Hairstory: Part Deux - His Story At Hairstory

It is a Sunday.  He wakes up early.

Instead of reaching for his phone he spends twenty minutes in meditation to prepare for the day ahead.  Emotionally, physically, and spiritually aligned, he sets off from his domicile in Bushwick.  His destination?  Last week it was a museum, this week it’s checking out a consignment shop before some down time in a park.  Well, it looks like down time but he is still on the job.  It’s scouting day, the day he likes to visit different areas of NYC and find his muses for Hairstory.

He is Brian Casey.  This is his story. (AGAIN with the Law & Order sound bite!) (of course again)

It’s not about getting the perfectly pretty casting agency models. I prefer strength.

He finds his muses for education days at Hairstory where he works under the watchful eye of Hairstory founder Michael Gordon, cutter Wes Sharpton and colorist Roxie Darling.

 Michael is the icon he followed through his publication of Hair Heroes and in the early stages of Hairstory when it was If You Knew.

The vast history of the industry that unfolded page by page in this book became something I spoke of as doctrine to clients and anyone else who would listen.

Wes is the one Brian found on Instragram and immediately connected with his approach to cutting.

There was a unique power to his approach: I believed the cuts on these girls. They didn’t look like most hairdressers’ work – cutting things for other hairdressers – it was obvious he was cutting for the individual person.

Roxie is the one pushing past the limits of what Brian thought haircolorists could do.  Although Hairstory is departmentalized and Brian Casey is a cutter, he still admires the techniques of other aspects of the industry.

Roxie can draw inspiration from anything and everything.

It is Monday.  Meditation has been practiced. (Yes, dammit, every day.) It is education time at Hairstory Studio in downtown NYC.  The motto for the day is: ‘What You Don’t Know You Can Learn.’  Wes reminds Brian that ‘Guido wasn’t built in a day’.  Becoming a good hairstylist takes a long time with a lot of attention paid to strengths and weaknesses, and becoming a great hairstylist takes even longer.  But it is exhilarating for Brian to be working among his mentors in a magical space that delivers a message to hairdressers he was waiting to hear: that it is okay to dress the way you want, to experiment with holding the comb a different way, to not be like the others.  In fact, everyone in the room is an outsider and they are now together so are they now insiders?  Or is it still ‘Stay Gold, Ponyboy?’ They aren’t Outsiders, they are creating shapes and colors and stories and portraits not from the outside and shoving it all in but blooming from the inside out into the world.  Creation. 

Michael is taking pictures and Brian watches an electric interaction with the model.  They learn her story.

It is Wednesday. 4:06 a.m.  Twenty minute meditation later, it is up and into the city for an early morning call.  Is the look beachy waves or a modern take on the Toque hairstyle constructed by untreated Vicuña wool a la Julian d’Ys?  In the life of a freelance editorial hairdresser, Brian says regardless of what is being asked, a strong and flexible work ethic is key.  He knows to show up early for the shoot: the finished product notwithstanding, production teams will know who is tardy and that is not a good reputation to have.  This job today might not be for Hairstory but he will still update Michael Gordon on what he has been working on and get words of encouragement.  To have his mentor be so inviting and accessible reminds Brian why he does what he does; multiple 15 hour days in a row, spending so much time working even while not at work – but this doesn’t feel like work.  The schedule, the pace, understanding that training his eye means taking hundreds of pictures with his phone and being able to winnow it down to maybe 5 really good ones, taking pictures of art and buildings and blades of grass because inspiration can be found anywhere, it means creating mood boards for future shoots, dedicating unpaid hours to photographer friends to get more experience, booking jobs, finding more models, and wish that maybe there was a break sometimes but in reality a break is boring to Brian and he’d take these insane work days over boredom in a heartbeat.


Hairdressers are becoming more aware that they have options. Freelancing and being boss can become a reality and the industry is going to shift even further towards supporting independent hairdressers. Small pockets are popping up all over the country where people are waking up and saying: ‘This old model isn't working, we can do this ourselves,’ and that's pretty incredible.

Every time he uses New Wash his hair looks how he has always wanted it to look.  Every time Brian uses it he is reminded of finding Hairstory, the place that created it.  As he remembers, he is comforted by the knowledge that what he was looking for in the world of hairdressing exists within Hairstory.  He had never heard their message ‘Less is More’ or seen such an individualtastic approach to cutting but he instantly recognized it as a part of his voice.  That there are other stylists out there, the geeks, the outsiders, the light ones, the dark ones, the rebels, the freaks, the instigators, the artists, the mutineers, the dreamers, all the individuals are surprisingly not as alone as they think they are.

Brian Casey gets his gear ready for the next gig and reminds himself of his own advice for freelancers:

  • Have an honest, open attitude and accept critiques and compliments.
  • Admit strengths and weaknesses
  • Arrive early.
  • While working, put the phone away and listen.  Don’t take it out until the job is done.

The photo shoot today is as important as the shoot yesterday, which was Thursday…or was it Friday?  It doesn’t matter because it is also as important as the shoot tomorrow.  Each model has a story he wants to he ar, today, tomorrow, the day before a week ago.   

And the work carries on.