Winging it

Remember when highlights were about as technical as it got, or when a red dye-job was an exciting change-up? Neither do we, following the colour explosion in recent years. Complex balayage is now expected, while pinks, blues and even pixelated dye jobs have – somehow – become the norm. One person welcoming this tidal wave of paint would be Sophia Hilton of Not Another Salon

The ‘winging it’ days are over

I’ve been teaching in the Not Another Academy every Monday – including bank holidays, rain or shine – for almost two years. That means I have listened intently to over 1800 hairdressers from around the country, and even around the world, talk about the issues they tackle every day. Needless to say, I’m pretty on the ball when it comes to understanding what’s going on in the colour industry.

But there is one thing that I’ve never been able to get out of my head, from the moment it crossed my mind one rainy Monday academy morning:  that the days of ‘winging it’ are finally over. It hit me like a tonne of bricks; it was so blindingly obvious that I couldn’t believe I’d never thought of it before.

When I trained, as with the many generations before me, the expression ‘winging it’ was common. With no Pinterest, no YouTube and no Instagram, clients relied on our guidance for colour ideas and the odd hair magazine at best. The colour choices were just not as well advertised – so if we couldn’t do it we actually had a good chance of getting away with it. I have to make an exception here regarding those that come from incredibly good training, often in big cities for big companies, which was not me I’m afraid. In general, if you were part of the ‘winging it’ generation like me, it went a little something like this: graduate, make it up as you go along, ruin a few peoples hair, find some things that work and then stick with them for the better part of your career.

But somehow, in the years that have passed, we have not noticed that the world of colour is closing around us, a world that is really bloody hard. Colouring is a million times more complex than it has ever been, and what would have satisfied your clients before simply isn’t cutting it post-2015.

Now, more than ever, you have to be more academic to be a colourist, and with technology pushing us every day the demands on our brain are more overwhelming than ever. The colours you see on Instagram are complex and well practiced, and just having a go rarely works out.

I believe that not having ongoing education is no longer optional because, without it, we just can’t handle the demands of the clients in our chairs. My whole ‘creative’ career has been put on hold, and I now spend my days studying up on how I can help people get through the pressures of modern colouring. My suggestion is this: try and go on at least two courses a year, and if your salon isn’t paying for them then put your hand in your own pocket. Don’t cut your nose off to spite your face; this is your career. Further than that, avoid ‘creative’ courses and focus on your colour basics, your colour changes and your technical abilities. Once you have that, creativity is a doddle.

This is not an easy time to be a colourist, but boy is it an exciting one. The very fact that it’s tough right now means we are in the middle of a huge change in colour history, and I for one am proud to be a part of it.

See more from our PAINTER Sophia >

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