A Conversation with

Shalom Sharon

Shalom Sharon has been styling hair since he joined beauty school at age 14. As a young stylist in Tel Aviv, he even worked his love for hairdressing into his mandatory Israeli military service and then into a top celebrity-frequented salon. After transplanting his career to New York, he gained a following at a prestigious Madison Avenue salon before moving exclusively into fashion and editorial work. To date, he抯 styled for the likes of Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs and Anna Sui, plus publications including GQ, Cosmopolitan and Paper.

Now, Shalom shares his secrets for cutting intuitively, kicking off an editorial career and getting celebs to pay attention.

How did you get started as a stylist?
When I was 13, I shaved off the side of my hair in an undercut, and my friends saw it and wanted the same style. I also remember watching one of my older sister抯 friends doing hair one day, and it took my breath away卛t was magical, what she was doing. The day after that, I left regular school and joined beauty school in Tel Aviv when I was still only 14.

Did you always know you抎 be a stylist?
When I was in seventh grade in Israel, they helped me decide what I should do. They told me I had very good hands for gentle work, and I hadn抰 even thought about that because I was looking to become a car mechanic.

Did you move straight to a salon next?
No. When I was 18, I joined the military and had basic training for three months. During training, I would give haircuts to the guys there because they wanted to go home for the weekend and look cleaned-up. At that point, I was using big scissors like the kind you use in an office. For the final day of the training, we had a ceremony, and they asked me to give everybody haircuts and gave me a job as a hairdresser.

I did that for almost a year before they transferred me to be a hairdresser for the women抯 division. I was styling the major female commanders, the major ones. That抯 where I learned the most because I had freedom to do what I wanted.

What did you do after the military?
When I was released from the military, one of the major salons in Tel Aviv picked me up to work for them. I started as an assistant, but since a lot of celebrities would come into the salon, I ended up doing hair for photo shoots, TV, movies and fashion shows. When I was 24, they told me I should go to New York and make it a big thing. I said, 揊ine, I抣l check it out.

What happened when you arrived in New York?
I didn抰 work for the first six months. I wanted to do shoots but didn抰 know anyone, so it was difficult. One of my friends was a model, and she hooked me up with a photographer, but I was broke and started working in a salon. Very quickly, I ended up getting busy in this great salon on Madison Avenue. I made contacts and got an agent who pushed me forward on jobs.

How do styling demands in New York and Tel Aviv compare?
I found it a lot more difficult in Tev Aviv because everyone has thick curls that you have to blow out straight. It抯 much more complicated than European or American hair, which tends to be finer. In terms of fashion, though, Tel Aviv is like a European city卼here抯 a lot of great style there.

What are some of your highlights for runway and editorial styling?
I like working in Paris for designers like Jean Paul Gaultier. They let you have fun with hair and be creative. People are actually coming to see a show. It抯 a spectacle. When you work for American magazines, they want you to calm it down. In Europe, they抮e always telling you, 揗ore, more.

You do a lot of celebrity work. What should stylists know if they抮e just venturing into that realm?
Celebrities can be the most difficult clients because they抳e very demanding. They抮e on the phone卼hey抮e in the other room. You have to get them to stay focused, and then you抣l find the right energy to get the right hairstyle.

How do you keep them focused?
Slap them with your comb. No卻ometimes you have to be a little tough but polite. You try to please them, but you have to explain that they need to stay with you so they can get great photos in the end.

What type of scissors do you use?
I work with tiny scissors with about 1.5-inch blades. I have maybe five pairs. They抮e very small, so your hands stay close to the hair and you have control. I feel like I抦 almost cutting with my fingers.

What are your favorite Oribe products and why?
Volumista and Dry. The packaging is brilliant.

If you抮e in a rut, how can you feel creative again?
Work. If you have no work, take a wig and play around with it, or work with the hair of a girl you know. Go on vacation. Talk with your colleagues.

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