In 5 years of blogging, you cannot imagine the amount of mails I have received concerning hairstyling, with questions such as:
- What would be a good haircut/style for me?
- Where can I find a good hairstylist?
- How can I know which kind of haircut will be better for me?
- My hair is such and such but I’d like to style it differently, could I do that?
And every time my answer was the same: as hairstyling is not really BonneGueule’s core business, the best thing to do is to talk to a specialist.
Just recently, I had the chance to talk for almost an hour with Christophe-Nicolas Biot, a great Parisian hairstylist. When I say "great", I mean he is now widely recognized within the profession, particularly through his creative shows.
And he’s above all someone absolutely passionate about his craft, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject, which he only asks to share. It was the first time I spoke to a hairstylist as passionate and hip as him. To be honest, I was even reminded of my first meetings with designers.
So, when BonneGueule meets a great “coiffeur” to ask him questions, what is the result? Well, a reflection of unexpected breadth on male hairstyling...
Christophe-Nicolas in full motion, in one of his creative shows.
About the use of the French word "visagiste"
Starting out, Christophe-Nicolas is very clear about the word "visagiste". For him, it is a completely overused term, which was successful 25 years ago, when one began to take proper account of facial lines.
He believes this is not the right approach, because if one focuses on the face, one forgets the body, the social aspect, how the person "moves" (I'll explain this a bit further below). According to Christophe-Nicolas, those are most important parameters to consider, since he believes that a hair stylist should think about a hairstyle in terms of the whole picture. For instance, he does not hesitate to tell some clients to let their hair grow some more and come back later to have more volume to work with.
According to Christophe-Nicolas, a very good professional does not go the way the client wants because clients sometimes have completely clichéd expectations, and a professional must understand that. A good hairstylist must go beyond current trends and be focused on the customer and his hair, and not on the latest hair fashion.
Moreover, Christophe-Nicolas prefers to talk about hair 'style' rather than hair 'cut' as he considers styling to be a true totality, as we have already seen. He also expresses it very well:
"Nowadays, a man wants to change styles, but he does not want that to be seen, to stand out. He wants to give the impression that it’s something that has happened naturally. That is the challenge of a true hairstyling professional. He does not want others to have the impression he spent three hours in the bathroom grooming. A woman wants to show that she just came out of the hairdresser. These are very important physiological parameters that need to be taken into account for male customers."
To lead one’s stylist, or not?
Don’t let yourself be influenced by those large hairdressing chains’ ”lookbooks”!
When I ask him if someone wanting to change the way his head looks should give hints to the stylist, Christophe-Nicolas is adamant: it is up to the professional to offer suggestions first. A customer must by all means not step into a hair salon with a head full of stereotypes.
Christophe-Nicolas adds that if the customer is unable to express what he wants, it is important that he at least makes known what he does not like, what he does not want. Think about it next time you go to your stylist!
Christophe-Nicolas first always asks a customer what does he not like, and more importantly, why.
I then ask him if customers should bring pictures of cuts that they like to a hair appointment. Again, Christophe-Nicolas replies bluntly: out of the question, because to each style there has a corresponding face.
And even if there were relatively similar faces, a hairstyle photo should not be the beginning because Christophe-Nicolas rightly points out that, by doing so, one would be moving towards standardization rather than customization. And Christophe-Nicolas also adds that one does not help out with pictures, but rather complicates the task at hand.
Afterwards, the stylist can take into account the nature of the particular hair. Christophe-Nicolas also insists a lot on the issue of style-keeping (I remind you, he uses the word 'style' rather than 'cut'!), and he advises not to hesitate to ask the stylist at length how to reproduce the new style at home.
Moreover, according to him, a very well cut hair may 'hold' a very long time. Taking his personal example, he has not cut his hair for several months, but he simply allowed it to grow. He insists he prefers evolving rather than definitive styles. But you can well imagine, to have such a long term vision, the stylist must be one hell of a talent.
What makes a good stylist?
I then seek to discover what constitutes a good professional, according to Christophe-Nicolas. Immediately, he replies that a good stylist never waits on a customer with scissors in hand, but first listens at length about his needs and search for style, and looks at his clothing and body shape.
Another element that should cue you: a very good professional asks a lot of questions!
He also says that a man cannot change his look and style every other month! Because for Christophe-Nicolas, a given stylist will be right for a slice of life, like ten years or so. "A hair stylist will be a match for you for about a decade because you have a style, a look, a morphology that will not be the same at 20 as at 30 years of age. '
He is also draws a parallel with clothing designers: the very top stylists have a signature, a particular way of cutting that one day will no longer necessarily fit a given customer, as customers evolve, change over the years.
In contrast, a bad hairstylist will not look at the customer, proceed straight to shampoo and then ask him, with his wet hair in front of the mirror: "what do you want me to do today? " This is a sentence no customer should ever have to hear.
The thorny subject of trends…
I broach afterwards the issue of men’s hairstyling trends. He immediately corrects me saying that currently there are no real trends, because Christophe-Nicolas firmly believes we are in an era of personalization, rather than standardization, as we saw above.
Still, he recalled that in France there was a "Zidane" (after the soccer player) era back in ‘98/2000 which pushed many men to shave their hair, whereas before it was only the gay community that did that. That was for him the last great male trend.
The very beautiful Christophe-Nicolas salon, with very well-chosen warm materials.
And what if I don’t live in Paris?
I only have a few minutes left, so I take the opportunity to ask Christophe-Nicolas about finding a good stylist outside Paris.
His answer is straightforward and direct: there are very good hairstylists everywhere. He even has a surprising hint: according to him, do not hesitate at first to go to a hairstylist just for advice (because he thinks counseling will become increasingly important in male hairstyling).
He draws a parallel with a ready-to-wear store where a purchase is not mandatory... Christophe-Nicolas therefore really insists on the fact of calling in or pushing the door just to ask for advice. The "very big pros" as Christophe-Nicolas calls them, often get appointments thanks to the quality of the advice they have just given you.
Talking about upscale hairstylists outside Paris, Christophe-Nicolas insists there are good stylists even in the big chain salons, but deplores the fact that cuts there are timed as there is a need for profitability. However, to begin with, he says that price is still a quality indicator, and that should be the first hint in finding THE coiffeur in your city.
And this ended my interview with Christophe-Nicolas, rich in ideas.
A tremendous thanks to Christophe-Nicolas for being available when being so requested.
His salon is located at 52, rue Saint André des Arts, in Paris, in the sixth district. It is a beautiful salon, make sure to check it out!