Monday, May 22, 2006


Finding Neverland -- My Quest for the Bygone Haircut

I don't go around believing that a hair-cutter can make me look like Johnny Depp. I, sir, am no Johnny Depp. But I have thick, straight hair -- I know that I can have this haircut:

Depp in Finding Neverland.

I have tried mightily to get this haircut. For years, I've tried to describe this haircut to salon stylists. After I saw Finding Neverland, I've actually starting showing this photo of Depp to the hair cutters. Without fail, I've wound up with not the Johnny Depp haircut.

Instead, hair stylists have invariably given me this:


If I say, "No! It needs to be shorter at the sides and back!" they proceed to "fix" it with their knee-jerk blending and layering, making it too short at the top and bangs:


More recently, I've tried going to barbers. My theory is that Johnny Depp's haircut was the standard men's haircut for the first six decades of the 20th century. Back in the day, any barber on main street in any city or town in the U.S.A. could give you this haircut. I figure that a barber, particularly an older one, is going to be genetically programmed to give me this haircut.

Today, I went back for the fourth time to Tom the barber. I keep going back because he comes the closest to this haircut. Close but not that close. Tom's in his late 60s and has been barbering for years, but he doesn't have that old barber-shop quickness and confidence that I remember from my childhood. Back then, it seemed, barbers whipped out the electric shears and mowed you down, and then got out the scissors and set about your hair with a "snip-snip-snip-snip-comb, snip-snip-snip-snip-comb," at the quick staccato pace of a sou-chef cutting a carrot.

Tom minces around my head gingerly, like "the new girl at the salon." I silently urge him on, trying to wind up with "the Depp haircut" by sheer force of will, with tightened abdominal muscles and held breath -- as if I were trying to will Mets closer Billy Wagner to get that last hitter out in the ninth inning.

But it's always the same. Tom gives me what I call the standard "shopping mall" haircut. It looks sort of like this --

-- but you can actually get a better look at it in the "Supercuts Style File," here. It's style number 001, modelled by "Tobias." (You can rotate Tobias and see the back and sides by clicking on him -- way cool!!)

This last time, I told Tom, "It needs to be shorter at the sides and back." To which he responded, "but that won't be the picture you showed me!"

Tom's barber programming has been displaced. If he ever did the 1950s and early '60s standard men's cuts, he beat that knowhow out of himself as he retooled for the longer 70s-style haircuts (which he probably learned in the mid-'80s). And that's all he can do now -- longer or shorter versions of that. It's like the way old men, now in their 70s, 80s and 90s, still wear the horrible clothes they bought in the late 1970s rather than the now-hip retro styles of their youngers days in the 40s through 60s.

Tom obliges and takes the electric shears to the back and sides. And, as usual, I end up with a rough approximation of my haircut. Very rough -- it looks like I have two separate haircuts, one at the back and sides, and another top and front, that don't mesh. It's an effect so strange that his ability to replicate this haircut on my successive visits to him is perversely impressive.

People say to me: "you'd think a trained hair cutter could look at a picture and give you that haircut." You'd think so. But I now see it differently.

Johnny Depp's hair stylist for Finding Neverland is some highly skilled "haircut historian," who does the same kind of researched recreations done by the costume and set designers, with whom he teams up.

The haircutters I go to basically know a small handful of basic haircuts -- half a dozen or fewer -- and can only give you those, making their repertoire look bigger with miniscule variations on the basic theme, or with lots of holding gel. Asking them to do something different is like asking your Ford auto mechanic to fix your foreign car engine. The skills are not as generalizable as you think.

Though I'm a woman, I have a great stylist in Middleton that does good men's hair, too. She used to cut my friend's in the same style you're seeking. Nicole at Revolution.
Never thought I'd be so interested in a post about men's hairstyles. Didn't realize that both sexes had hairstyle angst. Cool.
As a fan of George Foreman grills and various Ronco products, you might be ready for another miracle of late night television: the Flowbee haircutting system! Basically, it is a vacuum cleaner with some whirling recessed blades. Just stick it on your head and your hair is pulled by vacuum force to stand out straight from your scalp, and then the whirring blades will cut each strand to a uniform length -- with all the clippings sucked right into the vacuum cleaner. And you can do it yourself!

So much for Tom the Barber, another victim of technological progress.


p.s. I should warn you that this never quite took off on the market, so it is now marketed for pet grooming as well....

kzoxzju -- the sound of a sneeze (kuh - zzaahh - ZHoo!)
Before you go get the Flowbee, watch a recent Penn & Teller's "Bull$hit" about hair, that features someone actually trying to use one of those things.

What you really need to do, if you are set on that particular hairstyle, is find out who the stylist was for "Finding Neverland" which I believe is Nathalie Tissier, according to the IMDB ("hairstylist for Mr. Depp"), and either go to her salon (if she has one) or get her to provide you with better photographs of the hairstyle that you can then take around to the locals.

I've given up on getting a good haircut. Ever since Ralph divorced my sister-in-law. Divorces are hard on kids, but it's harder when half of the couple splitting up is the only person you'd trust to do something decent with your hair.

mzxemoin - (mizz-eh-moyn) an additional seating tier, between the loge and the mezzanine
A man has to have goals, and this is an admirable (although unattainable?) one.

Good to know that the "make me look like this" doesn't work for people besides me.

xovxi -- don't know what it means, but man, would I clean up in Scrabble with this one!
One other thing: Depp's hair in that movie is most likely a wig. Just saying...

Oh, and Quinn: I think your word is 10-5-9

ghgmv - (gig MV)
1. A Billion-Million Volts
2. The truck a band uses to get to gigs.
Gah. I'm dislexic. I meant to say:

Maybe the secret is in the styling process. Not that I know anything about hair. I have horrible luck at salons.

"lsatmro": this is what someone says the evening before they take their law school entrance exams.
I had hair years ago.
This post received more comments than your shameless cat post.

Photos of hot men = hits/comments.
I asked for the "early Keanu Reeves" cut. I got "very gay Prince Valiant." So I went back to get it fixed, and was saddled with "Opie on a high-humidity Sunday in Mayberry." Complete strangers pointed and laughed. My children shunned me. I feel your pain.

rytth - the primary ingredient in risotto, as pronounced by a teenager with extensive orthodontic apparatus.
Many years ago my boyfriend asked me to give him a haircut. The result was a disastrous Prince Valiant look. What's worse, he was a construction worker, and caught an amazing amount of grief over that hair cut. He wore a hat for almost a month and our sex life suffered for about the same amount of time....


inrtggv - inert gigavolt -- also known as a defective NASA space shuttle battery
During the summer of '88, I got my hair cut at a fancy salon in NYC. At the time, I was trying to grow out a hairstyle -- basically a curly version of the female mullet. (Hey, it was the 80s!) All I asked the stylist to do was to cut the back but not to cut any hair off the top or sides. Could my instructions have been any simpler? So, what did she do? The exact opposite of what I requested. Bitch!

That cut set me back over 2 months in my effort to grow out my hair. By the time I got home, I was in tears. Sobbing.

P.S. This is comment #13, not that you're counting.
My philosophy is simple: the fancier the bowl, the fancier the cut.

alqzyg (al-KEE-cig): why not destroy your liver and lungs at the same time?
I just looked at your faculty photo on the net. What you need is not a haircut but a comb.

As an avid Depp fan and master stylist with 30 years experience, I'd love a shot at this. if you walked into my salon, I'd be in my glory if you asked to look like that.
Thanks, everyone, for all the great tips. Particularly the anonymous haircutter. Can I find you in the Yellow Pages?

Neel, you crack me up.

Welcome, everyone from Deppography, the Johnny Depp Fan Blog.
Well Oscar, if you're ever on Cape Cod, look up Center Stage Salon in the phonebook. Ask for the Depp fan, they'll know. :-D
One more thing--as I look again at your pic--your hair is much heavier and nore tenacious than Johnny's. Johnny's hair will bend, your's is loathe to do so. See if you can get a stylist to use a hair shaping razor to lighten up your texture and encourage your hair to bend. And tell them, better to leave the front/fringe area too long, and have to cut more later. I hope this helps.
Yeah it helps... not anywhere around here -- I'm heading out to the Cape!
Yeah, Steven, come on down. You have extremely healthy looking, very nice hair by the way.
Hope you don't mind paying $23.00. and making an appointment.
You get what you pay for?
How timely -- I just today got a $30 haircut after walking in with this Depp/Secret Window picture torn out of an Esquire piece specifically on styles. It says to tell the stylist "to the collar, layered top and sides" (I came in after not getting a cut for about a year) and I'll be damned if I didn't walk out with something similarly Valiant and poofy. I mean, it's not bad if it's pretty swept back, but maybe the trick is to get the sides shortened/thinned/layered a little more? Or something? Christ, I don't know. And this stylist is a massive Depp fan. My life is ruined.
I was going to look for that cut as well. Instead and as a result of having read your column, I now think I'll just do what I always do.. sit down, close my eyes, and hope for the best.
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