Nicola Moulton, VOGUE
After years of exemplifying GOOD GROOMING, the big salon BLOW-DRY has lost its gloss. So what’s the alternative?
Panic in London hair salon Percy & Reed. I’m having my cut and colour done by Adam, the “Reed” half of the business, and we’re just settling down to the blow-dry bit when there’s a tap on Adam’s shoulder.
Although I’m not supposed to notice, I know instantly it’s about Noel Gallagher, because Adam’s already mentioned that he’s his next appointment. We’re either running late of Noel’s early; either way he’s not going to want to spend 40 minutes waiting for my blow-dry to finish. Then it occurs to me” I’m not actually bothered if I get my hair blow-dried.
It will only last a coupe of days, I always feel a bit overdressed when my hair is salon fresh, and it was the cut and colour I was desperate for. Minutes later, I’m skipping died the street feeling as if I’ve been let out of jail early. I’ve just shaved my visit down by at least half an hour, and I’ve done a rock star a good turn.
Next morning I’m at a breakfast presentation. Of the 12 beauty editors at the table, eight have what has become known as the “wash and wear” hair. Loose, undone, a little natural texture, maybe a dab of product to smooth. A couple of years ago? There’d have been at least a handful of blow-dries, no question.
So why has the blow-dry lost its appeal? Until recently it was the byword for good grooming. Bt now the allure of the salon-fresh blow-out has somehow deflated. “If you’re not careful, it can make you loom a bit .. old,” whispered a friend. “Mmm, and a bit … wide,” added another. A third, for whom a weekly blow-dry practically constituted a human right, has come to the conclusion that she receives more compliments on her hair when she does it herself. “I always thought I just hadn’t found the right stylist,” she said. “Then I realised that salon blow-dries don’t actually suit me.”
But is it that they don’t suit her, or is it that the salon blow-dry to which most hairdressers default just isn’t right? Because until lately there’s been a blow-dry formula that equalled “good hair”: high at the roots, swingy at the ends and improbably sleek and glossy in between. (In fashion circle it’s known as “Versace” hair, because season after season that particular show would be filled with fabulous Amazonian models doing the ultimate in “big hair don’t care” glamour.)
“The trouble with most hairdressers is that they don’t think,” says forthright Luke Hersheson. As the man who brought the blow-dry bar concept to Britain, he knows his stuff. “They’re taught one way of blow-drying at college and they apply it to every client, regardless of age, hair type or personality. That’s why, from the start, we had a menu of styles so women knew they didn’t have to leave a salon looking exactly the same.”This season, two new looks will be added: one inspired but the “undone” hair he styled at the Michael van der Ham show, called #wewokeuplikethis; the other an “imperfect” bun that he created at Jonathan Saunders.
Over at George Northwood’s London salon, which attracts a laid-back, cool-girl clientele, the charismatic Roi Nadin agrees. “I’ve done thousands of ‘big and bounces’ in ym career,” he says, “but in the last year I can count them on one hand. No-one is asking for that anymore.” Northwood’s salon is one of many forward-thinking hairdressers recognising the reluctance for traditional “salon” hair and offering new services.
Closer to home, Sydney’s Blowdry Boutique has steadily seen it’s Double Bay and Mosman clientele – who are known to favour an immaculate, bouncy blow-dry opting for a more relaxed, undone look: “We’re definitely noticing a trend in women stepping away from the perfectly manicured blow-dry and opting for a looser, tousled-from-the-mid-lengths, younger look,” says its creative director Jessica Barr. “One of the most popular references we get is Erin Wasson’s hair.”
“It’s not about people not going into salons, it’s just about then leaving looking like themselves,” says the new Kérastase ambassador James Galvin. He describes it as “a city version of beach hair,” and cites runway hair supremo Guido Paulo as the “absolute master” of the look.
“Guido turned the backstage beauty world on its head at a Balenciaga show a few seasons ago when he gave the models a 5am call-time so that their hair could be washed and left to air dry before the show. Suddenly “wash-and-wear” was the new catchphrase. And the models who are now defining the moment, including Freja and Daria, have hair that is radically, even wilfully, undone. Then there are the clothes themselves: as fashion relinquishes its recent restraint in favour of a re-energised, attention-seeking aesthetic, anything more than a very relaxed ‘do is going to look too much.
Off the runway, too, women are rethinking their hair. In the past few years, colour has become more experimental: a wash of pink, a hint of ombre, a died-in root. And most dramatically of all, there’s a new, just below-the-shoulder long bob replacing the elbow-length hair as the most requested length. “A classic blow-dry on long hair is one thing, but on shoulder length hair you’re in danger of creating a square shape which is ageing and unflattering,” says Hersheson. “Long bobs work so much better with a bit of texture,” says colourist Josh Wood. “They’re all about seeing the cut and colour of the hair, not the styling.”
That long bob with texture, then, could also be the way we style ourselves. At George Northwood in London, clients can book a lesson in undone hair that shows you how to go from rough-drying to “light toning” to create Alexa-inspired hair. Or you can take a lead out of my book and simply leg it when the guitarist turns up.