Expert Advice

No More “Cover Band” Hairdressers

Patrick McIvor | May 25, 2015 | 8:48 AM
Patrick McIvor, Artistic & TechniCulture Director for Goldwell/KMS California and Techni-Color Director of ARROJO

You know what they call a band that plays other bands music? That’s right, a cover band.  And for most of us as hairdressers, we have been playing other people’s music our whole career. 

We have been recreating looks other hairstylists have created, and we are suppose to replicate the same look on a random guest that has brought the picture in.  Look at our history, it has been taken to extremes in the US when in decades like the 1970’s (Dorothy Hamill/Farrah Fawcett), 1980’s (bi-level/mullet/Jon Bon Jovi/Meg Ryan) and 1990’s (the Friends haircut) everyone seemed to have the exact same haircuts/styles at the same time, we were doing someone else’s haircuts everyday. 

We historically have been brought a picture of somebody other than the guests/client who is asking for the look, which has also been created by somebody else, and the guest/client in the past was actually asking, “Can you create this on my head exactly like that stylist did for this picture on this person?”  And if you look at old year books, at shows like the Goldberg’s or any Madonna concert in the 1980’s, these looks the guests wanted weren’t adapted for their bone structure, hair texture or body proportions, it was a carbon copy…as we use to say (Google it if you are too young).

The truth is, we as hairdressers are asked to play other people’s music. That’s about as smart as not being able to get Coldplay and instead getting U2 and then asking U2 to play these songs by Coldplay and you want it to sound exactly like Coldplay.  And that is what happens to most of us, a guest points to a picture on the wall, in a magazine, on a tablet or phone, and says, “I want to do this” or hopefully, “Can I do this?”  Today, luckily we don’t have to copy exactly anymore, but most of the time we are still adapting a look someone else created for the guest that is in front of us. It’s sort of like we are on The Voice, we are playing someone else’s song, but making it our own - sometimes better, but still a cover artist.

My life profoundly changed one day working in New York City many years ago.  I had started my career in New Jersey as a hairdresser and for the first 11 years serviced my guests in NJ even though I worked full time educating haircolor for top salons in NYC.  In 1996, I was even named in Allure Magazine as One of the Best Colorists, but most often I was adapting somebody else’s haircolor that my guest saw on someone else that was done by someone else that they wanted on them. I returned to NYC as color director of ARROJO CUTLER and quickly started doing a lot of editorial haircolor work, commercial haircolor and makeovers, and one day a new guest sat down and pulled out Seventeen Magazine.  She flipped to a page she marked by dog-earing the opposite page and said, “Can you highlight my hair like that?” I replied, “Yes I can.” “How do you know?” she asked, “Did you read the credit? And I answered, “I did that!”  That moment profoundly changed my life, it was the first time someone brought my work in and asked if I could replicate it for them. It was the first time someone brought me my music to play for them!

Patrick McIvor with the Bangles


From that point on I stopped playing other people’s music. If you are asking yourself, “How do I do that?” just think, isn't someone always going to bring you someone else’s picture? But, in the same way that someone buys an Armani vs. a Versace or like Picasso vs. Monet or alternative music vs. pop.  It’s not that one is better than the other, it’s the genre or style the artist creates, it’s their expression of beauty or emotion that someone is “buying.”  And when one artist tries to play in another style, the results are usually not well received, Rolling Stones-Disco.

In the past…honestly, up until this very moment in history, almost every hairdresser in the world, with few exceptions, Vidal Sassoon, Chris McMillian, Garren, José Eber, Nick Arrojo, etc., never had the opportunity for someone to see their work by accident, find out that they did it and bring their work to them to have them create their art for them. Now we can!!!  You know why you book a haircut with Nick Arrojo? Because you want a Nick Arrojo haircut, and the same is for a haircolor from Guy Tang or me!! Today, the only thing that is holding you back from playing your own music is you!  The only thing holding you back is sharing your music.  Share your before and after’s, make videos showing how to use products or create looks, share what beauty you create looks like and stop playing someone else music. 

It is incongruent to me for a salon professional to tell me how cool or talented they are and then also for them to say they don’t have a Pinterest board, Facebook page, Instagram account, YouTube channel and now Snapchat and Periscope accounts so they can share their music!!! Don’t be a “cover band” hairdresser, be one of the first in this generation of hairdressers that can share your music and let others play your songs.


see and hear my music @


Snapchat/Periscope/Twitter @patrickmcivor

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