Monday, June 30, 2014

The “I” Has to Travel: Style Inspiration from the South of France

This past week I was fortunate enough to attend the destination wedding of my godson (Felix) in a gorgeously restored 16th century chateau in the South of France.  While the journey there and back had its ups and downs, the actual event, and some side excursions, certainly was food for my soul.  Here’s three takeaways I brought back with me.

1:  It’s Great to Glam Up Every Now and Then:  Everything about the wedding was perfection: the impeccable chateau, the grounds and gardens.  There were about 100 guests, all in black tie and full length gowns.  The bride and groom were flawless---just look at the bride’s chic and understated hair and gown!  A red carpet stretched across the lawns to the ceremony and then reception was held in the garden, with champagne flowing all night.  I was honored to be seated next to one of my all-time heroes, the legendary hairstylist Jean Louis David!  We whiled away the night talking about all the iconic photographers and editors at Vogue.   There is so much to learn from this man’s life and philosophy, which I hope to share one day.

2:  Aspire, Inspire:  While I was seduced by all the trappings of wealth, I realized that much of what I saw, from the architecture and designs to the clothing and furniture, could all be acquired for less money with a little ingenuity.   From the chic restaurants and hotels in Saint Tropez and all along the Cote d’Azur, where Brigitte Bardot and Alain Delon used to hobnob, to the inspiration of the colors and vibrancy on the streets, you don’t have to spend a fortune to look like a billionaire.   I like to call it “trickle up effect.”  You use your impressions and inspirations to aspire higher, but without breaking the bank.  

3.  The Best Things in Life Are Free:  Traveling on to Nice was so inspiring.  It gives you a new perspective after spending time in such luxury to pass through the fields of lavender and visit grottos of wild rosemary, to see the tall cedars lining the vineyards.  The sights and the smells were so soothing to the soul and a reminder that we cannot take anything for granted.  I mean, Nice is nice, but you become very sensitive to the real community, the workers who serve all those who are passing through.  

After all, that’s what we all are doing as we travel to our destinations, just traveling on a road to a higher consciousness while serving our fellow travelers.  Just please let me walk the road in Louboutins! 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


We all dream of having a haircut that can change from moment to moment, that can be sleek and chic for day, then tousled and deconstructed for night, letting us shift from one vibe to another, depending on the occasion or mood.   That’s why my favorite new cuts are the new long gamines we are seeing on the red carpet. I like to call them shape shifters, because when they are cut correctly, they can affect your entire presence, and that is when a haircut is most empowering.  

The best example?  Jennifer Lawrence’s latest cut, which can go from sleek, chic, slicked-back hair to messy, tousled tomboy bangs the next.   It’s really a new iteration of the Jean Seberg and Audrey Hepburn pixie that is short and tapered to the nape but leaves the front long and sexy.  I think the gamine look gets its allure from the dichotomy between the masculine and feminine in the cut, drawing on the strengths of both sexes.  

Some other examples of great cuts would be Charlize Theron, Julianne Hough, and Robin Penn Wright, all attractive women who have broken out of the mold of standard sex symbolism.  Their looks are both powerful and seductive.  And because the new short cut is androgynous, it’s a style that men can wear as well, to get a more poetic look, with hair long in the front and tapered to the nape. 

I know it can be counter-intuitive to think that it’s sexier to have short hair in the back.  One of the biggest mistakes is when a woman tells me I can cut the front short, but  leave the length in the back.   I mean, hello mullet!    The front of the hair is where the real action is.  A good stylist will know just where to cut to accentuate the jawline, the cheekbones, the brows and the eyes.  And a longer length up front will give you lots of play room, to wear it with more volume, or sleek or higher up top, even peekabooing behind the ears just enough to give the illusion of length. 

But here’s the real secret:  shorter hair at the nape reveals some of the most potent yet discreet erogenous zones: the back of the neck, the ears and the collarbones.  The geisha have known this for centuries.  They considers the nape the most erotic area of the body.  Now that’s really bringing sexy back.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Charles James dress
Charles James dress
I’ve been looking at all the red carpet images of the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute Ball this week, taking in all the amazing dresses, hair and makeup.  It was brilliant of the Metropolitan to pay homage to Charles James, America’s first couturier.  Yet, the dresses that the celebrities wore in homage to Mr. James, while beautiful, paled in comparison to his genius at construction, something we may never see again.  And it’s the same with the incomparable Diana Vreeland. I think the next Met Ball theme should pay homage to her, America’s first true fashion editor, and the woman who single-handedly revolutionized fashion, art and the Met Ball itself.  There will never be anyone like her. 

Everything she did was groundbreaking.   She recognized that it was the woman who made the clothes.  “A new dress doesn’t get you anywhere.  It’s the life you live in the dress.” She put Cher and Barbra Streisand on the cover of Vogue because they were unusual.  “The strong face comes not only from bone structure but from inner thinking,” she said.  She discovered Lauren Bacall and Veruschka.  She shot a model in the first bikini.  When her editors were afraid to print the photographs she told them “An attitude like that will hold fashion back for a thousand years”.  It’s still remarkable how ahead of the curve she was…I think we still haven’t caught up with her ideas.

Her genius, I believe, rested in the fact that she worked purely by instinct, not by education or research. For example, I love the story about the creation of the Marie Antoinette mannequin for her French Renaissance exhibit in the amazing film, The Eye Has To Travel.   At first, the artist making the installation made the wig huge, but to scale.  Vreeland wasn’t happy.  She said it was “very expected.”  He went back, and made the wig rise up to the ceiling.  “Mmmmmm!” she said happily.  “Now she is ready for the guillotine!”  She insisted that the reactions to her images or exhibits be visceral.  She wanted them to be wondered over like a child.    “You're not supposed to give the people what they want,” she once said.  “Give them what they don't know they want yet.”
That came from really having a mission.  Her vision came from a pure place.   She saw authenticity and beauty came from the core, not the surface, an idea that has resonated with me my whole life. And she took risks.  No one takes risks in fashion or media today like she did, and she proved that you have to push the envelope to move forward and grow.   You can’t be so afraid of failure that you don’t aim high.

So I think the next Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute exhibit should pay homage to woman who created it, to fully express the nuances of her life and the scope of her influence in fashion and culture.  It would be a guidebook on how to live a joyful, fulfilled life by taking chances.   “You have to create the life you want to live,” she once said to Truman Capote, and I couldn’t agree more.   Why shoot for the moon when you can have the stars? 

Friday, May 2, 2014


Talk about transformation!  Earlier this week in Decorum Head I talked about how my friend Darrin grew out his hair for a film role and into a new life.   On the other side of the coin is the transformational haircut.  This is when you take a leap of faith with your hairstylist and try something completely new, and in doing so, gain a whole new look and outlook on life.  Such is the case with my good friend Jane Seymour.  I was so happy to spend the day with her yesterday as I prepped her hair for her appearance on Katie.   

Styling Jane Seymour
Last year, she allowed me to cut the front of her gorgeous hair into bangs, and yesterday, I could really see how it has become a great asset to her looks and her life. 

Jane Seymour hair transformation
Jane has always been open to taking risks and accepting change, like a radical haircut.  Yesterday, she spoke with Katie Couric about her book, The Wave, explaining that she wrote it to help people open their hearts and realize that change, while it can be painful, can actually be wonderful as well.   And she walks the talk!  Jane always has had the most gorgeous head of hair, the kind every woman dreams of having, but she had been caught in a cycle of using hot tools and teasing to create voluminous waves pushed off the front of her face for many years.  All of this had taken its toll on her long, fine hair.  A year ago, she was on a two-day press junket, and made the first day’s appearances with her usual hair style.  The following morning, I met her at her hotel to prep her for that days schedule with an agenda:  I had a strong feeling that it was time for a change, and I came armed with a photo of the iconic Jane Birkin to see if I could persuade her to let me give her bangs.  Funnily enough, she had been thinking she needed a change the night before as well, so we were on the same page.  She agreed, knowing she’d have to face a full day of more TV appearances.  The woman has guts!

It worked so well for her, right from the start.  At home, she can literally just wash and comb her hair into place and let it dry.  For special appearances, like yesterday, we can just blow dry it into place, no teasing or curling irons!  It’s freed her from having to do so much to it, and it’s a lot healthier as well. 
On set at the Katie Show
Katie Couric could not stop gawking at Jane yesterday on her show and not because she “looks good for her age” (one of my least favorite phrases); because she looks amazing, period.   And she deserves it.  She makes good choices with her diet, her exercise, her habits and her life, and it shows.  She is my inspiration for embracing change.  Who’s yours? 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


“All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”  William Shakespeare, As You Like It.  These words were repeated over and over in my mind this past year as I worked with a brilliant young actor friend to prepare for his role as Twiggz in the Indie film, Tucht, scheduled for release Summer, 2015.

Darrin Hickok and I became good friends a few years ago when he worked as my physical trainer, and about a year ago, he let me know he wanted to grow out his hair for an important role he had just landed (without a reel, which goes to show how talented he is).  He was told to perhaps wear a wig, because production was due to start.  His hair at that time was short and spiky, as you can see in the first photo.  But the film, based on the lives of 8 people involved in the cycle of abuse and violence, was so realistic and gritty, he wanted his physicality to be as authentic as possible. Darrin wanted long and strong-looking hair to complement his character of a man, abused as a child, who becomes a flamboyant yet strong gay adult.   Luckily, production was delayed for almost a year, giving him an opportunity to get his hair into shape as he internally worked on preparing for his role.
This is a symbiotic relationship, as any actor can tell you.  Think of Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, or Charlize Theron in Monster, or anything by Daniel Day Lewis,  all great actors that use their physicality, their hair, makeup, voice and body to evolve and channel the character they are portraying. Darrin’s transformation, which you can see here, was amazing and brilliant, just like his performance. 

Darrin Hickok Hair Shaping Phase

Whether you are a man or a woman, growing out your hair can be a painful process.  When the starting point is short and layered, you can’t just let it go. You have to shape it continually to make the process less awkward looking.  Darrin came to see me three times at first, so that I could allow the shortest top layers to start to grow, while evening out the back and sides.  Here’s a picture of his third visit.  You can see it’s really getting into shape as he is transforming more and more into his character.  By this stage, he was ready to let it just grow.  It was several months until I saw him again this weekend.  By now, his hair had completely grown out, but needed a shaping.  It was also acting very curly and unruly, forcing him to pull it back into a ponytail for most of the day.  I first gave him some highlights, to strengthen his hair color and give him a surfer look, then did a keratin straightening to help keep his hair smooth and under control.  Then, I gave him a trim to freshen and add movement.  The final result?  A real lion’s mane, which will look like this right out of the shower, something that really works with his Leo personality.   To give it polish, I gave him John Masters Organics Hair Pomade, which he can rake through the hair after it’s dry to keep its shape.

I’m sure this role is just the beginning of Darrin’s brilliant career, which he is now facing with new strength of achievement, and is reflected in his powerful look.  As the Bard says, “They all have their exits and entrances, and every man in his time plays many parts.”  Word. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Prozac for the Hair

We are all coming out of hibernation now and for me, nothing says “Hello sunshine!”  better than shiny, happy hair.  You can’t take a pill to do this, however.  To achieve, you need to embrace the great hair trifecta:  cut, color and condition.  But this doesn’t mean a ton of time or money

A hair cut doesn’t have to be drastic, for example.  You can just get a quick trim to take away all the dried out ends.  I like to call this a dusting.  It enlivens the hair, gives it movement, a great swing. 

For color, you need a boost of brightness and highlights are a great way to go this time of year.  I like to make them much more sunny and bright than in the winter time. You want to accent just where the sunlight hits your hair the most such as on the crown of the head.  One big mistake I’ve seen is when highlights are placed too close to the face.   Too-pale hair can drain the color from your skin.  Conversely, the right hair tones can actually act like makeup, brightening  
 your complexion.

You also want to have lots and lots of different shades woven through-out the hair, in darker and lighter shades so that it looks natural and multi-faceted, just like it did when you were a child.  Multiple shading also gives the illusion of more volume by adding depth of field to the hair.   This technique really needs to be left to a professional, but if you want just a hint of sunny highlights, you can use a trick we do on photography location.  Put on a straw hat and pull some small sections of hair out through the openings with a crochet hook.  Spray with a mixture of lemon juice and sit out in the sun.  The hat will protect your face, while the sun will naturally lighten the saturated strands. 

The last piece of the Happy Hair Trifecta is shine.  Even the best hair color will look dull and lifeless, and not read as good hair color, if it doesn’t look healthy, shiny and in great condition.   My clients are surprised when I tell them my personal secret for this.  It’s not a shine spray or heavy, silicone drops; it’s leave-in conditioner.  You see, when you apply rinse out types of conditioner in the shower, you may put it too close to the scalp, where it can remain as residue.  This traps extra dirt through-out the day and weighs hair down, making it look dirty, dull and lifeless.  My trick is to wash the hair in the shower then towel dry.  I then use a spray-on leave-in conditioner just at the mid-shaft and ends of the hair...the parts of the hair that really need moisturizing.  Blow-dry as usual, or even let it dry naturally.  The leave-in conditioner will cut down on the frizz. 

And voila!  Beautiful, shiny, healthy hair that is better than Prozac in making you feel great.  Happy Spring!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Don’t let Tax day keep you frowning: Turn your FROWN upside down!

It’s a rainy April 15 here in NYC, and some of you may be thinking about doing some binge shopping to either celebrate a tax return or cheer you up from a bad day.   But whether or not I.R.S. stands for I Really Saved or It Really Stinks, the best thing to do on a day like today is to not spend money and do some spring cleaning instead.  You may find some hidden treasures to give your spirits the boost it needs without spending a cent.    
Start with your closet, for example.  Not only do we all have to summon our spring clothes out from their long winter hibernation, but you will probably find great things you forgotten about entirely to wear right now…a great pair of shoes you bought on sale last year that you stowed away for a warmer day, or a hand bag stuffed deep in a corner and long forgotten.  Even better, you could find something you’ve out grown that you can give to a friend or donate.  I’ve come to realize that giving forward brings me much more happiness than a senseless impulse buy.  
Don’t stop there!  Hit the kitchen and while you are pulling out the scary organic greens stuffed in the back of the fridge, take out a beer and an avocado and give yourself a couple of beauty treats.  Mash half the avocado into a paste and apply to your hair like a deep pre-shampoo conditioner.  Wrap your head in a towel or a shower cap and keep cleaning.  Half an hour later, take your shower, washing and conditioning your hair as usual.  Then, with damp hair our half the beer into a spray bottle and spritz through the hair like a beach spray.  Lightly blow dry to create great fullness and texture.  
Go through your old spices and toss, but put aside some cinnamon or nutmeg.  Sprinkle some in the palm of your hand and use an old blush brush to apply like a bronzing powder on the apples of your cheeks, bridge of the nose and around the hair line.  
Put together a pot-luck dinner with all the left-overs, decorate with some budding forsythia  or cherry blossom branches,  and invite your friends to dinner and a give-away all the closet treasures you don’t wear anymore.   Everyone will not only thank you, but they’ll also say how it looks like you just got back from a week at St. Barth’s.  How’s that for turning a frown upside down!