Set Free--The Book About Hair by Richard Stein

Set Free--The Book about Hair by Richard Stein


reedom is a concept that is fundamental to our lives ... and freedom is the idea behind this book, freedom to be yourself--truly and fully yourself--and still look as good as you can look. Freedom from the traditional female "enslavement" to those instruments of beauty torture--curlers, teasing, hairspray, blow-dryers--and from weekly visits to some dictatorial hairdresser obsessed with what this season's self-styled opinion makers have decreed "fashionable."

Setting people free from their problems with their hair is the single most challenging, and most rewarding, part of my daily work. Because, after all, looking great is the best revenge.

The title of this book was inevitable. It is a phrase I hear every day: "My God, Richard. You've set me free!" It is a phrase I listen for every day. Because a woman who gets up out of my chair for the first time must feel, somehow, that from this moment on her relationship with her hair is changed forever. She should be able to see herself in an entirely new way: as someone as much in charge of her hair--her looks--as she is in charge of the other crucially important aspects of her life.

Grandiose? I don't think so. Psychologists tell us that a woman's way of dealing with her hair--and especially the choice of style--is the single most revealing physical indicator of her feeling about herself, reflecting her attitudes toward her femininity, her status, her autonomy. In my long experience, I have never had any reason to think that this is not so. And I myself--after spending my life in this business--would go even further ... because I would say that attitudes toward one's hair and the choices one makes about hairstyling not only reflect these things, but often determine them.

The idea of being able to transform someone with just the right haircut is what gives me creative impetus. When people are secure about their hair and how it looks, it can free up many other aspects of their lives: their "style," their self-image, even their sense of self-worth. And once these things are affected, there is often a spectacular ripple effect on other things--career, relationships, even a sense of personal mastery.

This may be why so many of my clients come from worlds driven by power, charisma, and competence: heads of corporations and almost heads; politicians; psychoanalysts and therapists; and people in every branch of the arts--artist and gallery owners; writers, agents, and editors; producers, directors, and "stars of stage and screen." They--as well as all the regular folk caught up in these exhilarating times--are all terribly busy, no-nonsense people who live on tight time budgets and want hair that is easily and instantly put to rights, is a snap to take care of, and always looks entirely wonderful.

What I do, very simply, is sculpt hair. I try to make cutting it into an art form--understanding the material I am working with (different in each case), knowing what aspect of the person I am trying to express, and doing both these things with sensitivity and skill. The women and men who come to my salon leave with their own very personal "hair sculpture" that transcends the latest fashion dictates and becomes the basis for the creation of a unique sense of style.

Style itself never goes out of style (although fashion, by definition, does), so my clients always look up-to-date. From my perspective, this means that my work remains fresh in execution and challenging and interesting on a day-to-day level.

For a client, part of this exercise is learning to love her or his hair just as it is. I am often amazed at how few people really know what their own hair is like: what type it is, what can be done with it, how easily it can be taken care of.

I was one of the pioneers of the "natural" look--the blow-and-go, wash-and-wear trend in hairstyling--and when I first let my own hair go naturally full and curly way back in the geometric sixties (when it was the "straights" and nothing but the "straights") people used to stop me in elevators and accost me at parties and ask to touch my hair... which made me wary of being in close quarters, but eventually less uptight about having my hair touched.

Hairwise, this is a more tactile, easygoing time for women than ever before in history. The days of the week-long, tormented-and-sprayed "solid" hairset are gone (thank heavens!). Women today lead high-stress lives that don't include a clockwork visit to the beauty parlor to get "redone"; that time now goes to the exercise class or graduate seminar or therapist. Women today have a far better understanding of what they want from their lives, and more and more of them are willing to forgo those old "constructed" looks for something more natural, more comfortable. Freer.

The information in this book is designed to liberate you from all the nonsense about hair and to bring a sense of confidence and self-esteem to your relationship with your own hair. It should be wearer-friendly. It doesn't need to be tamed; it needs to be discovered and then celebrated.

Because I care as much about what is in your head as what is on it.

Richard Stein Hair Salon, New York City

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