Healthy Hairdresser Hero: David McCann
David McCann (left) and Simon Sassoon demonstrate the McCann Styling Chair.
When he saw an ergonomically designed chair in an office supply store, London hairdresser David McCann was intrigued. The chair put the seated person into a sort of kneel, resulting in an upright position that improved posture. “Why not introduce this to the beauty industry as a styling chair?”McCann thought. He even had a prototype made. And then 40 years went by—in a flash.
During those four decades McCann’s career soared within the Vidal Sassoon organization as he honed his craft alongside iconic names like Joshua Galvin, Caroline Hayes and John Santilli. From his origins in a small city about 50 miles north of London as an unsophisticated teen who enjoyed doing hair, McCann was quickly becoming a rising star in Sassoon academy education. Then he was tapped to come to the U.S. to work at one Sassoon salon opening in Atlanta and then another in Beverly Hills.
“The Beverly Hills salon is where I got to really know Vidal, who would come in every week,” McCann reminisces. “Vidal’s kids used to come in for mani/pedis, and he’d come and pick them up and take them for ice cream. At the time, I was rooming with his nephew Simon in Los Angeles, and Vidal would invite us to his house for holiday dinners. I felt I was very much part of the family. He was a special person to me, very charming and knowledgeable.”
Times change. McCann stayed in Los Angeles and now styles hair in a salon suite. He has 3,000 Instagram followers, mostly hairdressers, and some of his clients have been with him for more than 25 years. “I do my own color work and shampooing, I sweep the floor and do the laundry—I’m kind of back to where I started but more skilled!” McCann laughs.
Once he settled into his suite a couple of years ago, he started thinking about that ergonomic chair again. “When I first started doing hair, we did a lot of bobs,” he says. “We’d do a long-hair trim and then cut a bob. The problem was that, in a traditional chair, the client does not sit straight up. She sits in a sort of curve, and when she stands up the haircut doesn’t look the same. The front lifts up, and the graduation underneath comes out. So you have to finish the cut with the client standing up and square off the graduation.”
In addition, the traditional styling chair prevents the stylist performing the cut from getting close to the client. Stylists doing highlights must stand with their arms stretched out at full length in front of them as they insert foils. McCann thought the industry could do better.
“I found a guy in Long Beach who made hand railings for apartment buildings and boats out of stainless steel,” McCann says. “I had him make the frame, which I fitted to a base and pump that I brought from China. It actually worked fantastically! We made up 100 of them and did the London ExCel beauty show in October 2015. We had people standing around us six-deep for pretty much the entire show.”
Now working with a partner and beginning to fulfill his first orders for the McCann Styling Chair, McCann is encouraged that he’s onto something a little revolutionary. He keeps finding more advantages.
“The chair is really a tool,” he explains. “It’s great not only for bobs but for long hair as well. Hairdressers tend to comb long hair over the back of the chair and cut it. This chair has no back, so you can comb it straight down and cut. It makes the line cleaner. The chair is a tool that makes the haircut work better.”
One 92-year-old client loves the chair, McCann says. “She’s not so steady on her feet anymore, and the footrest on the traditional chair gets in her way,” he says. “With my chair, she just steps in and finds it extremely comfortable to get in and out of. The stylist stands up straighter, too.”
McCann has learned the hard way that posture matters. “A chiropractor once told me that my discs on the right side of my body are all worn down,” he reports. “That’s from doing hair right-handed; I lean more on my right than on my left, and over time that becomes an occupational hazard. People should be aware of posture and try to stay upright, but you can’t switch hands unless you’re ambidextrous. It’s a great advantage to be ambidextrous, because you can point your scissors up on both sides or down on both sides by switching hands. That makes the angle identical on both sides.”
As he gets older, McCann grows more careful with his health. “I don’t eat junk food at all,” he says. “I exercise fairly regularly, and I sleep well. I haven’t smoked in a long time. When I started out, everyone was smoking. Even when I started in Beverly Hills, there were ashtrays in the salon. That’s really changed.”
McCann hopes that styling chairs will be changing, too. “We’d like to get the chair into academies so that new stylists get accustomed to using this kind of chair,” he says. “Very little salon equipment is designed by hairdressers, but this chair is.”
In the U.S., the chair is priced at $750, which McCann says is a mid-price point for chairs. “It’s worth spending money for something that can actually help you,” he notes. “And when you put that chair in your business, the client is going to talk about it to other people, which might draw business to your salon.”
At this point in his long career, McCann is thinking about his legacy. “It would be nice to be remembered for contributing something to the industry that might change the way people see styling chairs,” he says.