For a business transaction, your relationship with your hairdresser is surprisingly personal. If you’re lucky, it’s a blissful, lifelong commitment. If things turn sour, you might experience an emotional breakup (and usually a bad haircut). Hairstylist Michael Matheson, 58, has worked with clients at his Edmonton salon, Headlines Salon and Spa – which he co-owns with his sister, Sandra – for three decades.
“Hair is what people see,” says Matheson, in a deep, soothing voice made for radio. “And it’s the trust factor. You start developing a relationship. I think hair is 50 per cent and relationships are 50 per cent. That’s what I love about hairdressing.”
At an interview on High Street, Matheson is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the salon, which is located in Manulife Place. He has a big, friendly smile; a tall, slender frame; salt-and-pepper hair; and wears round, tortoise-shell glasses. From building a successful business and raising three kids (now ages 26, 29 and 31) in Edmonton to working with Aveda at New York Fashion Week (including styling for a Betsey Johnson show), he’s had a full, busy life in the hair and beauty industry. And he’s not done yet. Crafting what people see – from head to toe – is his calling. Theory suit from Henry Singer, Burberry vest from Holt Renfrew, Hugo Boss tie from Henry Singer, Links of London watch from Holt Renfrew
You’ve hit a career milestone. What’s next?
I could see myself working well into my 70s. I really aspire to be like some of those big-city stylists – there’s one in particular in New York who works four days a week, and loves to wake up, do what he does, and look great. I’m that guy. I don’t define myself around my work, but at the same time I do. I have a few loves in my life: my kids – first and foremost – my business, and my love, Allan, who I married earlier this year. That’s kind of it for me. I don’t have a lot of hobbies. I cook all day on Sundays. I love to entertain with friends and family, but that’s what I do. I get ready to work with my people at the salon – I love those women and men who come in every day. That keeps you a little bit on the edge; it keeps you young, because you get to work with young people. And they keep you honest. That’s the motto, man. So far no one’s called me grandpa yet, but that’s coming.
Who is your greatest inspiration when it comes to style?
I love old-school glamour and style. Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck – all were tall, slim guys who knew how to wear the hell out of a good suit. Lately, I’ve been looking to add some more contemporary influences to my personal style. I really enjoy looking to sources like the menswear featured on Scott Schuman’s The Sartorialist social media accounts. And I really enjoy Nick Wooster’s personal style – he has worked with some big retail and fashion brands like Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Calvin Klein and Polo Ralph Lauren. While I can’t pull off everything he can, I really appreciate his ability to integrate current trends with timeless styles. I like to be comfortable in clothes, but I like to be put together. Sweater from Holt Renfrew, Vince shirt from Nordstrom (Vancouver), Diesel joggers from High Grade Clothing, Blackstone boots from Holt Renfrew, Boss Orange watch from Hudson’s Bay
When it comes to dressing, what are you known for?
Shoes. I get more comments from guests [at the salon] on my shoes than anything else. I love bow ties, I love glasses, I like watches, belts, great socks. I think accessorizing is the thing.
And you wear great glasses. What are your favourite eyewear brands?
I approach glasses as a versatile accessory – they can really change your look. None of mine are crazy bold, but they do say something. I’ve got glasses by a number of designers: Anne et Valentin, Theo Eyewear, Barton Perreira and Eyewitness.
Fidelity jacket from BoysCo (Vancouver), Barton Perreira sunglasses from Smith and Wight Opticians
What are your favourite clothing brands?
Hugo Boss and Paul Smith. Both speak to quality, craftsmanship, design sensibility – and they make things that fit my long arms. I often get my clothes and shirts custom-fitted at stores like Holt Renfrew and Henry Singer. I also order shirts from Maxwell Clothiers. I like the idea of buying from those guys. I can buy a shirt for $80 that fits me well, fits my neck. It’s not easy. Those are my challenges, finding slacks and shirts. They monogram [the shirt] , complimentary, in six different colours, unbelievable selection of fabric. And a lot of women go there, too.
Do you have any style pet peeves?
Dressing comfortably, but in a size that belongs on you, is what you want. And shoes. Polish your damn shoes. Don’t buy them and think it’s a one-shot deal until they die and you buy a brand new pair, and they look great again for the first few visits that they’re on your feet. I don’t really enjoy that. Take care of your clothing. And sweaters. Pilled sweaters – not cool, man. They make machines for that. Get rid of those knots; shave that off.
Cardigan from AllSaints, Obey T-shirt from Holt Renfrew, Rag & Bone jeans from High Grade Clothing, Boss Orange watch from Hudson’s Bay
What are two hairstyles that will never go out of style?
The bob. Graduated bobs, disheveled bobs – always bobs. And now it’s a lob, a little bit longer, but beautiful on most women, almost every hair texture and every colour. In terms of men, I love the hipster vibe that’s going on right now. It’s got that old-world, Wall Street-banker look. My two boys are totally on track [with that look] .
Our hair is a defining feature. What’s it like to be a part of crafting that for someone?
I do a lot of women’s hair. I’d say 95 per cent of my clients are female. Today, and especially in my demographic, women are really very ready. There aren’t really boundaries anymore. There’s this huge era where a mature woman can wear white hair, shoulder-length hair, halfway down her back. White is sort of the new blonde. All of that works so beautifully now. I like to make women look really terrific and feel really good about themselves. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have the ability to look at a woman and say, “This is what I know will make you hotter than you already are.”
Paul Smith coat from Henry Singer, Paul Smith scarf from Holt Renfrew, John Varvatos leather gloves from Holt Renfrew