“Interview with Matt Mack, owner and head stylist of The Belfry Salon in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia”
FSW: What would you consider to be your forte?
MM: A lot of people consider me a color specialist but I always say I just do what I do.
FSW: Are you going gray?
MM: I’ve got a few gray hairs – but I have curly hair, which helps to hide it. Also, the shorter you go the more the gray hair is revealed. That’s why men look more gray directly after haircut and less gray as they need a haircut.
FSW: As a man, would you ever consider going gray?
MM: Yeh – because it’s a battle that you can never win. Everyone will go gray someday in varying degrees. If you live long enough, you will definitely have gray hair when you die.
FSW: Do you think that having gray hair for women is becoming more acceptable?
MM: The thing with gray hair is that gray hair is aging on both men, women – even dogs with gray hair look old! Gray hair ages everyone and everything. On men having gray hair is considered “looking distinguished” and on women is considered “looking old” – but it’s all just perception… it’s not based on fact. It’s ok for men to age, but for women they are meant to retain their looks.
FSW: Are there any cultures where having gray hair is considered culturally accepted?
MM: In some cultures, it’s ok to go gray and in our cultures [UK, North America], it’s expected not to go gray.
There are periods in your life, where you go through more of a transitional period – its ok to be gray when your 80 – but in your 40s and 50s when you’re not really old – that’s the difficult time.
FSW: Already my daughter knew that gray hair “is being older” and not acceptable when she was just 3 year old! When we pretend play – she says I can be the “queen” because I have “just a little gray hair” (instead of me being princess [obviously, princesses don’t have gray hair]).
MM: It’s conditioning. It’s all very subtle – when there’s an advert showing celebs coloring their hair in the bathtub, it’s the subliminal message that everyone should color their hair because beautiful movie stars do. Even if your children don’t watch TV, you’re always influenced by advertising directed at aging. The “Aging Industry” is a multibillion-dollar business – cremes for dark circles, fillers, Botox, plastic surgery, hair color, haircut. The advertising industry knows that “It’s the one thing you can never be – forever young.” These industries make their money from people being fearful of aging. It all goes back to perception: Why is it ok for men to go gray but not for women? I think that the industry knows that men probably wouldn’t spend as much money on their products but women would – so why not target women?
FSW: Who are some icons for having gray hair and still being considered attractive?
MM: Funnily, Helen Mirren is the only person that comes to mind – but she dyes it with a very translucent blonde – to take the edge off. Then there’s Karen Franklin who presents a fashion show called “The Clothes Show. “ That’s ironic because the show is based on aesthetics and yet she has gray hair. She was actually interviewed and asked why she didn’t dye her hair and she just said that she never thought about it, she was just not going to go down that road – and she never did!
At the end of the day, whatever else it may be – classic, distinguished – whatever – gray hair is aging. And we are, to varying degrees – vain. Some more vain than others but it’s the way we are. If you look in the mirror after you get dressed and do your hair, then even then – you are at least a little vain.
FSW: What would you say about gray hair and having it long?
MM: Long hair and going gray is not really any different. The difficulty with gray hair is that the texture is very coarse and wiry – and when you have long hair, if you have a head full of wiry hair it’s not the same as if you have long, flat, shiny and healthy hair. It looks completely different. So it’s not actually just the color.
FSW: At what age do you think a woman should consider shearing her locks to a shorter length?
MM: Again, this thing of “when you reach a certain age you should cut your hair off “ – I don’t actually hold to that. If you base it on physical change – the one part of your body that doesn’t really change is your face shape. Hairstyle – a lot of it – is based on face shape. Face shape is the one thing on a person that doesn’t really ever change – so why should there be a point of changing hairstyle? You should just consider going softer – for example, to add layers.
You can get away with a geometric bob in your 20s but not when you’re 65 – you should consider softening the lines and edges, grow the fringe out. If you truly believe that short hair makes you look younger when you’re 40 then you wouldn’t go for a severe bob, Louise Brooks style, for example – if you go for shorter hair at that point, you still need a softer short style.
It’s all individual what looks good on a person. We like to pigeon hole because we have the tendency to categorize, but really, it depends on the person The other thing to consider is the ability to carry it off – that’s not physical – that’s down to the individual – that’s the character of the person. While a rule of thumb would be to keep away from extremes – graphic lines, length when you’re in your 40s, 50s, etc., there are exceptions to the rule. Vivienne Westwood – with her bright pink and orange hair or even the 80something [Japanese artist/designer for Luis Vuitton] – Yayoi Kusama with her extreme fringe and bob. They are not exactly your typical benchmarks are they?
When I was a kid, anoraks were considered seriously uncool – we would even refer to an uncool person as an “anorak.” Then along came Liam Gallagher from Oasis, who wore an anorak. And he seriously made it look cool. Often it’s the person wearing it that will carry it off and make it cool.
Softer recommendations would be layering and the way that the hair is finished – the actual cut. Part of Tony and Guy’s style philosophy is to personalize every haircut. One technique is to point cut: when you’re finished with the first cut and the hair is dried, you add detail by point cutting. This will make the lines fall differently – sit differently.
FSW: Is there a specific coloring/skin tone or ethnicity where gray hair suits best?
MM: No. It’s perception of what you like.
As you go grey, your skin tone will change anyway unless there’s some other way Skin tones lighten as you age. Color should be softer – everything goes softer.
FSW: What color goes over gray hair the best?
MM: Depends on whether you’re gray because of the genetics of early gray. In this case, you might want to go darker which is your more natural color. Lighter, more translucent colors work best for gray from old age, because you’re not going that far away from the natural tone of the gray.
FSW: Is there a way to camouflage gray hair without coloring it completely?
MM: Highlight through it so that you’re maintaining a percentage of gray hair. Another benefit is that as soon as people see gray with highlights – they think that you don’t color hair so again. It’s perception again. One technique of highlighting is called balayage. Balayage combs through color – so it’s softer, but more solid than foil, but it’s not full coverage – it’s kinda like the step in between. There’s also permanent color – a wash of really light blonde – we say a heat of a blonde. Semi-permanent washes out gradually over a period of about 20 washes although it always seems to leave some sort of residue behind. You don’t need to start coloring the whole thing. Even with tone on tone [translucent] colors you would only use blonde – not red or something like that.
FSW: Is there a way to dye gray hair blonde?
MM: Tone on tone – which means that they are not opaque, but translucent. It allows what’s underneath to show through. So you are talking about the lightest level of blonde.
FSW: What do you think about adding bold color streaks to white?
MM: When you’ve got a white base, the focal point colors that you have should be light. Naturally hair is always darker with highlights in it but not lowlights in it – although there are always exceptions. It just doesn’t look natural.
FSW: How does hair care change as one ages?
MM: Generally speaking, hair gets dryer. Gray hair is always lacking in moisture. You certainly need to focus on moisturizing products, softening the hair and moisturizing the hair. Also, because gray hair is always ash in tone and ash absorbs light – not reflect light – shine product will help hair to look better. But even then, there are so many variables – blow-drying, coloring. Also, the longer your hair is, the more you have to worry about the condition of your hair and take care.
FSW: I’ve decided to see if I can tolerate growing gray, how would you suggest I go about it?
MM: First of all, you need a regrowth of about 6 months or 2.5-3 inches. If you don’t have that type of regrowth yet, you could soften the pain a little bit by putting some blonde foils in the font part of the hair until you get the regrowth, then putting the balayage in when you get the regrowth. The balayage would be a light blonde. Definitely ash or natural but not gold!
All about Matt Mack and The Belfry Salon