Grammy Hair Talk: Night of the Long Bob

Thanks to master stylist Rodney Cutler, who is doing hair at a pre-red-carpet soiree at Smashbox studios the Friday before the Grammys, I can definitively report that texture and matte finish are in right now. Though that intel will probably only be current until you get to the end of this sentence. Tell your friends fast.

"What happened to shiny and glossy?" I ask. I liked shiny and glossy.

"Oh, it's the trend," says Cutler, owner of New York's Cutler Salon. "For five years, everybody was flat-ironing their hair. You couldn't get it straight enough! Now we're doing long, curly hair and messy, airy buns." This morning at Smashbox, girls are running around with messy, airy-textured buns looking like they rolled out of bed after going to sleep at dawn.

Despite the current collision of red carpet and couture catwalk, Cutler believes, musicians going to the Grammys want to represent more who they are, and less the momentary dictates of fashion. "If you're doing Pink's hair, even if you're not doing her hair in pink, you have to remember she's still Pink."

Cutler, who lacks the snooty, arrogant and otherwise megalomanic characteristics you might expect from the owner of one of the country's better hair salons (mainly, he's an excellent listener), started out as a football player in his native Australia. He was looking for a way to earn money while doing sports, and fell into haircutting. Beautiful women whisk around us as we talk, and you can almost see their hearts skip a beat when they look at him. That's a trope, I expect, in the hair world: the manly, sexy, down-to-earth jock who knows his way around a pair of scissors and a hairbrush.

He shows me a Polaroid of the style he gave the models in designer Angel Sanchez's recent show. Since Sanchez is known for his ubersleek, uberglamorous, impeccably constructed gowns, Cutler did the opposite. This meant simple, edgy, messy, spiky deconstructed chignons. There was, apparently, a lot of moving tiny pieces of hair around, and precise shifting of small locks of hair a millimeter at a time. It is soul-destroying to learn that it takes four hours to achieve the perfect messy, airy bun.

What else: Lots of people are cutting their hair off right now. Cutler finds this exciting. "And they're getting bangs. Bangs are obviously an exciting way to reinvent long hair."

Cutler, who recently cut Rachael Ray's hair and who will be doing Tia Carrere's hair for the Grammys (messy, airy, sexy, most likely), also did the hair for the girl on Bravo TV's Make Me a Supermodel - you know, the girl who used to have a bob? It was Cutler who debobbed her in favor of a soft pixie cut. It's not that he's antibob; quite the contrary. "The bob is classic. It's been around since Cleopatra. But it depends on how you reintroduce it. There's a critical difference between soccer mom and sexy modern soccer mom." Yet women, he says, are scared to do this because of men.

Even in these enlightened, post-Louise Brooks times?

"Yes. Men love long hair. As long as men are on the planet, women will not cut their hair."

Doing hair renders one vulnerable, Cutler says. You feel great. You feel lousy. It all depends on how the hair turns out. You never feel like you've got it or you completely understand it. The best hair people, he's learned, are the ones who have good judgment. "When they can go into a situation and just decide on the spot that it needs to be a ponytail? That's the sign of greatness. It's not simply 'Can you do it?' but 'Should you do it.'"

The final word on the Grammys comes not from Cutler, who has gone to Australia, but from Jenny Balding, the tall, beautiful Scottish lead stylist in Cutler's employ. Via phone from her couch in New York, she considers the hair back here in L.A. on the red carpet. There were long, glamorous 1940s curls, with deep side parts, completely different from the long, glamorous, beachy, carefree, casual Giselle curls of yore. Balding, who did the hair of the Foo Fighters' keyboardist - he came to her with a mullet and left for the awards with a disheveled, lived-in, not-too-coifed masterpiece - liked Rihanna's short, almost faux-hawk chop. But her favorite was Beyonce's long bob. It was "sort of flat on top with volume underneath and brushed out with a little wave on the end," she says. "Amazing. It was very next-new-thing."


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