50 Influential Hairdressers: Innovators & Pioneers
They start trends. They influence Hollywood style. They change the way clients visit salons. Theyâre 50 hairdressers who have influenced and continue to influence the way you do hair. Whether theyâre 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 wasnât 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, youâll 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 Smokeâs blog titled âVoice Your Choiceâ 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
Everyone liked it hot in the 1960s when Kenneth, the first hairdresser to gain first-name fame, traveled with Marilyn Monroe, created Jackie Kennedyâs 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 âHappy Birthday, Mr. Presidentâ to JFK.
Why Heâs Influential: When he saved Monroeâs 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 Harperâs Bazaar, beauty bibles of the time. Ultimately, he coifed Marilyn for her last photo shoot (Vogue) and cut Jackieâs hair the morning she left for Dallas, underscoring that beloved hairdressers share the ups and downs of a lifetime.
What Influences Him: âNecessity.â
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 NCAâs 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 Sheâs Influential: Mastering all textures through competitions (and hoards of awards), she was the first authentically multicultural stylist who insisted, âhair is a texture, not an ethnicity.â Today, that nomenclature is de rigueur. Strong, smart and even-handed, Benson never stopped sharingâin classes, on stage and in her salon. If the beauty door is universally open, itâs because she unlocked it.
Who She Has Influenced: âOlive always gave good advice and never sold me up the river,â says James Harris, creative director of Oliveâs Beauty Salon in Boston. âShe 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 worldâs biggest black fashion designer.â
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, sheâs living the âsecond part of my life,â as Jeanne Foster, doing global missionary work, along with her husband, retired orthopedic surgeon, Dean Foster. They focus on learning and sharing âcellular fitness, physical health and Christian wellbeing, as the foundations of holistic beauty.â
Why Sheâs 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 yearâs strongest role model for U.S. hairdressers.
Who Influences Her: âI will always be thankful to Paul Mitchell for giving me the opportunity to grow in this industry.â
His Work: For more than 40 years, Christiaan has been one of the worldâs 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 âI liken onto that of a painter or writer,â says Christiaan.
Why Heâs Influential: Christiaan has styled many famous heads throughout his career, from 1980s pop divas Debbie Harry (Blondie) and Grace Jonesâwho owed their respective blonde tresses and dramatic flat-top to himâto 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 âlucky fluke,â he says, took him from his fatherâs barbershop in a tiny Dutch village to editorial stardom. âIâve always been more into the âdoingâ than the result,â he says, âbut Iâve usually been thrilled with the result.â
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 Heâs 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 âOscars de la modeâ in France.
Who He Has Influenced: âAlexandre influenced a whole generation of hairdressers in the art of hairdressing,â says Richard Dalton, famed British hairdresser, coiffure to the late Princess Diana and friend of Alexandre. âHe 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.â
Her Work: Gilbert is one of the most successful and sought-after âbehind-the-scenesâ artists today. Her designs for film, advertising, editorial campaigns, covers and fashion are varied and eclectic, showing her true talent and discipline.
Why Sheâs Influential: Her work with LâOrÃ©al 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 Dunstâs 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: âI 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.â
His Work: Known for the âpoufâ 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 Heâs Influential: Leonard was the very first âcelebrityâ 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 âextremesâ and the effort, technique and creativity to design these memorable silhouettes. Itâs 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 Heâs 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. âI would have worked for him for free,â says Santy who had a long career with Matrix. âArnie was always influenced by the hairdressers around him,â says Santy. âHe changed the face of hair shows. He was a showman, but his goal was always to provide the best educationâsomething hairdressers could take home and use in the salon. He raised the bar for the whole industry,â he adds. âArnieâs greatest satisfaction came from helping people grow in their careers. I think of him as a life, rather than a career, mentor.â
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 Londonâs and New Yorkâs top salons along with Geraldine Stutz, president of Henri Bendellâs, until he opened Crimpers and became co-owner of Americaâs first chain salon. His cuts appeared in magazines like Vogue, Harperâs Bazaar and on the cover of Newsweek magazineâs first fashion issue. He created the countryâs 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 worldâs largest privately held professional hair care line co-owned by Mitchellâs son, Angus.
Why Heâs 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, OâRourke 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, OâRourke developed his innovative cutting technique, Structure in Motion, which encourages perspective and balance in all aspects of hair cutting and life. OâRourke continues to teach this system and can still be seen on platforms at beauty shows.
Why Heâs Influential: OâRourke 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, OâRourke has inspired a movement.
Who Influences Him: âMy good friend Vidal has always inspired me,â says OâRourke. âI 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.â
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 Heâs Influential: Pittini had a unique style of cutting that was picked up by his protÃ©gÃ©s, including FrÃ©dÃ©ric 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. âHe just knew what he was doing,â says Rusk. âHe was the fastest cutter Iâve ever seen. Everyone who ever encountered him was influenced.â According to Tabatha Coffey, the Bravo television star, âHe 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 didnât have to.â
His Work: Barber-trained David Raccuglia always had a passion for the salon industry. Heâs been a salon owner, a product developer and a photographer. Raccuglia opened the first Art + Science salon in Chicago in 1987. In the early â90s Raccuglia saw a need in the marketplace and created the first-ever hair care line exclusively for men. He answered the void in menâs styling with in-depth education and with the launch of American Crew products. Raccuglia has since become the brandâs 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 Heâs Influential: He found an untapped niche and developed a solution to an existing problemâeven the best hairdressers struggled with cutting and styling menâs 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: âThere are two people who have made a significant impact on my career,â says Raccuglia. âThe 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.â
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 Heâs 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 crÃ¨me rinse, low-pH, acid-balanced shampoos and vitamin- and protein-based products. Remaining active in the hairdressing community, Reddingâs 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 âaura of excitementâ that always surrounded him. âJheri 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,â 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. âI wanted to be the best,â he says. âI practiced every day to win European competitions.â 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 Heâs Influential: Rechelbacher was âgreenâ 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 clientsâ beauty, fashion and lifestyle needs.
Who Influences Him: Rechelbacherâs 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 Heâs Influential: âWe were known for cutting the âinsideâ of the hair and creating intense texture,â 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. âI loved working with the chemists,â he says. âI would stand there and physically show them how to do it!â
Who Influences Him: âSassoon, of course. He was like me and was able to parlay his love of hairdressing into a company, but at its heart itâs 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 Iâve ever seen, and I think a lot of people would agree with me.â
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 Heâs 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 âShampoo guy,â he told a reporter he got just $500 a day as Shampooâs advisor.
Who He Has Influenced: âGene was an amazing cutter who worked like a mad scientist; suddenly the hair would flow perfectly,â says Luanne Iannucci Donahue, senior stylist at Lukaro salon in Beverly Hills. âHe 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. Heâd always call across the floor, âLook at this ... you like it?ââ
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 Heâs Influential: He appeared on platforms worldwide and authored three books, including Yosh Toya HairgraphyâLearn 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 âlearn how to learn,â to Japanese beauty school students.
Who Influences Him: âForemost, 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.â
His Work: London-born Peter Michael Franelli was a fourth-generation hairdresser who embraced the trade at age 12 and apprenticed for Vidal Sassoon. His star streaked fast. Creating top fashion magazine covers, working with couture houses and styling 1960s top model Twiggy, he reinvented himself, eventually morphing into his high-energy stage persona, âXenon.â Arriving Stateside via Australia, he became International Creative Director for Pivot Point, and later the same for Matrix, Helene Curtis and Farouk Systems.
Why Heâs Influential: His spectacular shows, breathtaking models and outstanding educational presentations packed the house during the 1980âs hair-show heydays. His final gesture of a born hairdresser: The Xenon Foundation, established posthumously at his request to support stylists burdened with catastrophic costs related to illness.
Who He Has Influenced: âXenon was Pivot Point Internationalâs Artistic Director in the late â70s to mid â80s,â says Judy Rambert, vice president of education and research at Pivot Point International. âHe taught many of us that education should be entertaining and include elements of newness and surprise. Xenon loved sharing his creativity and that connected him to his audiences and his colleagues. He was larger than life but humble enough to listen intently and offer his wisdom.â
- 50 Influential Hairdressers: Innovators & Pioneers
- 50 Influential Hairdressers: Celebrity Stylists
- 50 Influential Hairdressers: Educators
- 50 Influential Hairdressers: Trendsetters
- 50 Influential Hairdressers: International Influencers