5 March 2024

In Memoriam: An Ode to Martin Parsons by Candy Shaw

It is with much heartfelt sadness that Estetica Magazine shares the news of the passing of hairdressing icon Martin Parsons. In this touching ode, her friend Candy Shaw reflects on the passing of Martin and the huge impact he had on a generation of hairdressers around the world.

If you looked up ‘Hair Icon’ in the Dictionary there would be a photo of Martin Parsons. A true gentle “man” in every sense of the word, Martin was a hairdressers hairdresser.

He loved to teach and inspire both the newcomer and the veteran in the classic arts of upstyling and elegance. Typically, I would not use the word Grace to describe a man but this Gentle Giant was the most graceful hairdresser I ever met or witnessed work a stage. And work a stage he did…!  Better than anyone, to standing-room-only crowds filled with ‘Martin’s Groupies’ who were wowed by his hands, warmed by his personality and tickled by his jokes. I was just that, a Martin Groupie who couldn’t wait to share a hug backstage as often as possible.

When you travel the show circuit year after year you develop a ROAD Family. Martin was the Ring Leader! In our model prep rooms where we are known to share everything from hairspray to models, Martin always loved a visit from a friend. He was never seen in anything but a well-tailored suit and tie. He respected our craft in a way that made us all want to be better and do better. He could make you laugh at the silliest things and he used to joke that after smiling all day from all the fan photos his teeth were stuck to his lips, like Mr. Ed the talking horse. He loved to poke fun at himself, a quality I so admired. 

Martin was painfully private outside the spotlight. We would sometimes have dinner together over the phone as he never went to bed late or attended the hair parties. If you were lucky enough to find your way into his inner circle you considered yourself Parsons royalty. His brother Kent was the man behind Martin’s Brand. He was his voice off stage and revered his brother fiercely. I always revered Martin for his no-nonsense teaching methods.  As an educator it is not hard to separate the ‘treasures from the trash’. And Martin was a gem! In many ways, the Crown Jewel. He shined bright in the lives of many including mine. 

After admiring him from afar for years (today we call it stalking), I finally gathered up the courage to call him and invite him to Atlanta to shoot with me. It had been a dream of mine for years to learn from this iconic man and much to my surprise he graciously obliged. I promised to handle everything from models, photography, location and wardrobe if he would just come and jam with me for two days. When Martin arrived he was dressed in his trusted suit and carried a tool bag the size of a doctor’s kit. In that defining moment I realized Martin Parsons needed no fanfare, no little ‘hairtricks’ full of extensions or photo retouching. His work was poetry. He was a maestro of the Art. 

He never forgot why he became an educator, he always wanted to leave our industry in a better place than he found it. Martin, if you are listening, just know you did just that my dear friend. I will miss you and the influence you had on all of us. You were as PURE as they come. Martin never cared about awards or accolades. He cared about the student and how to make women look and feel beautiful.

We owe him so much for the things he taught us. But his greatest lesson was to never stop loving the ‘Art of Hairdressing’ and to pay your gifts forward. Martin Parsons was the original influencer. My life is better for having known and loved him. 

By Candy Shaw


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