When my lovely gran had to move into a home, we were amazed to discover it had a hairdressing salon tucked away down a corridor. Nobody ever seemed to use it, so we did. Which is brave of her, because I’m very much an enthusiastic amateur. I’d cut her hair as she sat and swivelled in the chair like the cool woman she was (see left). That’s not MY haircut by the way, she’s a gay young thing here obviously, but I’d cut it along those lines when she was in her eighties. She looked great with the vague bob, which was all I could do, and she hated ‘salons’. So I’m loving watching Hair (Wednesdays, 9pm, BBC3) – in which a group of talented amateurs are set a series of Bake-Off like challenges. But instead of flour, spun sugar and Mary Berry, you’ve got blockheads, drawers of hair extensions and Alain Pichon (no I’d never heard of him either – he cuts David Beckham’s hair apparently). Also, floating presenter Steve Jones (not sure why he’s involved to be honest, he’s got no hairdressing background as far I can see, and he’s no Sue Perkins) and second judge, royal hair tweaker, Denise McAdam.
I’ve just watched week two – a contestant gets eliminated at the end of every episode – and we’re still at the ‘too many to be arsed to remember their names’ stage, just like the beginning of The Apprentice, but if you’re keen, here they all are. Sixteen year old Kobi sticks in the mind, because the lad is SIXTEEN. Brave, very brave. None of them are professional hairdressers, some have never cut hair before. Most mess about with the hair of their friends, relatives or kids, a few do extraordinary things on a daily basis with their own hair (Dominika stands out – I have no idea how anyone has that much patience and can be that flexible in the arms and shoulders – and she’s got a career ahead of her in crazy catwalk hair-dos, you mark my words.
The first task of the total three they are set relates to a skill: plaiting and weaving last night – last week they had to create a quiff that was of regulation height (yes, it did get measured) using a ‘live’ model. Task two involves cutting and styling an identical dummy ‘blockheads’. Last night, for example, cutting long layers, putting the hair in curlers, drying in a helmet dryer and tweaking until the whole thing looks like a blonde cloud. Each ‘head’ then goes under the sharp eyes of the two judges, and ranked – the winner gets to choose the colour/hair type of the model they’ll work with in the final task. Which, we discovered, is the equivalent to the Bake-Off Show-stopper. Last night they had to create a hat out of hair. No, I have no idea why either. Last week they made vast monstrosities around a ‘fairy tale’ theme, using blocks of flower oasis, handfuls of hair extensions, glue, chicken wire. Anything they could get their hands on. This was crazy shit. There were moments when you feared for the scalps of the poor sods whose heads they were working on. Having said, that, there are some seriously skilled men and women taking part in this show. But what kind of psyche makes someone decide to make a massive set of hair ‘petals’ and shove them on a woman’s head, that open to reveal a hidden doll? It’s quite Tim Burton-esque at times.
But even so, this is a most enjoyable show to watch. The most gripping part is when the models are asked to stand up and try to walk without the massive unicorn horn or whatever that’s been jammed into their skull getting yanked off and scalping them. I remember crying when I had my hair just combed as a child (no conditioner in our house, tangles aplenty – it’s why I’ve had short hair all my adult life I swear) – let alone pinned, yanked, cornrow plaited, hot tonged, backcombed. And that’s without being asphyxiated by the billowing clouds of industrial strength hair spray.
I don’t care who wins. I’m just waiting for an industrial accident. It would make for a brilliant storyline in Casualty.