L.A. v.s. London: How Our Hair Differs From City to City
Sure, we speak the same language, but women in London and L.A. are worlds apart. We live in completely different climates for one. L.A. women contend with 365 sunshine, whereas here in London we live in constant fear of bad weather ruining our look and constant hope that it will be sunny for more than half an hour. Our approach to fashion is different too, as illustrated by Who What Wear’s Los Angeles–based Brit columnist Ashley Madekwe in a recent feature.
So how does our hair differ? As a Brit, born in London, I find myself looking across the channel to French women for inspiration. Despite being a beauty editor, I do not feature curling tongs in my bathroom, and I have a long-distance relationship with my hairdresser, seeing her for a cut and colour once (maybe two times for colour) a year. Yet, when I went to L.A. late last November, I couldn’t move for a perfect wave and just-so ombré (sure, that colour looked grown-out, but I swear it was dyed to look that way). Perfect hair, perfect weather—I’m not jealous (okay, maybe a bit). But I wanted to find out whether my suspicions were correct and to find out just how different (or similar) our hair habits really are. So when the Kardashian’s mane woman Jen Atkin was in town recently I sat down with her and Luke Hersheson, who has worked with Victoria Beckham and Sienna Miller, to talk transatlantic tresses. Here’s what they had to say…
Getty/David M. Benett/Contributor
BYRDIE UK: What’s the typical hair look in L.A. vs London?
JEN ATKIN: Typically in L.A., I mean, we wear our gym clothes all day; it’s lazy hair. Girls just wash and go; it’s not overly complicated. It used to be like L.A. was long extensions and curls, but I feel like now girls are doing shorter hair and letting it go. I feel like we live a lot in buns and ponytails because everyone is literally in gym clothes.
LUKE HERSHESON: The two have merged a lot over the past few years. In London, it used to be that no one would bother doing their hair; it was cooler to look like you hadn’t ever touched your hair. Now I think L.A. has relaxed a bit more and we have pumped up a bit more…
JA: Huh! Maybe they like switched roles a little bit?
LH: Yeah I feel like it’s a bit closer; it’s merged a bit.
JA: I always imagine girls who do like crazy colour, like I feel like girls are more daring when it comes to colour and those kinds of trends. Whereas L.A. is just ombré; everyone is ombré, ombré, ombré.
LH: Well, I think London’s got like this history of doing things that are new but not always necessarily beautiful. So people are kind of happy to look a little bit weird or kooky, you know.
JA: Which is fun! I love it.
LH: Maybe other countries are a little bit more afraid, a bit more they’ll wait for their friends to do it, so maybe London has that, but it’s not always for its best beauty sake.
JA: But you look at the UK [and] you guys are definitely trendsetters. Like if you think back to the ’60s, and you think to the Vidal Sassoon days and what girls were doing back then, and the Spice Girls in ’90s.
JA: It’s still pretty iconic to this day.
LH: It’s always the ugly things then, that became great later on, I think.
JA: Because London is daring, like Vivienne Westwood, like the things that are just so out there.
LH: I think culturally, we’re so rich with amazing references that we can look to for our work, but I think sometimes when it happens it’s ugly to start with and it takes a while to refine.
JA: Although we had Paris Hilton. And Tara Reid; that never took off. That’s so mean.
BYRDIE UK: Which celebrities do women in L.A. and London ask for in the salon chair?
JA: In L.A. I get a lot of clients referencing ’90s models like Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista with the shorter hair. I get a lot of that; I also get some ’70s references like Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot—I still get pictures of them—and sometimes I get Claudia Schiffer from the Guess ads, a lot of girls like that.
JA: Like, shaggy, long, long, long, hair.
LH: We get more Debbie Harry here, I think. We get Stevie Nicks a lot. Jane Birkin.
JA: Ooh, I love Stevie Nicks, that’s a good one.
LH: I mean, Bardot’s classically always good, right?
JA: Yeah, I feel like girls in the States aren’t as fun with like a fringe and layers as they are here. They’re more about long grown-out layers.
LH: Well, maybe that’s the daring Londoner?
Keep scrolling for a visual look at Jen and Luke's hair inspirations…
BYRDIE UK: How do you think our product choices differ?
JA: Thinking about my range, the Wave Spray and Texturizing Hair Spray are doing really well. I think, we just don’t like to wash our hair that often, so I feel like whatever makes it so we’re only going to have to wash it every two or three days is kinda a game changer. Again, we go to the gym, so we’re like living in dry shampoo a lot.
LH: Do you think everyone goes to the gym there? And no one goes to the gym here?
JA: Literally every person I know goes to the gym, sometimes twice a day.
LH: Really… If only we had that much time.
JA: Yeah, I know, it’s crazy. It’s just part of the culture there. I know friends who will go and have meetings at spin classes.
LH: I think it's getting more that way here.
JA: I went to Barry’s Bootcamp yesterday and it was packed! Packed all day, it’s nuts!
LH: I think there’s a much closer synergy than there ever used to be.
JA: Well now that Jen Atkin and Luke Hersheson are under the same roof we’re merging, slowly, into the same person!
LH: I was in LA the other week…
JA: Huh, I’m mad you didn’t call me when you came to town!
LH: I’m sorry we were really…
LH: In and out.
JA: Interesting… I see how this relationship is going. I come over and barge into his life and take over his salon, and he doesn’t call me when he comes to town, so that’s L.A. versus London.
JA: In a nutshell.
LH: [Changing the subject] Here it’s a lot of dry products, people don’t have time. That whole idea of loads of products when it’s wet and then drying it, no one has time for it. I don’t think hairdressers have time for it. It’s stuff that’s quick and easy and convenient.
JA: Yeah, touchable hair I think is just popular worldwide, which is good.
LH: Well, no one’s really addressed it. You’re addressing it now [with your Ouai Haircare range].
BYRDIE UK: Do you think the A/W16 hair trends will differ between London and L.A.?
JA: I look at fashion week and I look at what’s popular clothing-wise. Like when we were in that Céline, Givenchy moment, I felt like everyone was wearing just like the Céline bob—very blunt, structured. I look to fashion, but touchable, effortless hair is going to be popular for while, and I think that’s why ombré was so popular because you don’t have to get your roots touched-up every month, you can let it go for months at a time.
LH: There was so much minimalism for a long time it got so pared back. So all those ’90s references we were talking about before like Cindy hair but in a touchable way; it’s definitely making a comeback.
JA: Kate Moss ’90s.
LH: Yeah, the sexier side of the ’90s, not the stripped back Helmut style. A sexier ‘90s hair feels right.
JA: Those little strut strands that you pull down!
LH: Slut strands! [laughs].
JA: When you do an updo. Those are my favourite. Kate Moss used to do it. She had a low bun with the strands. Let me trademark “Slut Strands,” and then you can talk about it [laughs].