They start trends. They influence Hollywood style. They change the way clients visit salons. They’re 50 hairdressers who have influenced and continue to influence the way you do hair. Whether they’re developing fresh cutting techniques, promoting education or trying new ways of coloring hair, these 50 stylists have shaped contemporary beauty.
How did we pick these 50 stylists? It wasn’t easy. With multiple editors and outside sources weighing in, we could have easily developed a list of 150. But the 50 we chose are professionals who have had a true impact on the way hair is cut, colored and styled today. Although many of our 50 stylists could be labeled with multiple titles, we categorized them into the following areas: Innovators and Pioneers, Celebrity Stylists, Educators, Trendsetters and International Influencers.
For those of you counting as you read, you’ll notice only 49 profiles in the article. Number 50 is, of course, the man on our December 2008 cover, Vidal Sassoon.
Watch our exclusive video interview, Vidal in His Own Words.
Read Alicia Liotta's article, Vidal Sassoon: Living Legend.
Read on for an inspirational look at the careers and achievements of these amazing talents. Want to weigh in with your own choices for our list of 50 Influential Hairdressers? Visit Editor-in-Chief Laurel Smoke’s blog titled “Voice Your Choice” and tell us what you think.
- 50 Influential Hairdressers: Innovators & Pioneers
- 50 Influential Hairdressers: Celebrity Stylists
- 50 Influential Hairdressers: Educators
- 50 Influential Hairdressers: Trendsetters
- 50 Influential Hairdressers: International Influencers
INNOVATORS & PIONEERS
His Work: Everyone liked it hot in the 1960s when Kenneth, the first hairdresser to gain first-name fame, traveled with Marilyn Monroe, created Jackie Kennedy’s bouffant, styled Lauren Bacall and Audrey Hepburn, received the only Coty Award bestowed on a stylist and put a 17,000-square-foot salon in the former Vanderbilt mansion, where uniformed maids served finger sandwiches. The topper: his coif for Monroe, the day she sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to JFK.
Why He’s Influential: When he saved Monroe’s hair from over-bleaching and perming, her fame reached new heights. In the 1970s, he put helmet-head to bed by creating a soft, pretty-hair look for Vogue, Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar, beauty bibles of the time. Ultimately, he coifed Marilyn for her last photo shoot (Vogue) and cut Jackie’s hair the morning she left for Dallas, underscoring that beloved hairdressers share the ups and downs of a lifetime.
What Influences Him: “Necessity.”
Olive Benson (deceased)
Her Work: She encapsulated a world of firsts for African-Americans, including first salon owner to offer advanced curly hair techniques and treatments (1959), first inducted into NCA’s Hall of Renown (1991) and first to receive a North American Hairstyling Award (1996). Once director of education for Soft Sheen, she pioneered the first black-hair advanced training academy and developed the first universal relaxer.
Why She’s Influential: Mastering all textures through competitions (and hoards of awards), she was the first authentically multicultural stylist who insisted, “hair is a texture, not an ethnicity.” Today, that nomenclature is de rigueur. Strong, smart and even-handed, Benson never stopped sharing—in classes, on stage and in her salon. If the beauty door is universally open, it’s because she unlocked it.
Who She Has Influenced: “Olive always gave good advice and never sold me up the river,” says James Harris, creative director of Olive’s Beauty Salon in Boston. “She was instrumental in my traveling through Europe and we collaborated on many things. We made $750 on our Josephine Baker competition look; she gave the money to me and I gave it to Patrick Kelley, who went on to become the world’s biggest black fashion designer.”
Her Work: Her humility and humanity were always her shining trademarks. As the artistic director of John Paul Mitchell Systems, a fashion designer, innovative entrepreneur, long-hair genius and global platform educator, she refused to be limited. Today, she’s living the “second part of my life,” as Jeanne Foster, doing global missionary work, along with her husband, retired orthopedic surgeon, Dean Foster. They focus on learning and sharing “cellular fitness, physical health and Christian wellbeing, as the foundations of holistic beauty.”
Why She’s Influential: Prior to her industry retirement, she was the most recognized female platform artist in the world. In 1993, she was named the first recipient of the North American Hairstylist of the Year (NAHA) Trustees Award, which honors the year’s strongest role model for U.S. hairdressers.
Who Influences Her: “I will always be thankful to Paul Mitchell for giving me the opportunity to grow in this industry.”
His Work: For more than 40 years, Christiaan has been one of the world’s leading editorial hair stylists, working with fashion designers and celebrities to create iconic, memorable looks that appeared on the covers and within the pages of almost every fashion publication. His styles have appeared on thousands of runways and his editorial and advertising work showcases a unique, independent creativity, which “I liken onto that of a painter or writer,” says Christiaan.
Why He’s Influential: Christiaan has styled many famous heads throughout his career, from 1980s pop divas Debbie Harry (Blondie) and Grace Jones—who owed their respective blonde tresses and dramatic flat-top to him—to celebrities like David and Victoria Beckham and Madonna. The buzz cut, hair wrapping (with fabric) and the chopped, asymmetrical bob created for a Calvin Klein show are milestones in his career as a risk-taking session artist. A “lucky fluke,” he says, took him from his father’s barbershop in a tiny Dutch village to editorial stardom. “I’ve always been more into the ‘doing’ than the result,” he says, “but I’ve usually been thrilled with the result.”
Who Influences Him: In a career of collaboration with top fashion, photography and make-up talents, Christiaan names designers Stephen Sprouse and Comme des Garcons Founder Rei Kawakubo as the most pivotal to his work and creativity.
Alexandre de Paris (deceased)
His Work: The famed Parisian salon owner is known for his breath-taking updos, twists and chignons. He created looks for European royalty, society and celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Greta Garbo and Sophia Loren. His elegance, taste and perfection continue to resonate today since his death in January of this year. An award-winning haute coiffeur, he created the runway looks for Yves St. Laurent, Gianfranco Ferre, Givenchy, Christian Lacroix and Karl Lagerfeld.
Why He’s Influential: Alexandre guided thousands of hairdressers over several generations. Countless women, including celebrities and royalty, were proud to wear an Alexandre de Paris silhouette. His looks continue to live today at his Paris salon through the efforts of his team, who continue to teach his methods and looks to hairdressers around the world. In addition to his salon work, he was the president of World Federation of Hairdressing for 15 years and was awarded two “Oscars de la mode” in France.
Who He Has Influenced: “Alexandre influenced a whole generation of hairdressers in the art of hairdressing,” says Richard Dalton, famed British hairdresser, coiffure to the late Princess Diana and friend of Alexandre. “He was the reason I became a hairdresser. His interpretation of the French twist has never been equaled. He was a true master, the epitome of class and my idol.”
Her Work: Gilbert is one of the most successful and sought-after “behind-the-scenes” artists today. Her designs for film, advertising, editorial campaigns, covers and fashion are varied and eclectic, showing her true talent and discipline.
Why She’s Influential: Her work with L’Oréal Professionnel emphasizes her dedication to the professional hairdresser and her desire to guide hairdressers to push their craft to the next level. She is one of the few women to lead teams at fashion shows around the world. Her work has been seen on the runways of Zac Posen, Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, Givenchy, Donna Karan and Emilio Pucci among others. Her film work is impressive, and most recently includes Kirsten Dunst’s virtuosic updos for the film Marie Antoinette. Photographers like Richard Avedon, Steven Klein, Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts, Paolo Roversi and Javier Valhonrat continue to rely on her for her tasteful silhouettes.
Who Influences Her: “I am influenced by the designers I collaborate with for both runway presentations and ad campaigns each season. I am constantly in awe of their beautiful collections and take inspiration from their designs.”
His Work: Known for the “pouf” designs created for his most important client, Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France in the late 1700s. The creations, sometimes up to three-feet-high, were accessorized with objects and decorations depicting current events. French naval vessels, fruits and even live animals were built into these works of art.
Why He’s Influential: Leonard was the very first “celebrity” hairdresser. His pouf creations inspired an entire generation of looks throughout Europe and actually became one of the reasons his controversial client became infamous for her extravagance. He took product usage to an extreme, using wire forms, wool, pomade and powder to create the gravity-defying, impractical designs.
Who He Has Influenced: Just about every woman and hairdresser in Europe during the reign of Marie Antoinette. Stylists today are still influenced by his impressive “extremes” and the effort, technique and creativity to design these memorable silhouettes. It’s difficult to find any hairdresser mentioned in history books before Leonard.
Arnold Miller (deceased)
His Work: Arnold Miller was a Cleveland salon owner who, along with his wife Sydell, branched beyond their successful salons by launching Ardell, a company that manufactured artificial eyelashes. Though Miller always thought of himself as a hairdresser, his manufacturing career included the launch of several successful brands, culminating in the founding of Matrix Essentials.
Why He’s Influential: Miller always shared his knowledge with other hairdressers concentrating on education and programs that offered growth and support to salons in the Matrix network. He provided hairdressers with exceptional products and motivation to improve their lives and careers.
Who He Has Influenced: Joe Santy, salon owner, educator and vice president of education at Dennis Bernard, Inc. started his career working backstage for Miller at shows. “I would have worked for him for free,” says Santy who had a long career with Matrix. “Arnie was always influenced by the hairdressers around him,” says Santy. “He changed the face of hair shows. He was a showman, but his goal was always to provide the best education—something hairdressers could take home and use in the salon. He raised the bar for the whole industry,” he adds. “Arnie’s greatest satisfaction came from helping people grow in their careers. I think of him as a life, rather than a career, mentor.”
Paul Mitchell (deceased)
His Work: Throughout his lifetime, Paul Mitchell was a hairdresser, artist, entrepreneur, environmentalist, businessman and devoted father. He freed women from uptight hair and the old wash and set paradigm. Mitchell worked in some of London’s and New York’s top salons along with Geraldine Stutz, president of Henri Bendell’s, until he opened Crimpers and became co-owner of America’s first chain salon. His cuts appeared in magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and on the cover of Newsweek magazine’s first fashion issue. He created the country’s first cutting clubs. In the late 1970s, he launched PM, his first line of products. In 1980, Mitchell teamed up with John Paul DeJoria to launch John Paul Mitchell Systems, today a global leader in hair care and education, and the world’s largest privately held professional hair care line co-owned by Mitchell’s son, Angus.
Why He’s Influential: Paul Mitchell forever altered the way women wash, style, wear and live with their hair through his work, education of other hairdressers, product line and the introduction of the blow dryer. He devoted his life to educating hairdressers and bolstering their creative and business success.
Who He Has Influenced: Countless hairdressers, namely those who are members of the John Paul Mitchell Systems global team. However, his love of the land, commitment to the industry and profound humanity and creativity live strongest and clearest in his son.
His Work: As the founder of Sexy Hair Concepts, Institute of Courage and Carlton Hair International USA, O’Rourke has always focused on the growth and success of his fellow hairdressers. Sexy Hair is one of the first professional hair care brands to truly focus on image marketing with bold packaging, celebrity spokespersons and a clear perception of how information affects human emotion. With the help of physical therapists and Tai Chi instructors, O’Rourke developed his innovative cutting technique, Structure in Motion, which encourages perspective and balance in all aspects of hair cutting and life. O’Rourke continues to teach this system and can still be seen on platforms at beauty shows.
Why He’s Influential: O’Rourke has helped countless hairdressers connect their inner drive and art to their needs in life by providing them with tools for overall financial and artistic consciousness. With a product line, a hair cutting and lifestyle technique and Institute of Courage, a place to find your art and yourself, O’Rourke has inspired a movement.
Who Influences Him: “My good friend Vidal has always inspired me,” says O’Rourke. “I also have such a high respect for Karl Lagerfeld. He is a lover of architecture, which mirrors my own passion for Moorish architecture. As artists, we both derive inspiration from the elements around us and from what we love.”
Bruno Pittini (deceased)
His Work: Salon owner and creative director of the Dessange Organization of 600 salons, the Parisian stylist, known for his haute couture cuts, had an impressive celebrity list, including Brigitte Bardot, Jodie Foster, Jessica Lange and Raquel Welch.
Why He’s Influential: Pittini had a unique style of cutting that was picked up by his protégés, including Frédéric Fekkai, among others. He treated hair as fabric, a training that was believed to have come from watching his mother, a courturier. Charging $250 in 1994, Pittini was one of the first hairdressers to charge high fees for a cut. In addition to educating all in the Dessange Organization, he instructed those working in his New York and Parisian salons.
Who He Has Influenced: Irvine Rusk feels he was one of the best cutters he ever witnessed. “He just knew what he was doing,” says Rusk. “He was the fastest cutter I’ve ever seen. Everyone who ever encountered him was influenced.” According to Tabatha Coffey, the Bravo television star, “He was a mindful, respectful artist. He was an incredible talent and fully engaged in his work. I will never forget his last show. About eight models came out in gowns. He went up to each and cut a variation of a bob on each model and every look was perfect. It was the best show I have ever seen. He never said a word ... he didn’t have to.”
His Work: Barber-trained David Raccuglia always had a passion for the salon industry. He’s been a salon owner, a product developer and a photographer. Raccuglia opened the first Art + Science salon in Chicago in 1987. In the early ‘90s Raccuglia saw a need in the marketplace and created the first-ever hair care line exclusively for men. He answered the void in men’s styling with in-depth education and with the launch of American Crew products. Raccuglia has since become the brand’s primary photographer and has expanded his photographic talent, shooting a wide range of subjects including Jack Nicholson and the Dalai Lama. His passion for hair also led him to create two additional professional niche brands; Modern Organic Products and D:fi.
Why He’s Influential: He found an untapped niche and developed a solution to an existing problem—even the best hairdressers struggled with cutting and styling men’s hair. With the launch of American Crew, Raccuglia paved the way to educate and speak openly about male grooming. He made it acceptable for men to demand a grooming regimen specific to their needs.
Who Influences Him: “There are two people who have made a significant impact on my career,” says Raccuglia. “The founder of Aveda, Horst Rechelbacher, who uses hair to fuel his love of nature and beauty. My other influence is Bob DeAngelo, a barber in my hometown of La Salle, Illinois. The joy he took from being a barber, giving a good hair cut and listening to his clients inspires me.”
Jheri Redding (deceased)
His Work: A one-time chemistry and physics teacher and basketball coach, Jheri Redding switched careers when, in the 1930s, he became one of the first men to earn a cosmetology license. Never quite satisfied with the available products, Redding utilized his knowledge of chemistry to develop products that met his standards. Along the way, he founded Jheri Redding Products and co-founded Redken with Paul Kent Meehan, followed by the Jhirmack Company and Nexxus. He remained one of the most popular speakers and platform artists at shows for decades.
Why He’s Influential: Redding changed the salon industry forever with innovation after innovation. He revolutionized perming with the Jheri Curl and is credited with formulating the first crème rinse, low-pH, acid-balanced shampoos and vitamin- and protein-based products. Remaining active in the hairdressing community, Redding’s presentations and lectures made indelible impressions on standing room-only audiences.
Who He Has Influenced: Diane White-Wilkins, an educator and former president of National Cosmetologists Association remembers Redding for his charisma and the “aura of excitement” that always surrounded him. “Jheri instilled curiosity and an urgency in hairdressers to learn more about chemistry and the products we were using. He was a mentor to many in the industry and always remained close to his roots, eager to help the person behind the chair. Many small salons achieved success because of what they learned from Jheri Redding,” says White-Wilkins.
His Work: When Horst Rechelbacher looked out the window of his childhood home in Austria, he could see directly across the narrow street into the neighboring salon, inspiring him to enter a three-year hairdressing apprenticeship at age 14. “I wanted to be the best,” he says. “I practiced every day to win European competitions.” Those awards brought him to the U.S. as a guest artist, and ultimately, he opened a salon in Minneapolis. Clients crowding the entrance and staircase led to his opening more salon locations as well as an educational academy. A devotee of meditation and yoga, Rechelbacher visited India in 1970 where he discovered Ayurvedic medicine, a foundation for the development of his groundbreaking, plant and aromatherapy-based Aveda products. Rechelbacher is currently rolling out Intelligent Nutrients, a complete health and beauty care line formulated with food-based ingredients.
Why He’s Influential: Rechelbacher was “green” before green was cool. His devotion to environmentally sustainable practices has made him as well known as an internationally honored environmentalist as a hairdressing pioneer. His concepts have helped two generations of hairdressers and salon owners around the world care for their clients’ beauty, fashion and lifestyle needs.
Who Influences Him: Rechelbacher’s mother was an herbalist and she instilled in him the value of pure, natural ingredients. His curiosity of the world around him, and a drive to re-invent himself through new creative outlets, have inspired his careers as hairdresser, photographer, product innovator, author, entrepreneur, artist and organic farmer.
His Work: Scotland-native Rusk is best known for powerful, edgy cuts and eventually for the products and tools to produce and maintain those looks. His images were seen worldwide on magazine covers and inside editorials and as an educator, his shows were regularly sold out.
Why He’s Influential: “We were known for cutting the ‘inside’ of the hair and creating intense texture,” says Rusk. He designed the very first texturizing shears based on his drawing in the early 1970s. The alpha and beta blades are still used today to create this intense texture. In addition to the shears, he invented and created a new line of products in different categories and was very hands-on with all the products and tools bearing the Rusk name. “I loved working with the chemists,” he says. “I would stand there and physically show them how to do it!”
Who Influences Him: “Sassoon, of course. He was like me and was able to parlay his love of hairdressing into a company, but at its heart it’s still hair. I also admire Jean Louis David. He saw hair in an entirely different way, had such a great command of hairdressing and was able to franchise. Most importantly, I have been influenced by my wife, Louise, for the past 20 years. She is the best hair cutter I’ve ever seen, and I think a lot of people would agree with me.”
Gene Shacove (deceased)
His Work: He styled George Hamilton, Lucille Ball and Marlene Dietrich, and lit a fire with his loose, tousled cut for 1960s actress Jill St. John. But when he got busy with clients, the world came knocking.
Why He’s Influential: One word: Shampoo, the movie based on his life. But Shacove was no Warren Beatty. He grew up in East LA and was in a gang before his mother shipped him off to the Navy at 16. Marked forever as the “Shampoo guy,” he told a reporter he got just $500 a day as Shampoo’s advisor.
Who He Has Influenced: “Gene was an amazing cutter who worked like a mad scientist; suddenly the hair would flow perfectly,” says Luanne Iannucci Donahue, senior stylist at Lukaro salon in Beverly Hills. “He was always in the moment and looking for what was new. He never discussed his fame. I was 28 and he was 68, but we were instant peers. Every day his enthusiasm infected me. He’d always call across the floor, ‘Look at this ... you like it?’”
His Work: Far from his modest childhood home in Japan, San Francisco-based Toya established himself as a classic master; a multi-location salon owner and premiere educator. His timeless styles, fluid hands and global approach have won him an Aveda Master of the Art Award, The Grand Trophy of the Professional Press for Best Commercial Hairstyle from AIPP, a NAHA Lifetime Achievement Award plus dozens of other honors.
Why He’s Influential: He appeared on platforms worldwide and authored three books, including Yosh Toya Hairgraphy—Learn How to Learn, The Yosh Way and Yosh for Hair. A major shear manufacturer created a texturizing shear specifically for him called The Meister. Still, he remains humble, charming and ever approachable; his thirst to learn is equaled only by his talent. Never one to retire, today he educates throughout Asia, Europe and the Americas. Most recently, he volunteer-taught his design and philosophy course, which focuses on helping students “learn how to learn,” to Japanese beauty school students.
Who Influences Him: “Foremost, Vidal Sassoon; I assisted him in the beginning. Also, Jean Louis David, Bruno Pittini and Jean-Marc Maniatis. Today, Nick Arrojo, Anthony Mascolo, Vivienne Mackinder, Robert Lobetta, Scott Cole and Linda Yodice.”