Haircutting & The Picasso Effect

The British Way

In haircutting, you have two basic theories, British and French. The British version was made popular by Vidal Sassoon with his geometric shapes and formulaic approach to cutting. Sassoon shook the 60’s and had a bottom up style of haircutting, one that 99% of all American cosmetology schools teach to this day.  The idea is to decide whether you are building weight or removing weight. Once you decide on a plan, follow it until you reach the end of the cut, and trust that if you stay on course you will reach your destination.  This style of cutting can be very sophisticated and modern--think 60’s mod squad or the beautiful and intimidating New Yorker with a $2000 handbag.  I have to admit I sometimes fantasize about having this haircut, and occasionally I see this cut done well and it takes my breath away. I have to keep myself from staring and wondering about what a dangerous and adventurous life this woman must be leading. I went to the Vidal Sassoon Academy to train in this style of cutting and to this day it was the most challenging course I have ever taken. The teacher was such a perfectionist, many of the students broke down in tears and many reported that after class they would sob. This class helped me tremendously in my understanding of hair as a material with distinctive properties like any art medium. Similarly, as with any art, you must first learn the classical way to work with that medium, and then you can move on to innovation and pushing in a whole new direction.  

The French Way

french hair cutting

When I was in Barcelona I visited the Picasso Museum. It was astounding to see his progression of work; he started out like every artist of his era doing traditional paintings, and as he grew in skill, his art started to change. Shadows grew deeper, lines gradually became bolder and his work was more graceful and simplistic in a profound way, and that simplicity only grew with his skill and age.  

the picasso effect

This Picasso Effect has always stayed with me and I feel that it relates to haircutting (as well as many things in life) and is the best way to see the difference between the British and the French styles.  The French Haircut is a top down approach, you remove the weight while keeping your eye on the response of the hair, it is soft layers without any harsh lines and the last thing you cut is the bottom perimeter of the hair shape. The hair itself will usually dictate the ultimate length.  French haircutting is perfect for climates with a lot of humidity and the cut will work when the hair has been blown dry and styled or is in its’ natural state.  The French Cut is a relaxed sexy tousled look with many invisible layers that create texture and movement.  French haircuts, as a rule, are beautiful, and British cuts can be edgy and abrupt, and since my alter ego only appears a few times a year I can just substitute a leather jacket and red lipstick if I want to feel edgy.

french haircut