For Alan Gold, what began as a hobby at a young age quickly became both a livelihood and passion—for more than two decades, he has been a sought after stylist to socialites and runway models alike. Creative Director of Haig & Co Salon in Philadelphia, he is an expert colorist and cutter. Mr. Gold considers his work an art form: a medium, like sculpting and painting, through which to express his passion. He prides himself on bringing a fresh perspective to his work, keeping every client’s specific needs in mind while incorporating popular trends. As one of the few stylists who specialize in both cut and color, Mr. Gold feels that both are essential to the complete look and should work in harmony together.
Can you tell us more about your background, how and why did you choose being an hair stylist?
My career actually started out with plans to specialize in international law, but I took a detour during law school that helped me to define a new career based on a passion for art, beauty and design. What was a hobby, became my primary means of survival and ultimately a successful pecuniary return. I started working in a local hair salon and soon I discovered that all the summer art school classes I took when I was a teenager paid off. Cutting and coloring hair is very similar to painting a portrait of someone, and it’s the perfect way to merge art with beauty.
Why is hair styling a passion for you?
I have powerful hands that create and mold a client’s look which often define her or him. It’s an ability to make “fantasy” become reality. But a gift isn’t very good when you don’t share. Being able to do “transformations” is also my pleasure not just passion.
Ironically, hair styling is a lot like therapy and relationship building. You get results, after time. Everybody comes in with a problem or looking for a solution to look and feel better about themselves. As a good stylist, you have to listen to the needs of the client. If you fulfill that need, the client comes back and you become credible. And then you have repeat business. In other words, I have to translate the current look in beauty, adapt it to each client’s lifestyle, and coax it along to get the total look.
Hair styling is a passion because it gives immediate results. Being successful is being able to communicate with each client what can be attained in that first, or repeat, visit. People wish for many things, but as a good stylist, you have to know how to explain what is best for the individual. Is it really going to fulfill their needs?
Why is it important for you to be both a colorist and hair stylist and what products do you endorse?
You have to be able to look at each client and create a vision. In order to stick to that vision, it helps to know the ins and outs of each client. What they do, what they eat, what they wear, what they like to do, and so on. This helps you create the “total” look. You’re only as good as your last haircut and color! At the salon, we offer products that are as varied as their hair—products that work, are effective and don’t over process the hair.
I’m not about product pushing. Growing up as a kid, every laundry detergent was always “new and improved.” They just changed it to “newer, whiter, bigger, sudsier.” At the end, it wasn’t any different. So now I look to lead in finding products that establish credibility. I look to lead in finding products that establish credibility, and are made without an excess of chemicals that burn and brutalize the hair.
How do you deal with a first time client who comes in and asks for a “celebrity” hairstyle?
My thing is, “Can you translate that particular look to the individual in your chair? Is it color? Is it cut? Is it care that’s going to give them the most to look and feel their best?” If somebody comes in with a picture of a celebrity and says, “I want this,” I–not often–have said to clients, “I’m not the one for you. This is not what I do. I can’t stand behind it. I don’t believe it.”
You have to be nice to people. And I think just giving somebody always what they want isn’t the answer. You have to educate them. It’s about integrity for your client and for you.
Do you consider yourself as an artist or as a businessman?
I had to evolve to be both—an artist and a businessman. For many years, I owned and managed my own salon, and was very successful, but there were times when the passion got buried under all the day-to-day operations so I decided to break away and become a Creative Director, able to focus again on what my passion was when I started out in this business.