Michael Christopher Hemphill, salon pioneer

Prior to Michael Christopher Design opening in 1975, the men I knew were still wearing Old Spice and most hair places were beauty shops that did your hairdo with curlers while you sat next to the pungent smell of the dreaded perm solution. Michael changed the way we thought of all of that. He reinvented the beauty shop into a full-service salon. Hairdressers became stylists, ’dos became creations, appointments became clients, and women arrived at the salon dressed to the nines, like Pan Am stewardesses. It was, after all, the place to be seen. Michael accomplished this because he traveled and studied all over the country. He knew what was hot, and his team was always ahead of the curve. The first cut I remember from the salon was when I was in college. He took my long, straggly hippy hair and layered it. A few weeks later Farrah was on the cover of every magazine. Coincidence? When a client came from the back of the salon, it was as if she had passed through a magic wall. She was transformed, not only from her recent coif or spa treatment, but because she was made to feel great about herself. Michael just got it—we as individuals enjoy an occasional indulgence. Many of the creative stylists have left to begin their own salons. This is a tribute to the man himself. Whenever I would ask Michael his feelings about their departure—and I have tried many times to ply him with M&Ms (martinis and margaritas)—he reacted like a proud uncle. His place really was “the salon that started it all.” 

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