Today, November 20th 2020 marks hair icon Michael Haase’s 50th anniversary in the Hairdressing Industry. To celebrate his incredible life and inspiring professional journey we asked Michael to compile 50 short episodes that tell the amazing story of an extraordinary artist… Enjoy the ride, happy reading!
1. Growing up in the circus in Europe I was prive to shapes, colors and creativity from the entire circus family. They cared about each other and supported each other, very similar to a creative team today in hairdressing.
2. My grandfather was a Gypsy King and ran the traveling circus from city to city and country to country. He said to me “I will teach you to fly, you will bleed, but you will fly.” When I was 6 I began Trapeze. Followed by high speed acrobatic roller skating on a 6’ circular platform my father built.
3. Arriving in America and moving to Santa Monica I needed to make friends and the rebels were something I felt comfortable with. The Zephyr skateboard team really taught me again about survival and hot to get from the beach to Westwood by hanging onto the back of a blue bus on our boards.
4. Things were tough, I loved photography in school but sucked at everything else, the kids were spoiled, I was a loner, if you didn’t have money you weren’t in that group and if you didn’t have a girl you weren’t in this group. Difficult surviving those years is putting it mildly.
5. I left home to go to Woodstock in 1969, an amazing adventure. I didn’t have a problem traveling on a dime, I’d been doing that most of my life and hitch hiking was no big deal in those days.
6. While there, I met a photographer who was shooting the concert and he allowed me to carry his equipment from time to time – Francesco Scavullo really secured my love for the lens. Very well known for shooting B/W images of celebrities in those days, an honor to have met him.
7. He introduced me to an odd man, an artist of sorts, who allowed me to stay at his loft, to my surprise much later I realized Andy Warhol was the tenant. He had such a strange way of looking at things, really made me feel I found a home.
8. The models that would show up at the loft were amazing, each with their own quirky personality and each had these amazing shapes on their heads, I couldn’t do hair yet but there was something there for me.
9. Andy’s relationship with Vidal Sassoon was incredibly unique, their comradery and visions were in sync yet so different.
10. It was at that time I felt I should give hairdressing a shot. My stepfather was a hairdresser but he had other plans on how to train me, I wanted to do what I saw at the loft and dress in those amazing clothes they had, I want to hang out with those people, so.
11. Coming back to LA, I enrolled in beauty school, it was a mom and pop school named Charles Ross in West Hollywood. Within my second week, this was it, 62 girls, 6 boys and me. How could you not enjoy those odds?
12. There was one girl who I really liked, she also had these amazing tiny scissors she was working with and doing things I’d never seen.
13. I found out she was takin private classes with her boyfriend who worked at Vidal Sassoon on Rodeo Dr. in Beverly Hills.
14. She actually invited me to go with her one evening because she needed a way to get me out of her life. I would leave her alone, “please, I’d like to see the salon,” I would say to her. Finally, she took me with her on class night one Thursday.
15. The artists were assigned to teach a week at a time with the apprentices, it was a sight to see.
16. Walking out of the elevator into a glass filled hallway with white light and chocolate brown stations, everyone looked like they knew the secret and no one could compete. This was for me for sure.
17. And, so it began, I wanted to be a hairdresser at Vidal Sassoon – God I was naïve. I had no clue what my future would look like but, just like the Trapeze – if I practice, I could be great.
18. I did have a struggle during my education because my teachers in beauty school said to put my scissors in my right hand, this was odd. I have always been ambidextrous with everything I do and this was not cool.
19. I received my license on a Wednesday at 10am, and headed to Sassoon, walked up to reception and stated, “I’m here to get a job”, the girl behind the desk must have thought I was and idiot with how I looked.
20. We didn’t call it homeless in those days but I lived in my car the first 18 months and got left over discarded clothing from Salvation Army. I had flannel forest green pants with cuffs that rose to my ankles, my shirt was this Easter time lavender with a paisley tie, topped of with a strange green and brown baseball jacket and white shoes with 1-inch elevation. Disco baby.
21. She probably thought the circus just got into town well, she was partially correct.
22. She informed me the person to speak with was not there yet and I could wait in reception. I waited for hours – actually, for hours for 3 days and then this man walked in, impeccably dressed, shoes shined to a military standard and he walked to the front desk, had a few words and came to me.
23. After being there all day for 3 days he stated I could not be there anymore and I would have to leave, I was also grateful he didn’t see me wearing the same clothes 3 days in a row.
24. I stood up and told the man, “I’m waiting for Mr. Sassoon.” He stated “I’m Vidal Sassoon”.
25. Oh man, I can’t tell you how fast I got up and brushed my Flock of Seagulls bangs to one side to appear presentable.
26. I said, “Mr. Sassoon, I went to beauty school because of you, I know because I’ve seen the world in the world of the Circus, I am confident I can do this. Please give me a chance, I won’t let you down because I won’t let myself down.”
27. On November 20, 1970 I began my journey with the most incredibly supportive individuals of their time.
28. I grew through the ranks quite quickly because I would come in early to practice and stay late even though it was not expected. I just loved what I was doing and there was someone who believed in me.
29. During my apprenticeship, one evening in class which we had every Tuesday and Thursday from 6pm to midnight, one of my mentors said, “Why are you cutting with your right hand?”. I said, “My teacher told me no one cuts left-handed”, and it was that evening that all the lights went on.
30. I could do my work in comfort and spend my time studying shape, design and the concept of balance not having to think if I will still have knuckles left of that I needed more band aids. LOL.
31. And so it began, I started on the floor 18 months later and was gifted my first suite from the staff that took up a collection to help me dress as a ‘Sassoony’ as they called it. Grateful isn’t a strong enough word, they cared about me, they guided me toward a successful future, they helped me understand myself as a student and as a hairdresser.
32. My new goal was the artistic team – they travelled and they looked great. In my third year I was tested and had to do a presentation for the entire salon, I wish I had my old green outfit – it absorbed sweat a lot better.
33. In my 7th year I began having a need to learn more and so color came into my life. Vidal sent me to London to study and apprentice with Annie Humphreys – Oh my God did she make me cry, but I learned.
34. Returning from Europe it was the MTV party here in LA and we were busy working on some of the most iconic videos to date: Duran Duran, Robert Palmer, The Cars, Roxette, Billy Idol and more, so exciting to have had the opportunity.
35. A few years later I returned to Paris to work with Louis Alexandre Raimon better known as Alexandre de Paris for the study of high-end Parisian hair and structure for shape and form. I was requested in my training, to remove the hair pins from Louis’s client, wash them and put them in order back on the counter on top of a zanex strip so he might replace them for her French twist. As naïve as I was, I later learned it was Princess Grace (Grace Kelly), she said I had good hands and I replied, “Thank you Madam.”
36. As time went along, I returned to LA and began rebuilding once again, also I decided to get into competition which actually began with haircutting contests in the Queen Mary Main Ballroom. I secured 14 first place events until it got very political and favoritism showed it face so, I quit.
37. I began my teaching in the previous years – I’d say my 5th year at Sassoon and so being an educator was a new high. To see a stylist’s eyes open wide in excitement that they finally got it is a sight to see, I recommend it to everyone.
38. Fashion week, photo shoots, magazine covers, global travel and location shoots were all the rage in the late 80’s and early 90’s and I was always at the front door. I have to say before cell phones all our jobs were through land lines, shaking hands and making a good impression – that still stands for me today. You need to work hard and have professional manners I believe, to make it in this craft today.
39. I worked with a company’s in my time – Schwarzkopf, Framesi and so on… it gave me a well-rounded feeling of the chemistry differences of color. I can’t even imagine cutting someone’s hair without coloring it, or the other way around.
40. I was working with Cristophe in Beverly Hills when I thought, well, I’m spending a lot of money – why not open a salon, so, Platinumblack was born in the village of Brentwood, LA.
41. I remember auditioning for Cristophe with a haircut – oh, it was such a hoot. There were 3 other stylists trying for the position and I felt I could pull this off. I reached out to one of my most creative long-haired clients and asked her to model for me. As Cristophe walked around checking everyone’s haircut with his oversized comb, he came to me. He put his hands behind his back and stated “very nice”. There was no way to check that cut except visually – I smiled all the way home, drank and went to bed, waking with a smile that I am working at Cristophe. I always admired the folks I worked for and always had a lot of respect for what they built and the dream they created.
42. To be a part of the artistic team at Sassoon, Vidal asked me to write my definition of the word “vision”. And so, the Platinumblack theory came to be. It states, “Platinum being the lightest color and black being the darkest, we go through our journey as hairdressers studying and practicing until we succeed a finished piece that is Platinumblack.” It’s perfect.
43. My friends and colleagues always told me it was pretty profound for someone so young to come up with the theory – however, I give the credit the amazing weed we had in those days. LOL.
44. I had built a team of 17 and wow was it a learning experience and just as the salon grew to notoriety, I met an amazing man who was the lead at Wella Professionals – his name was Fabio Sementilli. We had a little chat which of course lasted over an hour.
45. It’s funny I have always gone over the top to show my skills and Wella was no different. Fabio told me I had to audition and I needed to do at least 2 or 3 models for presentation… of course, I gave them a 1 ½ hour fashion show with 12 colored, cut and styled models, hahaha. It blew them away and it was so much fun.
46. Being a top artist with Wella allows me to share the most recent innovations and trends but also lets me share my skill through the history I was part of, which most hairdressers are not prive to. It’s always a pleasure to share my knowledge, the people I have met and the smiles I get to see, and it’s always fun to learn from them as well.
47. Spare time, well, today its designing new ideas in my so-called Bat cave, (the garage) and hitting the beach on my board, traveling as well will always be in my sole.
48. My Gypsy grandfather once told me before my first performance on Trapeze, “Do what you have trained for, do not ever show pain or weakness when the stage is waiting for you and finish for those watching to want more.”
49. I’ve tried to lead my career with that, who knows what the future will bring but I’m planning the next decade since it’s only a few months away. All I can say is stay tuned, the launch of “Sanctuary” is the next adventure and I hope everyone will like it. I do miss travel and teaching and as we work through these times, I know it will be back, we need to pass it forward what made this industry what it was and can be again. We are professional hairdressers.
50. History has given me a lot of opportunities and I am so grateful that the artists that saw something in me gave me a chance to show what is capable from anyone. We show up early, stay late, sweep the floor, wash the heads, and enjoy this amazing thing called HAIRDRESSING.