Inside a British Hairdresser’s Mind

Hairstylist Liam Fry, co-owner of the award-winning salon, Tony Wood Hairdressing at Portsmouth, United Kingdom talks about keeping hair both real and beautiful.

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Liam Fry, co owner of the award-winning hair salon in a Victorian clocktower by the beach in Portsmouth & Southsea

It’s a hot and humid afternoon in Mumbai and I am waiting to get my hair styled at Jean-Claude Biguine Spa and Salon, Bandra. It’s a bit more special than a regular day at a salon as I am informed that Liam Fry is going to be my hairstylist. He figures in the list of Britain’s best hairdressers and is the co-owner of one of the award-winning salons there. I am wondering, if like most hairstylists, he would be weighed down by the length of my hair when he walks in. Affable and casual, Fry surprises me by appreciating my hair length and texture. Otherwise, most international ‘chic’ hairstylists advocate shorter lengths. “Let’s make your hair even more beautiful, and give it a big, bouncy glamorous blow-dry,” and he starts working on my hair. Fry is a master of his craft and loves hair per se, something I discovered in the 45 minutes styling session with him.

Hairstyling: The Journey

Did he always dream of becoming a hairstylist, I ask him? “If someone would have said to me at the age of 15 that I will be delivering education and styling hair in India (and around the world), I would have laughed it off,” he says as he works on my super long (from British standards) tresses to demonstrate how Dyson hairdryer works like a dream even on voluminous Indian hair. Curious about his journey, I prod him. I want to know what he was actually doing at the age of 15. “I used to work as a helper boy at a salon and one day when the owner asked me if I wanted to be an apprentice, I agreed. I was scared that if I said no, they will throw me out of the job, and I badly wanted the job,” he laughed. That was the starting point and to succeed all he did was to work hard. “Develop yourself and upgrade your skills in ways that keep people wanting more from you!” So while he travels the world, his heart stays in Portsmouth. He confesses he can’t deal with the bustle of London and feels blessed that his base remains the city he loves and the city that inspires him.

Portsmouth: Creative Inspiration

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As he talks about Portsmouth, I am virtually transported to the idyllic island city the south of England, about 60 miles from London. “We at Tony Wood Hairdressing practice our craft of hair in a beautiful mock Tudor building built in 1903. We are surrounded by glass windows allowing us to work in nothing but natural sunlight. Sometimes it feels like you are working out in a field. Within a two minute walk you are by the beach and on a clear day, you can almost see France on the horizon (almost). Our work is to create real and beautiful hair; real, because it has to work for the client and beautiful because if it’s not beautiful it’s not worth doing. The salon is a platform for all our stylists to shine in their own unique ways but always making sure that the client’s hair is both real and beautiful!”

A tale: Of straight tresses

My relationship with my hair has stood the test of time. It started with lofty dreams and now we are both in a happy zone of acceptance. Over the last few years I have stayed with a particular length, as personally, I moved beyond trends. I like hair that looks good not just when it’s styled at the salon but also when it’s washed and air-dried at home. When it comes to hair, I like to go with the flow of its natural movement. Mine is straight and thick, so a longer length sits well. When styling, I prefer a straight blow dry because to curl mine means serious business. It entails sitting on that chair for at least an hour till the stylist painfully struggles to tame and curl my determined straight strands. It also means putting stress on my hair by subjecting them to prolonged heat and constant pulls. Something I don’t have the heart and patience for. It has been my dream, of course, to get a lovely glamorous blow dry in a jiffy but without stressing my hair with heat. And sometimes dreams do come true.

Indian hair: How phenomenal it is!

Having worked with different hair types around the world, how does he find Indian hair? “Indian hair is phenomenal! The beauty of Indian hair is that it is naturally thick and full of shine. It is unlike any other hair type in the world. It is nothing but an absolute pleasure to work on. The moment I looked at your hair, I knew it would have to be big, bouncy and glamorous blow dry. When I am working on hair, I look at movement and texture. I want the hair to look as if it is meant to be touched and played with!”

Inside: A stylist’s mind

Often when I am sitting waiting for the hairstylist to prep/style my hair, I have wonder what goes on in his/her mind. We expect each of our salon-sessions to be magical, our passport to a good hair day. Tales of your hairstylist becoming your quasi-therapist abound. “When the client is sitting on the chair, my mind is working on the finest details, from face shape to lifestyle. I begin by asking a few questions to help me understand what my client really desires. Back home in the UK, AT Tony Wood Hairdressing we can spend up to 30 minutes on a consultation to break down and find out exactly what the client wants. A successful relationship between a stylist and the client is the basic premise of expectations being met. We give our clients the confidence and reassurance that what is happening is exactly what they are expecting.”

What’s buzzing: In the inner circle

“Hairstyles and fashion vary all over the world, however in the UK the big trend at the moment is long beach wavy bob, with the hair length sitting just on the collarbone,” reveals Fry. “To give the hair more texture we add a colouring technique called ‘balayage’ to give it a natural sun-kissed effect. This technique is perfect for Indian hair too. Natural-looking but stunning enough to make someone look at you twice.” No matter where you live in the world, women want variety with their hair. As hairstylists, they get these requests often. “Women want to have the options of having the hair blow dried straight one day and curly the next! The only way you can achieve this is with phenomenal hair products. We use a brand in our salon called KMS and Goldwell and we also have our own product line that we are developing which is not only sulphate and paraben free but is also cruelty-free and the bottles are recyclable!”

Less is more: For Indian Hair

Eager to take home tricks and tips from Fry’s hairdressing experience, I ask if there are any simple tricks he wishes every Indian woman should know. Hairstyles and how you treat the hair varies all over the world. “However for Indian hair, the less you do with your hair, the better! Treatments are a must for long hair and minimal heat from tools. Obviously, the Dyson Supersonic would help you look after the condition with its intelligent heat control but it’s what you use to wash and treat your hair that is extremely important. Imagine your shampoo is the foundation for your style, without a good and strong foundation you will find you are not able to achieve the look you are after or have the longevity you desire. Do not compromise on the tools and treatments you use on your hair. Get it right and it will pay you back over and over again!”

Time flies as we engage in a free-wheeling conversation much amidst the sounds of hairdryers. I hardly felt the heat in my tresses as the strands were teased and tamed into soft curls. “The best feature about Dyson Supersonic is its intelligent heat control,” states Fry and explains how it regulates the heat 20 times per second to make sure that you can never cause heat damage to the hair. “A conventional hairdryer can reach up to 230 degrees causing irreversible heat damage, the Dyson supersonic will only ever get to 100 degrees and with the microprocessor managing and controlling this, you will never damage your hair. No other hair dryer achieves this.”

aparrnagupta, aparna gupta, lavenderoom, haircare, dyson supersonic, liam fry, tony wood hairdressing
Aparrna Gupta with hairstylist Liam Fry

 

 

And voila within half an hour, I am ready with my waist-length hair washed and blow-dried to perfection. And I love the feel of big bouncy waves caressing my back. There is a reason why I always go dressed in my Sunday best to the salon, as once the hair is styled, that very moment is the one that I want to freeze on my phone. When the tresses are tamed to my concept of perfection! Is there someone else also feels (although temporarily- ‘Good hair days make me feel that I can rule the world’.

Author

  • Aparrna Gupta

    Transitioning from crafting stories for The Asian Age and Bombay Times to setting beauty trends in Verve, Aparrna Gupta’s journey has always revolved around resonant storytelling. Her prowess in content creation is unparalleled, with articles featured in renowned publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel India, Lifestyle Asia, Elle, and Femina. She also excels in content ideation, trend identification, mood board creation, and product styling. Her expertise has proven invaluable to homegrown brands, enabling them to authentically connect with their audience.

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