Fresh Ideas and the People Who Bring Them to Life
Fresh Idea #1: A Healthy Haircut
Advice about branding and marketing—the blogosphere brims with it. Though I may offer the occasional opinion, that’s not what you’ll find here. Instead, I’ll focus on fresh ideas and the people who bring them to life. This week I want to shine a light on stylist and writer Jehr Schiavo and his unconventional approach to cutting hair. A couple of years ago, I treated myself to a Jehrcut, a haircut unlike any I’d ever had.
We women joke about it—the extremes we go to, spending our time and energy, risking our health, to get our hair to look the way we think it should. But our antics are nothing to joke about. Societal dictates about our hair have kept us justifying the means via the ends for centuries. Think of Marie Antoinette’s towering poufs or the scene in “Steel Magnolias” where a woman who most resembles a banana slug walks into the local beauty parlor with a picture of some chicly coiffed starlet and states, “I want to look like this.”
Maybe it was because Jeanette, Jehr’s wife, and ten-year-old daughter, LouLou, were in the room at the San Francisco hotel while Jehr cut my hair that I was reminded of childhood haircuts on the front porch. Jehr and I’d never talked (I’d had online exchanges with Jeanette) before my short pre-cut conversation with him, and I couldn’t watch what he was doing, because not only does Jehr not work out of a salon, but he also doesn’t seat you in front of a mirror. Getting my hair cut by Jehr was an indulgence, still, I was immediately comfortable and swear I could feel with every snip that I was getting my life back—which is barely an exaggeration. Jehr’s a master who can anticipate your hair’s every move, in every weather, and his personal haircare recipes, which always include 100 brushstrokes nightly, make your cut look better and last longer.
Armed only with scissors, a comb and a spray bottle of water, Jehr, who cuts hair primarily in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco is waging a revolution. Jehr’s throw-your-styling-tools-and-products-away haircuts and individual prescriptions for healthy hair are transformational. And not just on a personal level. Like Chanel, Sassoon and Gaultier, Jehr Shiavo is a cultural game changer. He’s a provocateur with a catalytic perspective on a beauty industry he’s beginning to influence.
I’ve rarely, if ever, liked my hair, and the more time, money and energy I’ve spent, the worse I’ve felt about it. I’ve gone to high-end salons, gotten my hair cut by stylists who have then shown me how to use a blow dryer, curling or flat iron and sold me a panoply of products so I could duplicate their art at home. I’ve rarely succeeded, and on those occasions when I haven’t had a bad hair day daily hikes and yoga assured that my best efforts were short-lived. Of course, none of this is healthy for one’s hair.
Ayesha Nibbe, a professor of anthropology at the Hawaii Pacific University, wrote this to Jehr after her first Jehrcut: “Your philosophy about hair is a subversive, anti-establishment, postmodern and radical approach to beauty that flies in the face of modern convention. Your haircuts are an act of resistance against the status quo. As women we are given not-so-subtle messages by society and the media that we must twist and turn ourselves into something else to be acceptable and worthy beings. This is done partly to keep women in their place and partly to create desire to fuel the marketplace. Your art, conveyed in a stylish, non-hippie way (thank God) responds to all those messages with a defiant ‘No!’”
Trained by Vidal Sassoon in the 70s, Jehr has attended to many famous heads, from Blythe Danner’s to Bon Jovi’s, though he does not seek celebrity clientele and eschewed his famous mentor’s technique decades ago. Instead he applies his talent in a way that changes a woman’s relationship with her face, the frame that surrounds it and herself, cutting her lose from the daily thirty-minute wrestling match before the mirror. Untethered to hairspray, hair dryer, curling or flat iron, she greets the day with new confidence, with, “a brand of 21st century inner beauty,” as Jeanette Schiavo puts it.
In between work jags on one or the other coast—while still making sure LouLou acquires a good education along the way—the Schiavo family travels the globe, ever so lightly: only one carry-on each. Check out their travels and Jehr’s cuts at www.jehrschiavo.com and on Facebook.