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Hair Show or Freak Show

Hair Show or Freak Show

I am trying to maneuver through the crowd of people dressed to the hilt. People are stepping on my feet. Someone accidentally burned my favorite shirt with a cigarette. Sales people are poking products in my face. The scents all around me are making me queasy. My pheromones are leading me towards a woman in the corner who is wearing the most revealing tight fitting dress that I have ever seen. The platform behind her is animated with motion; I focus my attention to the platform with young gyrating sumptuous people wearing very little clothing. I walk towards the stage; suddenly I am distracted by another stage where the people on the stage seem to be in a trance. They are clad in spandex, aluminum, chrome, leather, plastic, rubber and other man made materials that I can not identify. I feel dazed. I have been here for a mere 10 minutes and I feel a mighty migraine lurking just above my brow. What should I do? Where should I go? WHERE AM I? No, I am not in a trendy nightclub even though the cover charge was $40. It is Sunday morning; I am in Montreal at the annual A.B.A. hairdressing trade show; that’s what it says on my ticket!

I am part of this remarkable clique of hairdressers who have come from far and near to be present at the ritual of spring. After being in the grips of winter since November, I come to see what’s new in hair trends. To see, touch and feel the new products on the market. To marvel at the mechanical shampoo device, yes it is true “the automated shampoo machine.” To listen to the sales pitch of the latest miracle product that will make hair grow. My primary purpose to be here is maybe to learn something. I figure I can learn something here instead of sitting at home. I have a persistent need to absorb the latest trends. Our marvelous industry changes faster than Intel can crank out a new microchip.

So I sit down to soak up some new trends at a major manufacturer’s platform. I am waiting for the presentation to start. Other people start to fill up the 50 or so chairs that are neatly lined up facing the stage. Then they emerge; the hairdresser’s spring from behind the stage with their models. They help their models sit down on the hydraulic chairs. The models need assistance; they can not sit down by themselves without losing their clothing. One model had all hair tied up in tiny little ponytails; there must have been at least 40 of them. So this hairdresser starts explaining that he is going through an experimental stage and that he is feeling very creative. He will razor cut each individual strand so that he can achieve a disconnected, deconstructed street look. I wonder which street he is referring to. The poor hairdresser seemed to have back problems, probably due to his arsenal of haircutting weapons strapped around his waist. I counted 14 pairs of scissors and shears, 7 combs, various razor devices for his macabre creation and 21 metal duck-billed clips. Needless to say, I got up and moved to the next manufacturer’s platform to absorb some ideas and trends and maybe find a place were my pounding migraine could be subdued. I found that oasis a little while later. In a tiny demonstration area about the size of my closet, it was void of sadistic hairdressers with angry cutting tools. There was just a middle-aged hairdresser who refused to speak through the microphone strapped to her head; because she wanted to feel closer to the crowd that had gathered. She was speaking about motivation. Her desire to educate and inspire was authentic. She had been around the block a few times. Her reason for representing the big product manufacturer was not to help them peddle products; they could do that on their own. She was here because she was in love with hairdressing and hairdressers. She had a gift to teach and motivate. She spoke of client’s needs. She stressed the importance of servicing the client. All this while she was carrying out a commercial edgy bob; a haircut that would look great on Mrs.Jones. Many moons ago she was on a platform with bright lights and lots of fanfare; it was fun but it did not give her the satisfaction of this tiny demonstration area. We spoke for a while, exchanged ideas on current trends. We discussed the future of the industry. She said she was grateful to the manufacturers for giving her the opportunity to share her passion for hair and exchange with her peers. Education is her fundamental raison d’être; reinforcing her ego on a platform and trying to dazzle the crowd was scratched off her list 15 years ago. After a lengthy discussion with her, my pounding migraine was now a mere tickle. I was reluctant to leave this oasis of peace and learning. I thanked her for her professionalism and for relieving my migraine. She smiled and gave me an understanding nod. I stepped back into the jungle of the warlike hairdressers.

I did find a few more hairdressers who were giving me my money’s worth on the admission ticket. And I did learn a few more tricks. Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Satisfied that I had absorbed what I came for, I headed towards the exit. At a booth selling Japanese scissors, I recognized the hairdresser with the arsenal of scissors around his waist; he was purchasing another pair of scissors!

We hairdressers attend more conventions and workshops than any other industry. It is not unusual for a hairdresser to attend half a dozen trade shows and workshops. We do this to pursue our education. We need to keep up with the trends. We do it for the love of our trade. We gather and assemble at trade shows to be with our peers and exchange ideas. So, let’s continue to go to our gatherings but we must convey a message to the product manufacturers and distributors; lose the glitz and the glamour so the education and learning is exhibited in its purest form: technical and sensible education. This is why we go to the trade shows.

Luciano Petrella
Hairdressing Teacher
Laurier Macdonald Vocational Centre