The fashion world freaked out last week when hair stylist of legends, Sam McKnight, unveiled the first product in his highly anticipated styling range. Bree Ellen Holland catches us up on on the incredible career of fashion’s favourite hairdresser.
Although Sam McKnight insists he is by no means ingenious, his sheer talent is undeniable. The world-renowned hairstylist is responsible for Princess Diana’s slicked back short hair, Kate Moss’s image, Madonna’s ‘bedtime stories’ album image and countless Vogue covers. He has been in the industry for over forty years styling hair for magazine shoots, runways and red carpet events. McKnight has worked with models such as Gigi Hadid, Cara Delevingne, Kendall Jenner, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and many more. He has styled hair at fashion shows such as Chanel, Balmain, Burberry and Vivienne Westwood to name a few.
On the subject of how McKnight got into hairstyling he says; “It seems strange that I actually fell into hairstyling by accident. I should be teaching French to ten year olds”. McKnight was in student teacher training when he started working in a friends’ hair salon for pocket money. “I was doing cuts for kids
who wanted a Bowie look or a soul boy wedge”. McKnight explains that something just clicked with him – he was good with hair. He decided to pursue a career in hairstyling and moved to London to begin working in higher end hair salons. He gained experience and did his very first Vogue shoot in 1977. In 1980, he decided to commit wholly to working on shoots and runways, leaving the hair salon scene forever. Very few people were doing this at the time and McKnight knew he had found a real niche in the market. He insists he was ‘lucky’ that this bold venture worked out.
McKnight released his book “Hair” in October which showcases his work spanning over four decades. He said this is the first-time hair has been given this kind of platform and it is becoming more popular due to social media. The book is inspired by his Instagram account where he posts snaps of his work. He noticed people loved seeing his older creations which sparked the idea of doing a book that would incorporate his early work and his more recent stylings. The book features commentary from fashion figure heads such Karl Lagerfeld, with whom McKnight has worked with for many years.
“There are few artists… as gifted as Sam in the world of hair and fashion” he wrote in the book’s introduction. The book was launched at the accompanying exhibition of McKnight’s work in Somerset House in November. The exhibition featured photographs of McKnight work, magazine covers, runway and backstage footage. There will also be genuine wigs and hairpieces on display.
“[The exhibition will] show young hairdressers or young fashion people exactly what goes on in the business, how I got started and how I sustained it.” McKnight said. In 2015 McKnight ran an online course called “Hair Mastered” where students could learn directly from him, working on their portfolio and social media profiles whilst learning creative, practical skills. Students were provided with plenty of resources such as video tutorials, live Q&A sessions, online discussions and feedback on their work.
One of his Irish students said “It gave me such a confidence boost and an opportunity to collaborate with other professionals…Sam is so creative and inspiring. It really helped build my clientele in the salon”.
McKnight is responsible for haircuts that changed people’s careers, hairstyles that created people’s images and trends that changed the face of fashion forever. He carved the fashion industry into what it is today which makes it very easy to see why he’s fashion’s favourite hairdresser.
By Bree Ellen Holland
Image Credit: (featured) Vogue Paris (diana) Harpers Bazaar (book) coventgarden.london (Karlie Kloss) Getty Images for H&M
Sam McKnight quotes do not belong to the Look*