About six years ago someone approached the magazine asking me to do a profile story on a local hair stylist. The ignorant kid that I was back then, I thought that was a silly idea. “What’s so interesting about a dude who cuts hair?” the closed-minded me thought.
Once again, I was wrong. Very wrong.
And today I found out what made me so wrong. I was booked to meet and experience a haircut with hair stylist to the stars, Ted Gibson. And one conversation with him completely made me realize what a doofus I was.
Much like the lady across the street who thinks she’s qualified enough to write for our magazine because she “was the editor of her high school newspaper,” for me to ignorantly think hair stylists are all the same and have unremarkable jobs is just foolish. The 46-year-old Gibson has worked tirelessly to cultivate his craft and his brand. He’s debunked the whole idea that the best stylists are heterosexual, white and European. Already with a flagship salon in New York City, Gibson and his partner/husband/L’Oreal Professionnel colorist Jason Backe recently opened their Fort Lauderdale branch at the W Fort Lauderdale. For Gibson, a Texas-born kid who moved from place to place with his military-serving father, the stylish life inNew York City and Fort Lauderdale is a long way from home.
Today, Gibson is the hair stylist of the TV show “What Not to Wear.” He’s styled the tresses of Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Mila Kunis and Kate Gosselin (yes, he did her famous re-‘do!). And then there’s me.
Let’s get something intimidating out of the way quickly: Gibson’s haircuts are $950. To put it in perspective, a one-time cut with Gibson costs almost as much as my wedding dress did. And, having experienced a cut and style with him, I completely understand why. “Movement,” Gibson said. “I want to give your hair movement.”
And that was the precise moment I found out what a $950 haircut is made of. What separates Gibson from other stylists and their paltry $50 rate is vast. There’s a fluidity to Gibson’s movements, almost as if he were a musician playing an instrument. He felt every single note in his movements. If there was such as a thing as the zone, then Gibson was in it. He exhaled with every snip, inhaled as he measured his next move. I’ve seen Yo-Yo Ma perform live, and today I saw another artist perform. Gibson’s shears were his bow, my hair was his strings, and I was his cello. And the music he made was beautiful.
To compare Gibson’s work to another type of occupation is unfair. But as is my style, here I go and try. I must have seen hundreds of basketball games in which Michael Jordan has played. From the 1995-1996 year when the Bulls went 72-10 to watching replays of his days at UNC, I’ve witnessed Jordan’s focus and eyes-on-the-prize mentality. I’ve read his tunnel vision is stuff dreams are made of. Paraphrasing a quote I once read from him, he said that when he was on and feeling it, the basketball rims were the sizes of trashcans. And that’s what I experienced with Gibson: complete and utter tunnel vision with each snip, each wave of the blowdryer. It’s funny to compare a masculine athlete like Jordan to a gentle artist like Gibson (need I explain why?), but that’s exactly how I felt about my time in his chair. Gibson just had this look in his eyes, this focus I remember seeing only one other person have – No. 23.
Now while I realize this might be the last and only time Gibson is ever compared to Jordan, but get a haircut with Gibson and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Sitting down with Gibson and Backe (who was kind enough to do my coloring), I began to understand how lucky I was to experience professional moments with them both. When I asked Backe if they were lucky enough to experience receiving hair cuts from each other, Backe laughs and says, “No. We get our hairs cut at a barber shop.”