by Chrissy Iley
I recently interviewed Rob Lowe and we talked about how one of our favourite films is Shampoo, but for different reasons. Lowe was haunted by the character Warren Beatty played. A hairdresser with charm and skill and then more charm.
He seduced because he could and he lost the only woman he really loved. Lowe never wants to be that man. Whereas I always wanted to know that man. Maybe not love him in a beautiful one on one relationship, but certainly have someone exciting and seductive get in my head, as in do my hair.
Every generation produces a hair megastar. Vidal Sassoon was not just a hairdresser. He was a pioneer. He gave women equality and freedom by releasing them from the shampoo and set to the wash and go.
When I met him I felt it was an honour. Meticulous, fastidious, kind, and wanting to change women for the better. He didn’t care what women said they wanted. He gave them what he knew was best for them.
There have been other great hairdressers since that I have admired: Charles Worthington, Daniel Hersheson, and king of them all, John Frieda, revolutionary in so many ways. The first innovator of excellent product that helped women be able to feel good when they did their own hair.
This generation was in need of a new hair superstar. Step forward into that role Jamie Stevens. Go to his salon and it’s like a VIP room in a club – celebrities in and out on a daily basis. Celebrities that he’s had a hand in creating. For the past two years he’s been the in-house hair stylist for The X Factor. X Factor after all is not just a singing competition. It’s a charisma test. Charisma is created by look. Hair is the most empowering component of that look.
As I enter the West Kensington salon Union J are downstairs and Louis Walsh is about to arrive. Stepping into it feels like another era, an era of equality. Vidal Sassoon used to say that aristocracy, lady this and that, would sit next to women who worked down the road in shops as receptionists etc. Here you sit with celebrities.
Jamie is handsome, charming and exquisitely tattooed. He is alpha male. Likes to be in charge. Capable, confident. Hair is in his DNA. His mother was a hairdresser and he had his own salon in Somerset by the time he was 18.
In fact Jamie’s grandmother and great-grandfather were all hairdressers. His father was a professional footballer. He chose hair after an ankle injury put an end to his footballing dream when he had trials for Man Utd.
The shampooing experience is the most relaxing and comfortable that I’ve ever had. The chair massages you. It is wide and like a first class airplane seat. It works no matter what your size. No neck ache or awkwardness. Says Jamie: ‘We try to make everything an experience.’
The shampoo area is behind a Gatsby style silver mini-beaded curtain. Cocktail is the word of the day. Jamie says, ‘I love to cocktail shampoos and conditioners. A lot of people don’t mix volumising and colour. A lot of people over product. For instance if you use volumiser on fine hair it can also deflate it.’
A remarkable number of X Factor celebrities have loved the way they have been transformed. Little Mix, Lucy Spraggan, Ella Henderson, Union J, Nicole Scherzinger, all come back on a regular basis.
Jamie has not just the precision and the eye for detail, but the passion and the charm that reels them in. ‘So if I couldn’t be a famous footballer I was going to come to London and be a famous hairdresser.’
Last year he was the youngest person ever to be nominated for British Hairdresser of the Year. He’s already won Men’s Hairdresser of the Year and has had numerous TV residencies on Gok Wan’s Fashion Fix and How To Look Good Naked. His own TV show is now planned.
‘My mum has always been a massive inspiration to me. I think one of the reasons I’ve been successful is I’ve been trained in every aspect, doing the old school things with my mum and nan, and then the more modern. I can do everything. Cut, colour, men, women, afro, perm, set, blow dry.
‘A few weeks after I was born I was in the salon, so I felt like I had 50 nans. All the clients were around me. I trained my sister and she’s now managing this salon, but my brother is a thermoplastics engineer. ‘I eat, drink and sleep what I do.
This means that Jamie has a God given and self-trained miracle eye. ‘It’s this thing where I can just look at people and I know what would they should do. I look at someone’s skin tone, eye colour, face shape, body shape, clothes, lifestyle, and before someone even sits in my chair I know what to do.’
Perhaps it’s a superpower. Jamie smiles: ‘I think it’s just working with people like Gok Wan. You get a sense on how to do a transformation. Hair is the main accessory that people wear 24/7. You could have a £1 million Gucci dress and still feel like shit. I could give you an amazing cut and colour and in a £10 Primark you’ll still feel amazing.
‘I got a bit of a reputation when I worked at my mum’s hair salon in Somerset. They called me Jamie Scissorhands. If I thought people should have hair cut shorter I would cut it. But not I’ve got more experience about how to make people feel comfortable.
‘We have a different way of doing things here. We never say what are we going to do. We don’t put the power into your hands. We ask three questions: What’s the best hairstyle/cut you’ve ever had? What was the worst? And if this comb was a magic wand and it could do anything what would it do? Those questions tell me everything.’
As I am not having my hair cut Jamie decides to give me the best blow dry in the world. He blow dries in a really unusual and thorough way. Lifting, shifting, but all the time leaving the hair shiny. We agree to a loose curl which usually never lasts but his blow dry had amazing staying power.
There is something about the way he handles hair with ultimate confidence and control. You realise you are in the hands of greatness.
What is his ultimate ambition? Without missing a beat he says: ‘My five year plan – to be the youngest person to win British Hairdresser of the Year, which I’m going to win this year; to have an academy; and Jamie Stevens salons in London, New York, Milan, Paris, Rome, my own TV show and product range. And it’s all in the pipeline.
‘The Jamie Stevens philosophy is it’s all about the hair not the ego. If you come in to the salon and you’re One Direction, Christian Slater and Madonna (and they do come in) you will be treated equally. All my clients are celebrities to us. That’s how we roll.’
Vidal Sassoon, John Frieda, Jamie Stevens. That’s how they roll.
Jamie Stevens, 9 Russell Gardens, London, W14 EZ, 020 7371 1944 Hairbyjamiestevens.co.uk