Hair Styling: An Underrepresented Art

I want to advocate for an art form that has seemingly been somewhat tossed to the wayside and for reasons that I have yet to truly comprehend. While doing a quick internet search for the word ‘art,’ one of many definitions defines it as:

“the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

Taking this into consideration, many of us can surely list the various art forms that are frequently thought of when they hear the word. These undoubtedly include dance, music, painting, culinary, theater, literature, interior design, tattooing, film, digital art, sculpting, architecture, photography, and even fashion, among many others. The list goes on and on and these are just to name a few that have always been taught to me as examples of what art is and should be. But what you don’t typically find practiced while seated in your school’s art class or while roaming the fine art section in the empty and quiet aisles of your city’s library is the work of the hair stylist.

Art, in all forms, should indeed be a process in which evokes emotion. Regardless to your favored style, art truly needs to do more than just serve as an instrument of observation clenched tightly upon a wall in some obscure gallery. It should be something that lingers in your every thought and haunts the caverns of your mind for days, weeks, even months after you’ve laid eyes upon it. Be it feelings of elation, disdain, arousal, or even uncertain wonderment, should you ever find yourself as a viewer of art, these emotional responses should truly be sought after. After all, what better guide to illustrate the power of art than one that stirs you in ways you might not otherwise experience by merely observing other daily objects…such as a lamp, for example.

I cannot think of another art form that directly influences the recipient’s emotions than the art of a hair stylist (maybe a tattoo artist?) Think about it. If you are reading this, hair cutting, styling, or coloring is likely something you have without question already experienced. Before you even entered the salon, barbershop, or “home of your best friend who takes a clipper to your head,” there was likely a subconscious sensation of a sense of unsettlement. Heck, even if you cut your own hair, it is with certainty that that very same unsettlement is a transitional moment when your subconscious now becomes self-awareness by recognizing a change is required. That change may be justified in any one of ways. Perhaps you don’t like “the feeling of hair on your neck” or perhaps it’s starting to look “unprofessional for your job.” Maybe you have a special occasion such as a first date, wedding, photo shoot, etc. Regardless to the any one of reasons humans give to needing a change in our appearance, something intrinsically compels us to do so for what would seem to be an innate desire to more attractive, be it for others or for ourselves. There are of course times, environments, and situations where that is the last thing on our mind, but week to week, month to month, many, if not most, working class citizens in countries all over the world choose to cut their hair. Ignoring the psychological and sociological influences at work would be a foolish practice.

After the cut, color, or style, we evaluate the job done. We utilize mirrors to rate the outcome of what is essentially our appearance but the stylist’s art. If we are dissatisfied with the art, we seek revision. We request it. We insist upon it. If we are satisfied with the art, we leave the salon, resting upon a wide spectrum of satisfactory emotions ranging from content to confident, a practice directly impacting our self-identity and our self-confidence. And yet, we remain stuck outside of the progressive acknowledgment that cosmetic care is an art form. It’s of course appreciated as art within the culture among stylists as mutual peers, but outsiders (admittedly I was one for several decades) tend to dismiss the explorative and playful process associated with the work of a barber or hair stylist casting it into the sea of unfriendly but unavoidable hygiene practices.

In both conclusion and curiosity, I challenge you to explore other ways in which you respond emotionally to art, be it mainstream or unconventional. I invite you to seek out experiences, thoughts, behaviors, even hobbies, that push you past the perspective of what you experience during the monotonous practices of your everyday and form a mindful relationship with all things, people, and activities that entice, evoke, and provoke. It might just be the place you redefine art.






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