on the market today.
Whether backstage, on set, or behind the chair, it is a product that allows me to create what I do best with complete confidence. I have always worked with the best and Unite supports me as a hairdresser to move my art forward.
IFDaily: Anything else you’d like to add?
MMH: Fashion style and influence in hairdressing has always been by decades. The previous decade seemed to be very shy of a real “wow” moment in hairstyling.
It would be nice to see the industry remove itself from drama and expose the artisty for what it is … as its own art form.
Sharing the creativity in the fashion world and promoting individualistic style. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing someone walk down the street with the complimentary accessory of a good hair style and wearing self chosen clothing to really make heads turn.
If Hollyood and society in general could count on their own fashion sense to create trends, the diveristy in new trends would be much greater … allowing for more choices.
Why is it that the Oscars have a category for make up and wardrobe, and no category for hairdressing?
Why is it that magazines don’t recognize the hairdresser for the art that it is?
Is it because our skills have been diluted because of the requests of the entertainment industry to not be too forward? Is it because society has chosen that it’s good enough? Or is it because the collaboration between the different disciplines has become a bit insecure?
We must challenge ourselves and the respected industries that we work with so that we can follow along in the lines of the great icons in the beauty and fashion industry.
If we would take our art to the next level, we could be recognized as the masters we are, instead of a celebrity hunting wannabe searching for the same recognition that the C class celebrities have found.
It is so important that we train ourselves with the skills necessary to create a new history for this decade and for that we need the danger of being fashion forward.
That’s hairdressing. How can we not be passionate about an industry that has allowed us to change with the seasons and to have the support of the fashion industry?
It’s proof that it can be done and it has been for decades. It’s a beautiful thing, maybe that’s why they call it the beauty industry. Hairdressers need to exceed the boring norm and push the limits as fashion designers do to create newness and a history of beautiful hair.
It’s time to set aside the need for stardom and do what we do best on the stars around us.