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THE HAIRCUT ARCHITECTURE OF HAIR
I notice a woman’s face when she walks into my salon for the first time, even before she sits in my chair to have me cut or color her hair. Her expression is one of eagerness and anticipation—as if she is wondering, “Will this haircut be ‘the one’?”
Often a new client discovers me by word of mouth. She lives in New York and just loved what I did with her friend’s hair. Other times, a first-time client has made a special trip to see me, perhaps from another part of the country. She may have saved up for this appointment, and this could be the first time she has decided to invest in herself and her appearance. Her expectations are high and rightfully so. She regards this as not just a haircut but a potentially life-changing experience, so I have a lot to live up to. I find these types of situations the most rewarding and gratifying.
Once we meet, I ask her what she likes about her hair and what she does not. I learn how she usually styles it and how she would ideally want it to look. Then I explain my vision for her hair and begin to work. I am confident that I will create the look she desires, but what is even more exciting is that I know this will actually change how she sees herself.
I witness this all the time in my clients, and I experience it myself when I get my hair cut, colored, and blown out. Suddenly, I feel twenty years old again, empowered and glowing from the experience. Many times, this physical transformation will also lead someone to modify other aspects of her life, such as making healthy dietary changes or starting a fitness program. It ignites a spark! This feeling that anything is possible produces a profound domino effect. More important, it does not have to wear off the day after the salon experience.
After cutting a new client’s hair, I teach her how to re-create and maintain the new look at home by guiding her to the right styling products and showing her how to blow out her hair or dry it naturally so that the curl is brought out. After all, if she looks great only for that day, I have not accomplished my goal of giving her a cut she can work and live with. I am always happy to give away my “secrets” to empower the woman in my chair. This is what building a loyal, trusting relationship with a client is all about. These pages are filled with the same professional techniques and beauty education that I share in my salon, to put you in control of your looks.
HAIR AND YOUR IDENTITY
Your hair is often the first thing people notice about you. It represents who you are—your personality, sensuality, and sense of style. The relationship we have with our hair has a tremendous impact on our self-image and is so tied to our identity (for women and men) that it carries great psychological weight. It’s no wonder that a woman will walk out of a salon very differently from when she walked in. Her hair—how it looks and how she feels about it—affects her energy and how she moves through the world.
The significance of hair is more than just personal. It is inextricably linked to our ideas about beauty and femininity. There is also a history and memory to how we think about it. When you look back on specific hairstyles you had in the past, they make you reminisce about those times in your life. You probably have mental images of how your mother wore her hair or how a friend wore hers that conjure up wonderful (and sometimes hilarious) memories. While our conception of hair is very personal, it is also iconic and universal. Consider the signature hairstyles of certain movie stars, such as Louise Brooks’s bob, Audrey Hepburn’s pixie cut, Brigitte Bardot’s sexy bangs, and Jane Fonda’s famous shag. These definitive representations of beauty and fashion have become an enduring part of our culture, and influence our perception of beauty.
Not surprisingly, how our hair looks engenders strong emotional reactions. A grown woman will cry when her hair is cut badly or damaged by a negligent color job. Some women don’t want to go anywhere when their hair looks terrible. On a more poignant note, one of the most traumatic side effects of cancer treatment is hair loss. Many women have told me that they bravely managed to deal with everything else, but when they lost their hair, it all hit home. That is when they broke down.
Very often, hair is the first thing a woman wants to alter radically in a time of major transition. At the end of a relationship or before embarking on something new, there is a desire to shed this emotional weight and the memory that is bound in our hair. When you cut it off, or change the shape or color, a great sense of freedom and release often comes with it. This metamorphosis is not just physical but emotional, and actually makes you feel better and somehow lighter as the weight of your hair (and your past) is shorn. You become a new woman.
THE COMPOSITION OF HAIR
What It Is and Why It Behaves the Way It Does
Despite the enormous feeling we attach to it, hair has no nerve endings and no actual life at all. The strands that have sprouted from the follicles on your scalp are dead fibers composed primarily of keratin, the same hard protein that makes up your nails. Therefore, if hair is truly damaged, it should be cut off, because there is no way to “bring it back to life.” Everyone’s hair has essentially the same chemical composition. What makes your hair strands different from someone else’s is their density (the amount of hair), weight (how thick or fine the strands are), and texture (straight, wavy, curly, or kinky).
The cuticle is the outer layer that encases the hair strand like the scales of a fish. If these scales are raised, the hair will feel coarse and look frizzy. If they are flattened, the hair looks and feels smooth. It is also shinier, since a flat surface better reflects light. A lifted cuticle allows light to scatter and makes the hair appear dull. The cuticle can be influenced and controlled by many factors: humid or dry air, heat from blow-dryers or irons, products that coat or manipulate the scales by smoothing or elevating them, chemicals in hair color, and the tools used to cut and shape the hair. Even though hair is not a living part of your body, you can affect its texture and how the outer layer feels and looks. If you understand on a fundamental level the basic composition of hair and how it reacts to cutting, coloring, styling, products, and the environment, you will find it easier to realize why yours behaves the way it does and how you can work with it more effectively. Many women mistakenly believe it is just their bad luck to have unruly, frizzy, or limp hair. However, a great haircut and color, the right hair care, and the right products, as well as adept styling, can transform it completely.
THE VALUE OF GREAT HAIR
When you buy something cheap, you lower the value of your own life.
—NORIKO HAMA, INFLUENTIAL JAPANESE ECONOMIST, ON THE DEFLATIONARY PRICE WARS IN JAPAN
Hair is like fine fabric. It can be tailored, colored, heated, molded, and styled. Like any delicate material, it must be expertly cut and properly cared for in order to feel and look its best. An exceptional cut and color is similar to a classic, made-to-measure garment—only it is something you live with and showcase each and every day. Designer clothing is more expensive not just because of the famous label, but because of the integrity and beauty of the fabric and the way that fabric is cut, draped, and sewn. The workmanship necessary to create a designer piece takes more time and money, but the finished product is more beautiful, longer lasting, and higher in quality.
A chef behind every chair
When a great chef prepares a meal, his or her goal is not to fill your stomach but to create an amazing experience for your taste buds. Many steps and a painstaking attention to detail are required to make a beautiful and memorable meal. You will likely never know what took place in the kitchen or the time and training required to reach this level of proficiency. Likewise, when a good stylist cuts your hair, the objective is not to make it shorter but to create a design around your face. The best in the business cut hair in several stages that include sectioning, cutting in thin sections, polishing the hair with a blow-dryer, and dry-cutting to refine the shape, all the while designing the cut based on your facial structure and head shape.
The same holds true for a great haircut. It is a permanent accessory that complements your every step and makes you feel confident, sexy, and beautiful. Yet this is where many people decide to scale back. Women spend a lot of money on expensive shoes or handbags. A night out on the town (with dinner, movie, babysitter, etc.) could easily run over $200. However, many will question spending that same amount on a service that actually makes them look and feel better, makes their life easier, and has a longer-lasting payoff. We tend not to prioritize things that make us better, healthier people and bring us happiness on a daily basis—such as a gym membership, a hair appointment, or a facial. Many consider these unnecessary, frivolous luxuries, or even vain indulgences. On the contrary, caring for yourself makes good common sense. You are certainly worth the investment!
Three things primarily measure the success of a haircut: how well it complements your face, how long it takes you to style, and how well it grows out. If your hair enhances your bone structure, strengthens your features, and makes you feel sexier and prettier, you have a great haircut. If it takes more than twenty minutes to pull and tug your hair into a style that still does not look right, then it is certainly not worth the money you spent on it—whether the cut was $20 or $200. This frustrating struggle has a negative value or an opportunity cost associated with it. Dissatisfaction with the way your hair looks and behaves is distracting. Women tend to obsess over it—constantly thinking about their hair, hating it, battling with it, and feeling bad about themselves because of it. This is not surprising, since a bad haircut or color actually takes away from your beauty. On top of that, consider what you have spent on different styling products in an attempt to mask the shortcomings of a bad cut. It all adds up to time, money, and energy you could use for something much more fulfilling, fun, or lucrative.
A well-executed cut also grows out better and lasts two to three times longer than a less-competent one because of the structure that has been cut into it, thereby actually saving you time and money in the long run. It must be not just artistic, but architecturally sound. If the hair is cut with precision and balance, it will keep its shape as it grows out, fall attractively into place, and behave for you. On the other hand, while an uneven and sloppy cut may initially be masked with deft styling, it soon starts to show a lack of shape and attention to detail as the hair grows out. A good cut also gives the styling flexibility of air drying or blowing it out straight (or with a diffuser). Since your hair naturally falls into place due to its strong foundation, you are able to wear it with minimal effort and styling products. Everything you want is built into the cut: the right length, height, shape, and movement. An impeccable haircut has a life force of its own—it is the foundation and the first step toward great hair.
Underestimating what it takes to become a good hairstylist
Cutting hair is both extraordinarily technical and artistic, yet there is a great misconception about hairdressing. People often think that great hairdressers are just born with a “gift,” which might be true if you factor in good taste and an eye for scrutinizing your own work. But when it comes to actually cutting and coloring the hair, it is very much a craft, and like any other, it requires years of education and practice. It is only after a high level of proficiency has been achieved that a hairstylist has the ability to create a transformative experience around your face.
The bottom line: If something does not work or does not look good, or if you simply don’t like it, it carries a cost that is usually far greater than what you would have spent on a higher-quality service or product. It’s like purchasing an item of clothing that does not fit you, just because it’s on sale. Real value is a haircut that makes you feel good about yourself, makes your life easier, and has longevity. Quality can be incorporated into most budgets. The only question is your priorities.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD HAIRCUT FOR A MAN
Women are always trying to change men, but it is wise to remember that one of the few things you actually can change is his hair. This is where most men are only too happy to take guidance from their wives or girlfriends. While women have an arsenal of personal beautification items at their disposal, from makeup to jewelry, all the accessories that men really have are their watches, shoes, and haircut. Yet so many men still have the same cut they had as boys, which does not complement their face shape or compensate for any changes in hair texture or density. They think nothing of spending $50 to $100 on a round of drinks or tickets to a sporting event but would not even consider investing that much in a good haircut.
I have found that most often this stems from simply not understanding the difference that a quality cut can make in a man’s appearance. I also witness, time and time again, the amazement of a man who gets what may be the first great haircut of his life. It not only strengthens his facial structure, but actually makes thinning hair look thicker by building volume on top. This is also why a man who finally gets the right cut typically becomes the most loyal client. Understandably, some men do not feel comfortable going to the same salon as women (although about 20 percent of my salon’s clientele is actually male). Therefore, seeing a good, old-fashioned barber is perfectly fine. I say “old-fashioned” because the majority of today’s barbershops that cater to men do not use traditional barbering techniques like scissor-over-comb and thinning shears (real barbering scissors have longer blades than those generally used by stylists). Instead, they cut hair with electric clippers, in wide panels rather than thin sections. This makes it very difficult to tailor the cut to the shape of the head and causes the hair to grow out badly.
My grandfather Raffaele Scrivo was one of those old-fashioned barbers who took great pride in his work. I learned early in my career that there is a big difference between using proper shears and taking a buzzer to someone’s head. Spending time with my grandfather and my dad gave me the opportunity to learn many of the old-world European cutting techniques, for which I am so grateful. I still have the shears that my grandfather used every day in his barbershop. They are framed and hang on the wall of my salon.
THE CUTTING GUIDE
Designing Your Perfect Cut
The architecture of a good haircut comes down to simple geometry: an understanding of how different shapes, lines, and angles work together and fit into one another. Cutting hair involves constructing an initial shape and length, then customizing that shape to a client’s face, body, and hair texture.
The perimeter of the haircut consists of its length and its overall outline. Layering is done within that perimeter, in much the same way as a sculptor chisels detail into a mold or an artist adds shading and dimension to a sketch. The length, lines, and layers can soften, strengthen, camouflage, or emphasize specific facial features. Since your hair quite literally frames your face, the right cut has the power to improve and enhance it, or even modify its structure to a certain extent.
The lines in the haircut include the layers cut within it, the bangs, or a section that ends at a specific point around the face. If I want to bring attention to a certain feature, I will put a line there (for example, at the cheekbones). To soften or downplay a facial feature, such as a wide jaw, I make the pieces a little bit longer in that area so the eye is directed downward and away from it. It never ceases to amaze me how a few strategically positioned layers around a woman’s face can enhance her look.
Women always ask me, “How long do you think my hair should be?” “Should I grow my hair out?” “Would it look good short?” You may actually already know the answers. After growing out bad haircuts and learning from past mistakes, I bet you have a pretty good idea of what works for you and what does not. While you may not know exactly the look you should have, most women are pretty clear, even if intuitively, about what they do not want. It is important to listen to your own voice and trust your instincts, as well as to convey those ideas to the person who is about to cut your hair. Often women say, “I’m afraid to speak up.” Don’t be! By communicating your desires you are providing the hairdresser with essential information. We want you to be happy with the haircut. After all, you are the one who has to live with it.
WHAT LENGTH AND SHAPE ARE RIGHT FOR YOU?
There are six important factors that come into play when I am deciding how to cut a client’s hair:
WISH LIST: Her personal preferences and desires about how she wants her face and hairstyle to look.
HAIR TEXTURE: The density of her hair and how curly or straight it is naturally.
BEAUTY LIFESTYLE: How she prefers to style her hair and how much time and effort she wants to put into it.
PERSONALITY: Her sense of style, her confidence, and how she presents herself to the world.
FACE AND NECK: Her facial features as well as the length and skin condition of her neck.
BODY: Her height, weight, and silhouette.
Your Wish List
For me, the most important guides to establishing the length and shape of a client’s haircut are her personal preferences, or her wish list. Some of the first things I ask are: “How do you feel about your hair? Is there anything you would like to change?” and “What might you want to improve or modify about your features and which attributes would you like to bring into focus?” She may tell me that she does not like it when her curly hair looks flat on top and too poofy on the sides of her face. Maybe she is self-conscious about the condition of her neck and wants to bring attention to her eyes and cheekbones, or would like to make her face appear slimmer. Perhaps she wants to look taller or thinner. The architecture of a well-designed haircut should support all these desires.
A good hairstylist is a problem solver. When I meet a client for the first time, I begin to envision how the geometric lines of a hair shape can strengthen, balance, or soften certain areas of her face. These lines perform a number of flattering optical illusions, accentuating your best features and minimizing the ones you are not crazy about. In short, the perfect haircut can make your wish list come true.
Your Hair Texture
Hair texture and density influence the choice of length and shape enormously, since they affect how the hair falls and moves. Is it curly, frizzy, or coarse? Straight, fine, or perhaps a combination of textures? After years of working with all types of hair, a skilled professional can predict how a particular texture will behave with certain cutting tools and techniques and will adjust the cut accordingly. For instance, curly hair tends to behave better and lie a little flatter if it is longer, because length creates weight. The same principle dictates that fine hair that is too long gets weighed down and can look flat or lifeless.
Your Beauty Lifestyle
Before I begin the cut, I always ask a client how she usually styles her hair and how she would ideally like it to look. (These questions often produce two very different answers.) Then I ask practical, detailed questions like, “Do you blow it out straight or do you let it air dry?” and “Do you like to pull it into a ponytail when you work out, or on the weekends?” (If so, she will obviously need enough length to pull back.) “How much time do you have in the morning to style your hair?” and “Do you know how to use a round brush?” All these questions and their answers provide the feedback I need to create a haircut that not only complements the client physically but is one she can work with easily at home.
A well-shaped haircut should provide styling versatility and look good whether it is worn wavy or blown out straight. Nevertheless, how a woman works with her hair daily will also help to determine how I will cut it. For someone who air dries her curly hair, the layers need to be left a little longer on top of the head, since curls (by virtue of their S shape) will shrink up as they dry. If I were to cut this woman’s hair and blow it out straight in the salon without first asking how she usually wears it, she may find that it looks too short later when it dries naturally.
The power of your personality and your individual style is what makes you special and allows you to carry off a length, style, or hair color that might go against the general rules. Going for a supershort haircut, keeping the length long, or adding layers can be appropriate at any age and can work for almost anyone if the style suits the personality. In chapter 8, “Ageless Makeovers,” you will see this “Why Can’t You?” attitude in action. A hairstyle looks best when it is tailored to the woman who wears it, because it complements her physical features as well as her unique character. If you love to wear your hair very long (and you have the free-spirited and bohemian sensibility to go along with it), then why not embrace it? There is a way to make that length work for you. Or, if you are attracted to the classic style of a blunt-cut bob and horizontal bangs, it can be executed without looking too severe or retro. It is all about bending the rules and skillfully modifying the layers, the color, and the lines of the hair. Breaking away from the societal conventions means trusting your instincts, staying true to yourself, and communicating your desires effectively, in which case a talented hairstylist can make your signature look work beautifully for you.
Your Face and Neck
As I consult with a client, I take stock of all the visual cues available to me in order to assess her facial features and gauge what kind of hair shape would balance her facial structure. I look at a woman face-to-face, in the mirror, and I evaluate her profile (often I will give the client a hand mirror, so she can see her side view as well). Most of the time we look at ourselves head-on, but that is not how the world sees us. By looking at someone from all angles, I can clearly see the true shape of her face and neck, and understand where the lines of her haircut should hit to create the necessary optical illusion.
MAKING A LONG OR NARROW FACE APPEAR FULLER: Diamond-shaped layers with the widest points at either side of the head help to broaden the face by creating the impression of width. For this face shape, I especially like using The UnCut™ (my signature layered cut), since the technique makes it easy to create a slightly fuller look at the cheekbones.
SLIMMING A ROUND FACE: Longer layers that fall on either side of the face (like curtains, in effect) will elongate a full face. The lines of the haircut should not end in the middle of the face, as this would add even more width there (A).
If you prefer a shorter alternative, an A-line bob, which is shorter in the back and longer in the front, with a side part, also works for this face shape (B).
BALANCING A LONG NECK: Cutting a perimeter line that ends just below the middle of the neck will add more width there and make a long neck appear a bit shorter.
BALANCING A HEART-SHAPED FACE: A haircut that is fuller at the bottom creates an illusion of width at the jaw to balance the broader cheekbones. Shoulder-length hair also adds lateral depth to balance the strong cheekbones and a pointy chin.
LENGTHENING A SHORT NECK: Instead of covering that area, I would subtly open it up by layering the hair between the jawline and the clavicle bone to remove some of the heaviness and help elongate the neck. A haircut ending at the clavicle or just below it is the perfect length to maintain.
STRENGTHENING THE JAWLINE AND OVERALL BONE STRUCTURE: A chin-length bob line not only helps to define the jaw but frames the entire face for a strong yet feminine look, which is accentuated by the exposed neck.
SOFTENING A STRONG JAW AND A SQUARE FACE: Longer-length hair with soft layers helps to soften strong facial features. Adding an asymmetrical line with a side-swept bang further softens hard angles of the face. For a shorter alternative, a longer bob (hitting one to two inches above the clavicle bone, rather than at the chin) creates a more vertical line, directing the eye downward and softening the jawline. (Refer to Balancing a Long Neck illustration on page 17.)
CAMOUFLAGING PROBLEMATIC JOWLS AND NECK: This situation can be dealt with in one of two ways. Hair that ends at the jawline is not the way to go, since it brings attention right to the point of distress. One option is more length (three inches below the jaw or longer with layers), cutting longer pieces that can be styled inward to slightly obscure and soften the lines of a sagging neck. Longer layers provide a diffusing effect and make for a wonderful method of camouflage (A).
The second option is a much shorter length that hits just above the jaw and has height at the crown. A longer side-swept bang can lift the focus upward to your eyes and detract from the jowl area (B).
Gwynne’s razor cut was created with short, graduated layers.
Considerations for choosing the right cut should not stop at your neck. The length and shape of your hair have to work in proportion to your entire body. When a woman comes to me for a haircut, I consider her height and silhouette. I know, for example, that someone with a larger frame could benefit from growing out her hair to her clavicle or longer, in order to slim and elongate not only her face but also her body shape. Yes, the right length and lines in your hair can actually make you appear thinner and taller. Creating a more vertical shape in a haircut, adding height at the crown, and cutting internal layers around the sides (to make the hair narrower at the cheeks and jaw) will extend the lines of the hair, face, and body from top to bottom. Hence, an illusion that you have lost a few pounds and gained a couple of inches in height is created. Remember that all good design comes back to “the line.” Designers, decorators, and architects all speak of the line your eye follows when looking at a shape. It must have a flow and a continuum to feel and look right.
Usually a petite woman who wears her hair very long can seem even smaller in stature because the scale of the hair is not proportionate to her figure. The length tends to overwhelm a small body. If the hair were shorter, however, the focus would move up toward the face and visually lift up a petite frame. Despite that useful guideline, there are always exceptions to the rules, and plenty of petite women with bombshell-long hair look fantastic. This is because a woman’s personality and style often manage to trump conventional laws of proportion.
HOW TO WEAR BANGS, AND WHICH STYLE IS RIGHT FOR YOU
Bangs or Botox? —EVA SCRIVO
Bangs are a versatile, simple, and transformative way to customize most cuts. There is a world of different bangs out there. There are blunt, straight-across bangs; textured, softer bangs; side-swept and grown-out “rocker” bangs—all of which the British refer to as a “fringe.”
Not only do bangs help to conceal fine lines and cover a short or a high forehead, they are youthful and fun. Bangs can make a woman look younger because they soften her face and provide a line in the haircut that can play up the eyes, lift the cheekbones, and produce a multitude of other subtle visual effects. For instance, if you want to put the focus on your eyes, then cutting bangs just above the brows will place the emphasis right there. A longer bang that hits below the brows will bring attention to your lips. Meanwhile, an asymmetrical fringe can help to minimize a broad nose or slim a round face by basically drawing a diagonal line across it, thus breaking up the width.
How slight variations in bangs can balance your facial features
GETTING YOUR HAIR CUT
Usually, once seated in the salon chair, most women zone out, having very little comprehension of what is happening on top of their heads. That is perfectly fine if you have been going to the same hairdresser for a while. (In fact, most of my clients think of their hair appointment as time for themselves and a welcome opportunity to relax.) But, especially at the initial visit, it is a good idea to be reasonably aware. This is not to say that you should become a backseat driver during your haircut. On the contrary, it is not advisable during the cut itself to chat too much with your stylist, who needs to concentrate on your hair. However, it is important to talk with him or her before the cut begins about how your hair will be shaped and how you want it to look. After reading this section, you will better understand what your hairdresser is doing and why.
Hairstylists primarily use three types of tools to cut hair: scissors, razors, and thinning shears. Each creates a very different effect and is used in conjunction with numerous cutting techniques. Your hair texture and density help to determine why a hairstylist chooses a particular cutting tool or technique to either play up your natural hair texture or compensate for the way your hair tends to fall or behave.
Scissors create a straight line, which is why they are typically used to cut the length and create a strong initial shape. A simple pair of scissors is an extraordinarily versatile implement that lends itself to different cutting techniques. In addition to cutting a precise line, they are used to create layers and build a specific shape, and to further texturize and soften the overall haircut when dry.
The straight blade of a razor, when combined with the slightly angled up-and-down motion of the wrist while making the cut, creates a broken but even line (rather than the solid one produced by scissors). Think of a zigzag stitch compared with a solid stitch done on a sewing machine. This is not a jagged, messy, or uneven line. (Consider that a straight blade is what surgeons use to make an extremely precise cut.) When employed correctly on the hair, this tool removes bulk and creates movement and separation. It also allows curls and waves to spring up, since they are not dragged down with weight on the ends.
Never cut curly hair with a razor, because it creates frizz.
THE RULE BREAKER: A straight blade is a misunderstood and underappreciated cutting tool. In the hands of a skilled technician it does not cause frizz at all. In fact, I have seen many women with so-so curls walk out of my salon with glorious, defined curls after having their hair cut with a razor. I have also witnessed the razor phobia on a client’s face when I suggest cutting her curly hair with one. Many women are understandably apprehensive, especially if they have had a terrible razor cut in the past. The razor’s bad rap has less to do with the tool itself than with the way it is wielded by the hairstylist. In the wrong hands, a good pair of scissors can also create a disaster. Used the right way, a razor reduces heaviness with its zigzag line by individualizing, defining, and lifting each curl. With a razor, I am able to texturize and cut the ends simultaneously, making the perimeter line a little softer.
Thinning shears remove weight from the interior of the hair without affecting the exterior outline. They should be used sparingly on dry hair as a method of fine-tuning the weight distribution, which influences the shape. Instead of smooth, straight blades, these texturizing scissors have serrated teeth that notch into the hair and cut only the pieces in between those teeth. This literally thins out sections that are too dense, either in the middle of the hair shaft or closer to the ends. I may use thinning shears near the edges of a solid bob line, for example, if it feels heavy. This way, I retain the shape and length, while getting more movement and lightness at the ends.
Using a razor with a guard
Destructive results can occur when using a straight blade with a safety guard. A guard protects stylists from cutting themselves but also makes the blade not as sharp. Consequently, more pressure must be applied to cut the hair, scraping the serrated guard over it. This friction burns the hair, shreds the ends, and even pulls keratin out of the hair shaft, which is what causes frizz (you can actually see that white keratin protein on the ends). The added tension on your hair can also be painful, and if your haircut hurts, it’s all wrong! A razor with a guard should never be used to cut hair. Then why is it used? Just as a proper razor in inexperienced hands can wreak havoc on your hair, it can also wreak havoc on the stylist’s inexperienced hands! The extremely sharp blade’s downward motion is directed at the index and middle fingers. When used properly, it stops within an eighth of an inch of the skin. I have certainly seen my share of razor accidents, from deep cuts that required stitches, and even the tip of a finger being sliced clean off, to the smaller cuts that are simply a part of life at every salon. In addition, a razor is almost always used on wet hair, since it is imperative that the blade can glide through slick strands. Using a razor on clean, dry hair (without an oily or waxy product to provide some slip) will cause the blade to drag on the hair and create damage and frizz.
Scraping the hair with scissors
The razor and thinning shears are not the only tools that can damage hair if used improperly. The most frequent damage actually happens from scissors. It can be caused by overtexturizing (removing too much hair to the point where it feels thin) or by dragging the scissors over the hair and pulling on it so that it actually hurts. This shreds the ends of the hair and pulls the keratin out of it in the same way as when a razor with a guard is used, resulting in frizz.
Haphazardly using thinning shears
Like a razor, thinning shears are often misused or overused, resulting in a wispy, overly thinned texture or a haircut that is unbalanced. Used correctly, this tool should not make hair frizzy or fuzzy. Some stylists cut too deeply into the hair and end up cutting too much off, while others thin out the hair unevenly throughout the haircut. Weight must be removed equally unless the hair naturally grows in heavier on one side. Cutting into the hair with thinning shears haphazardly creates an unbalanced shape that is especially noticeable on straight hair.
It’s not the tool but the skill with which it is used that sets great hairstylists apart. The combination of tool and technique is what creates a particular effect, feeling, or movement in the haircut. There are many methods of cutting and layering the hair, and it is helpful to know a few of the basic techniques and the terminology. Understanding what the stylist intends to do should not only make you feel more comfortable but give you the opportunity to intercept a miscommunication before it manifests itself in your haircut.
BUILDING THE STRUCTURE WITH LAYERS
It may seem as if a hairstylist cuts hair aimlessly in a passionate, artistic flurry. Nothing is farther from the truth. While there is certainly an intuitive aesthetic sensibility and creativity at work, the craft itself is technical and methodical. Haircutting follows a precise formula of connecting one section of hair to another, using each one that is cut as a guide for the length of the next. In the industry, this is called your “guideline.” It makes every section even and in line with the others. The stylist always has a small piece of the previous section (her guideline) in her hand as she continues to build the shape. As the haircut progresses, all sections start to match up and connect in a very systematic way.
Most haircuts begin with the stylist dividing the hair, then cutting one section that will act as his or her guideline for the entire cut. She is basically connecting the dots in order to create a completely balanced, even form, so that every section eventually can be traced back to that first one. This precision cutting ensures continuity throughout the haircut for a sound structure. The bangs (typically shorter in length than the rest of the hair but can also be left longer) are the area most commonly disconnected from the rest of the cut. There are also advanced cutting techniques that are referred to as “disconnected,” where, for example, the top may be longer than the sides and back, but the overall cut still feels balanced if properly executed.
Layering is a pattern of cutting the hair to build a specific shape and add height at the top of the head. It refers to how the hair is elevated and held between the fingers while being cut. Various elevations create different types of layers, which in turn produce different overall shapes in the haircut. Layers also act as flexible girders that move from side to side, giving the hair movement.
Many women believe that one-length hair is easier to style, but that misconception usually comes from badly or overly layered haircuts. It comes down to choosing the right amount and type of layering for your hair. One-length hair is a specific look that some women like, which is fine if that is your preference. However, it does not give the framework, fullness, height, and movement that come with some gentle layering. Even the most geometric shapes, like a bob, look more modern with some movement to them. You can still maintain that one-length feel with gently cut round layers that will also give some height at the top of the head.
On pages 32 and 33 are five basic layering techniques that build different structure and movement into the hair. One of them will most likely be the way a stylist cuts your hair shape.
At my salon, stylists perform my trademarked The UnCut, a method of razor cutting layers to create the initial lines and length and remove bulk, then using scissors to dry cut and refine the shape. I named it The UnCut because the evenly cut, zigzag line produced by the razor always looks natural and slightly grown out. Although based on the principle of triangular layering, the cut is more diamond-shaped. It produces soft layers that fall into place without the aid of a dryer or much styling. The UnCut is the solution for a common hair dilemma. Women with curly, wavy, or thick hair complain that they hate to wear it natural because the hair expands at the bottom as it dries and ends up looking like a tepee. But it is not necessarily the curl, wave, length, or texture that they don’t like; it’s the width around the bottom. I also use this technique on straight hair, and on both long and short lengths. This concept of cutting can be modified by using a razor with other layering patterns.
ROUND LAYERS: Round layers give the softest shape and are created by cutting the elevated sections of hair to the same length and in a circular pattern. If the hair was held out from all points of the head, it would actually form the shape of a circle. Round layers can be used on all hair lengths and textures and remove the least amount of length and weight. This technique is best for adding light layering without compromising the hair’s natural thickness.
GRADUATED LAYERS: These are horizontally layered sections that build weight by stacking slightly shorter pieces underneath longer ones. They graduate from short to long, starting at the nape of the neck and getting longer as the haircut progresses toward the top of the head. Many shorter haircuts are beveled like this in the back so the hair at the nape can build support and height at the crown.
SQUARE LAYERS: Unlike round layers, square layers build a strong, geometric shape into a haircut with more solid lines. If all of the hair was pulled straight up at the top of the head, out at the sides, and back at the back of the head, it would literally form a square. This technique removes more weight around the face and adds volume at the top of the head. It is ideal for creating defined and modern shapes and also lends itself to more alternative, edgier haircuts.
TRIANGULAR LAYERS: Triangular layers are cut straight across the top as the hair is elevated, and angled downward when the hair is held straight out at the sides and back. They form an upside-down pyramid shape regardless of the hair length. This actually prevents curly or thick hair from turning into a dreaded pyramid by creating the reverse effect and removing bulk and width from just above the ears down. On longer straight hair, which tends to go flat, triangular layering lifts the hair while maintaining the length.
CONCAVE LAYERS: With this method, a stylist layers the hair, allowing the thickness along the bottom to remain. It essentially forms a shape of a pyramid that is right-side-up; the opposite of the form created with triangular layers. It is perfect for those who want shape and definition in the haircut while maintaining a more solid perimeter line. The cut retains most of the density in the hair but still has some choppiness in order not to look one length.
Texturizing is a method of weight removal that creates a more airy texture on the ends, adding movement to the haircut. This can be done on wet or dry hair: on the ends with a point-cutting or razor-cutting technique, or by cutting more deeply into the hair from the midshaft to the ends to remove bulk.
When hairdressers talk about “weight” and “bulk,” we are (thankfully) referring to your hair density and texture—two elements that have an enormous effect on the shape and movement of the hair. Weight, or density within the hair, feels like heaviness and is not the same thing as length. It can be concentrated in one specific area of the hair or throughout the entire head. It is the combination of the right length and even distribution of weight that creates a proportionate haircut. Weight can also work to your advantage by weighing down frizzy or flyaway hair, for example. Or it can be something you want to remove if it makes the hair look too bulky and detracts from the shape of the haircut.
If your hair tends to flatten at the top, removing excess weight around the bottom by softly layering the last three to four inches can reduce the heaviness and lift the shape. Women with wavy or curly hair often complain that it is too puffy and round, in which case I may cut into the ends, with either a razor or scissors, to create some airiness and separation. This individualizes each curl and prevents the overall hair shape from looking like a solid mass. I may also layer the hair to remove excess bulk and make it lie closer to the head. It is not unusual to have different textures in one head of hair. Many women have ringlets underneath, while the top layer is wavy and fluffy. To balance that, I reduce the bulk on top, perhaps by using a razor to remove some of the heaviness and bring out more natural curl in that area. On the other hand, if a woman with pin-straight, fine hair tells me that she is frustrated with how flat and thin it looks, I would cut a crisp, solid line at the bottom so that her hair does not seem so wispy. I would then create more volume by adding round layers, and not texturize her hair, in order to maintain its natural weight.
Getting a bouncy, voluminous blowout right after a cut
After a haircut, you may desire to have your hair blown out with some wave and lots of lift, and I don’t blame you. A luxurious, bouncy blowout softens the face and can last for days. Unfortunately, it also masks imperfections in a haircut and should not be done until the cut is completely checked dry. The volume and wave created by the blowout alter the lines of the hair, which is precisely why it is a bad idea before your stylist dry cuts it. Many hairdressers make this error and are unable to clearly see mistakes or imbalances in the haircut. Following the initial wet cut, your hair should be dried straight and smooth so that your stylist is able to go over his or her work with more clarity. After the dry cut is completed, you can ask your stylist to go over the blowout and add body and lift with a round brush or Velcro rollers. This helps to ensure that your haircut is perfectly balanced and that you are able to style your hair easily at home.
This texturizing technique involves cutting into the ends of the hair to remove weight and give it more movement. The scissors are held at a higher angle and their tips are used to cut a tiny V shape into the ends with each snip. This is a way to soften the lines of a haircut on straight hair so that everything feels more blended, or to create separation by individualizing curls in wavy or curly textures.
Your hair should not be point cut if it tends to become thin on the ends and feels as though it never grows past a certain length. In such instances, it is best to keep crisp, solid lines.
Adjusting a haircut for the climate
I always ask new clients where they live because the climate affects how the hair behaves. For someone who lives in a more humid environment, it may be better not to cut into the ends of the hair, allowing the strands to remain heavier to help weigh down frizz and flyaways. Since removing weight in the ends gives the hair more body and lift, it is just what you do not want in humidity, but do want in a dry, arid place that is not conducive to creating body in the hair.
Adjusting a haircut for the shape of the head
An often overlooked factor in how the hair should be layered is the shape of the head, which along with texture determines how the hair lies. A good hairdresser needs to know how to work with that variable (I feel up all my clients before I cut their hair—to gauge the shape of their skulls, of course). By building weight or removing density, or by creating height where the hair tends to be flat, I can rebalance the face and head shape with the right lines and layers cut into the hair. For example, if the head is slightly flatter on top, cutting layers and adding more shape at the back of the head creates volume at the crown. A slightly cone-shaped skull causes the hair to hang flatter, and proper layers can fill out the sides. If the skull seems more flat on one side (or if a woman prefers to wear a deep side part in her hair), I will texturize the heavier side and cut a few shorter layers on the other. It is all about balance and compensation.
Regular trims will help your hair grow faster.
THE RULE BREAKER: Since hair grows from the roots, not the ends, that logic is false. I advise my clients who are growing out their hair to go as long as they can without cutting it. If you are trying to grow your hair longer, trimming the ends too often will get you nowhere, but not trimming them at all will lead to long hair that is unhealthy and unattractive. In addition, if your ends are split, you will ultimately have to cut off the damage, or those damaged ends could end up simply snapping off. Either way, you will lose length.
Try to wait at least eight to ten weeks between micro-trims to keep the ends healthy. A wonderful way to freshen up a haircut without altering too much of its length is to have your haircutter blow it out smooth and straight and then just dust the edges with scissors when it is dry. Because wet hair stretches, it is easy to cut off too much length when trimming the ends. If you are growing out a shorter, layered cut, have the layers just around your face trimmed every six to eight weeks without touching the bottom length. This creates more shape around the face and gives you an instant feeling of lift, making the growing-out process more palatable—and prettier.
Thinning is used to remove weight and bulk from the interior of the hair without altering the length or perimeter lines of the cut. It can be accomplished with thinning shears, razor, or scissors. When it comes to thinning the hair, moderation and good judgment are important. This technique has received a bad rap because stylists frequently overdo it by cutting too deeply into the hair, creating too many shorter pieces to support the long ones (ironically, this can create the appearance of more volume). Whether on short or long hair, it is best to use thinning shears only on the ends (approximately on the last one to two inches on short hair and three inches on longer lengths).
Although the technical groundwork—constructing the shape and length—is usually done when the hair is wet, it is easier to see the lines of the haircut when it is dry. This is why dry cutting is used to fine-tune the hair shape after the initial wet cut. Cutting a head of hair without dry cutting at the end is like chiseling a shape into a sculpture without sanding and polishing it. This essential final step is the finishing work. After the hair has been dried and styled, I am able to see how it falls and where it may be out of balance.
Since hair stretches to a longer length when wet, checking the cut again once it is dry provides an accurate, realistic look at the length and shape. Additionally, since it is impossible during the initial cut to pull each section of hair with the same amount of tension and to precisely the same length as the last section, it is important to recheck those measurements. Curly hair, in particular, tends to be unpredictable, and it is hard to tell exactly where the ends are going to hit or what the shape will be until the hair is completely dry. At that point, I look at the exterior shape as if it were a topiary, making final tweaks and adjustments to create more overall balance and better definition in the individual curls.
THE BOB: A Classic
Shake it, love! —VIDAL SASSOON
Of all the haircuts, the bob stands out as the most noteworthy. Since its inception around the 1920s, this cut has served as an inspiration for hairstylists around the world and has laid the groundwork for many other haircuts. A classic bob has a solid, straight line at the bottom and is even in length on all sides, like a box (it is sometimes called a “box bob” for this reason). The strong square shape traditionally falls just below the ear. While it can be left longer, the finite length must rest on its own, above the shoulder. This is what makes it a bob: it does not bend or break by hitting the shoulders, but rests at the neck. The benefit of the bob line, and one of the reasons why it has been so enduringly popular in all its incarnations, is that the defined structural lines add strength to the shape of the face.
When it came into fashion, the bob was a shocking sign of the times. It originated just as women were joining the workforce during World War I and no longer had the time or the endurance to wear their hair in the ornate Victorian upsweeps of the preceding era. Cropped hair became a badge of freedom, rebellion, and independence for working women who had also just gained the right to vote. Their short hair was very much a political statement, just as long hair made a very different political statement for both men and women in the 1960s.
The bob set off the flapper era of the 1920s as the freethinking female population, now emancipated from their long tresses and old-fashioned hairdos, broke free of other constraints and started wearing short dresses and lipstick. Bobs transitioned to longer hairstyles in the 1940s and 1950s but were brought back into fashion by legendary hairstylist Vidal Sassoon in the 1960s. (It was Sassoon who also cut Mia Farrow’s famous pixie crop in the 1960s.) Sassoon’s geometric interpretation of the bob was angular and modern as well as sculptural. It is not surprising that Sassoon said his geometric cuts were inspired by modern Bauhaus architecture even more than by fashion. The look had lift, movement, and swing. (He was famous for telling his models, “Shake it, love!” after he had cut and styled their hair.)
The bob is still an amazingly versatile and adaptable style, since the lines can be modified to flatter any face shape. Within the parameters of the bob style come a variety of forms and lengths. Bobs can be curly, wavy, or stick straight. They can be one solid length or layered. They can have bangs or not. The bob is the incarnation of modern haircutting.
Adjusting a bob for curly or fine hair
Curly hair, once bobbed, can instantly turn into a triangle. To prevent this pyramid from forming, the hair can be layered to reduce the width and texturized slightly at the ends while maintaining a solid perimeter line. To make a fine texture look much fuller, a graduated bob would be the best choice (refer to Graduated Layers illustration on page 32).
© 2011 Eva Scrivo