Where Credit is Due

Hedi Slimane for Celine SS19; Men’s hair by  Didier Malige

Hedi Slimane for Celine SS19; Men’s hair by Didier Malige

Fashion Month (or as I call it, “Fashion Show Woopty-Doo Time”) has come and gone again, and I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on something that has bothered me for a very long time. As far as hair goes, a fashion show standout for me has been Hedi Slimane for Celine. When he debuted his first collection in September, I immediately noticed the hair and wanted to know who did it. Unfortunately, it unreasonably difficult to find, and only after several minutes of searching was it revealed that this hair was the work of Didier Malige and Esther Langham. After some more digging, I came across a piece on Vogue.com about the “radical” styles featured in the show, in which there was literally no mention of a hairstylist. I find that in many of the large fashion publications, the credits will sooner list where the models got their morning coffee, or what town they’re from in Russia, than who did their hair. This is near the top of my list of pet peeves, something I find so disrespectful and upsetting. In my imaginary life as a superhero, I picture myself as a Hair Defender, a protector of the unrecognized hair geniuses of the world. And so in my real life, uncredited hair genius is what motivates me to “fly around” and try to bring some justice to this community. So, I’m using this as my platform to bitch and moan, in an attempt to inspire even one other person to bitch and moan along with me.

Somewhere in my brain, it makes sense that print magazines are meeting their demise because they’ve refused to embrace the creativity of people like hairdressers, and have instead gone full speed in the opposite direction. Fashion magazines used to be canvasses for designers, stylists, makeup artists, and hairdressers’ art. They used to be about inspiration, and now I’m not so sure what they’re about. It even used to be common practice to save your magazines, because you wanted to always remember Helena Christensen on the white horse, or Arthur Elgort’s magical photos. In those days, all of the really groundbreaking photographers worked in teams. Elgort’s hair counterpart was Christiaan, who understood how he took pictures and calibrated the hair to fit. Richard Avedon and Ara Gallant made magic. Craig McDean’s team was Pat McGrath and Eugene Souleiman. Guido, who now stands alone as a hair hero, didn’t always work solo. He was part of the trio comprised of David Sims and Diane Kendal, who were so good together that they were essentially a package deal. There was a unique creative product that flowed from these artistic partnerships; an alchemy. Hairdressers were treated as an integral part of the creative process of fashion. It saddens me to think how different things are today.

Photo by Richard Avedon, Hair by  Ara Gallant

Photo by Richard Avedon, Hair by Ara Gallant

Photo by David Sims, Hair by  Guido Palau

Photo by David Sims, Hair by Guido Palau

I’m sure there are many reasons why the print magazine is dying, most of which I presume have to do with social media and the digital publication. But I truly feel that its decline was in no small part caused by making magazines that were less special, less about storytelling, and less appreciative of the creative genius of the people behind the scenes. Magazines, and often their online counterparts, have lessened the importance of the team effort it takes to create a look, and the hairdresser has quickly become an afterthought. Let’s not forget that when hairdressers create editorial work, they aren’t paid very much at all. They rely on promised credit as payment. It’s unfortunate that payment from print magazines often arrives in the form of a minuscule credit, in illegible font, stuffed in the crease between pages, all but invisible to the reader, and sometimes completely invisible altogether. If I had the power to change how things are done, I’d suggest lots of ideas for full-blown hair stories to all the major fashion magazines. Makeup artists and hairdressers wouldn’t be afterthoughts. They’d be the stars. I’d help magazines provide a better platform for the brilliant women and black hairdressers that are so often unappreciated, like Sandy Hullett, Holli Smith, Lacy Redway, Esther Langham, Victoria Hunter, Jawara, and Cyndia Harvey. I would help publications generate more original content that celebrates interesting, groundbreaking hair, which could very easily be turned into beautiful digital content. And for God’s sake, if I were to write an article all about the hair created for a show, I would make sure I credited the hairdressers responsible in big, bold letters. We’ve certainly a come a long way in regarding hairdressing as an art, but I still feel as though many publications have taken steps backward. Great hairdressing really can be radical. Let’s credit it radically.

*As I was writing this post, I found a great article from Forbes that discusses the issue of gender inequality in hairdressing. You can read it here.