Ever had a three-hour-long haircut? On a cloudy afternoon recently, a handful of people open to lending their tresses to a training session for the stylists of Toni & Guy — got to experience a behind-the-scenes of what goes into the making of those perfectly texturised snips. In a humble studio in T Nagar, minus the snazzy white decor that the brand is known for — are international technical education and artistic director Jo O’Niell and international artistic director Philip Haug from The London Academy of the franchise, hard at work with their Chennai students. And while the hope is to catch a few words with them in the thick of the action — this is near impossible with their in-teacher demand that lasts a total of 10 hours on each day of their 10-day long trip.
Instead we settle down in a chair, ready for a new look along with several other ‘model’ candidates, including a 60-something aunty whose hair is a expanse of silver-grey. The music starts, and ‘the show’ although a tad delayed, finally begins.
Sitting down with wet hair and Help by The Beatles playing in the background — this master class on hair appears just one step short of a daunting Class 12 board exam. A barrage of questions is shot at each student stylist as they approach the head of hair they will be handling soon. And we don’t mean the simple fill-in-the-blank kind. ‘What is the elevation of the distribution?’ we hear at one point, and ‘what angle shall we proceed with, would you say 45 degrees?’
Good gosh, does one have to be good at math to cut hair, one had to wonder. According to master stylist Philip, a regular at the London Fashion Week, “It is a little geometry and more understanding of the visual element.” Also, we hear, sections of hair often take fun names based on the intricacy of their shape, such as the horse shoe!
After getting our secondary education of hair cutting (that is by virtue of playing the reluctantly silent model) - one has to say, we have a new respect for those in the profession. The next time you complain to your barber about those ridiculous prices for a hair cut these days, perhaps pause a moment. Your swish swish...certainly didn’t result from a mere snip, snip. Hair is care, my friend. That and a whole lot of visual calculation, as we came to observe.
If you want a great style for cheap, may we suggest: marry your stylist. Although, on the flip side if they get popular — you may get less face time than the hair they so love to work with. Trust us, we tried.
At the end of three hours of hovering, waiting and note-taking at this workshop, we returned home with one thing: a great haircut.