Howard McLaren has been an influencer in many modern movements since the 1970’s. He appeared on my radar in 2007 - with Bumble and bumble.
He’s earned his street cred – as a punkster moon-lighting as a pirate, and now as a rogue. It’s hard to touch on all of his accomplishments before losing you in the waves of titles and accreditations.
I have a lot of respect for Howard McLaren. He’s not become a sell-out. I’ve always found him to be a true artist. So, for me, it’s good to check in from time to time to see what he's coming up with next. He’s one of those I can relate to and be inspired by.
With my favorite accomplice (Jo) riding shotgun, we had a very caffeinated sojourn from the Rogue Valley to San Francisco. We made a turn-around venture - to The City of my roots - with one or two things in mind; a look behind the scenes and a century of Bob inspiration.
He too arrived by the way of automobile - from his new hometown, Los Angeles – it’s a bit longer of a drive than we endured. He made us laugh with stories of questionable behavior - regarding vehicles and speed. I never mentioned that, I too, have a penchant for testing limitations; just appreciated the exchange… After some time I had to break the news that, in fact, we had come on “assignment” and wondered if he would lend us his commentary for a few questions I had prepared. We had just watched the live hair demonstration that he so expertly delivered for his now brand R+Co. The Golden Gate Bridge - a mix of wind, a vivid sunset and fog - provided a backdrop for our conversation.
He speaks a lot of reinvention, which I like. Personally, he’s reinvented himself many times to stay ahead of the “industry” - detecting a hint of disdain in his voice. For me, when I think of reinvention, I think it’s important to not be afraid of what I really enjoy and do that; especially, if what I prefer is a bit unconventional. Howard is not the most conventional, either. #TheReset
You can tell Howard is a well learned man with technical skills and intuition to match. You understand the draw if you’ve ever come face to face with him; whether it’s via YouTube, Hair Stories, The Reset, through education, or in person…He’s a force.
Howard McLaren: Interview
by MJ Scheve
MJ: What R+Co product do you find yourself using most - on and off stage?
HMc: My favorite product I made is High Dive. It’s the most successful product we have. I just knew it was going to be great. You can comb it and leave it and your hair feels like you didn’t just wash it. So you have, not a dirty look, but a sort of lived-in look. It’s our favorite, my favorite for my clients and for me….
MJ: What do you recommend for individuals who have minimal time to spend on their hair? Is it important to invest in a good product? Or cut?
HMc: I mean, either you get a short haircut which is just rubbing some Badlands or some Control into it. Or long hair. Long hair can be quite simple, ponytails. And that’s just a shampoo, maybe something to stop the frizz, if you’ve got frizz. It’s really finding that cut. A haircut that can be high maintenance can be a pain in the ass for someone who’s not ready for it. So you have to be careful that way.
MJ: Do you believe there is a bob for everyone?
HMc: No. You know, there’s a length for everybody. Maybe it’s a line that’s not a bob, no… I don’t think so. But in saying that I had a girl two weeks ago who wasn’t right for a bob and she wanted that bob and she made it work! There’s a bob for everyone - who wants it. Cause you’re going to have to work it. And I gave her a very severe one, there was a contrast you know, in her face and the lengths. But she worked it. And that was it… and it was great. You can never say “no” in hairdressing because the next minute someone will be like ‘Oh, look what I got’ and you’re like ‘Oh, wow… Okay.’ …But bob’s for the average person? Who just want to be simple? You gotta be really careful with the length. It can be… upsetting cause you’ll have to work it… and if you’re not ready for it...
MJ: When did you find your creative voice?
HMc: I was in Paris and I realized that I wasn’t really good as a hairdresser - like, dressing hair. That’s when I started learning hairdressing. French twists, hair, balance, product control. Then I felt that was my turning point, in my career. And it was also working with great Art Directors on magazines who made you look at the whole thing. I always looked at the heads. And when they’d make me come back and look at everything… the hair isn’t the most important; but everything’s important. That was really the ‘a-ha’ moment for me; so, photography. It’s a great way to do it. You can see it and you can comment on it. You can say ‘ah f--k, I wish I’d done this or that, that way’. But you’ve got documentation now.
MJ: Industry" average is approximately 2-5 years for stylists. What motivates you to keep doing hair year after year?
HMc: I think I’m a very curious person and I still haven’t done what I’m supposed to do in hairdressing so I’m still finding what, you know, where is it? You’re always looking for, not what’s next, but where you are and how do you move forward, so sometimes you reinvent yourself. But being aware of what you can do is so important. Instead of thinking you can do something and then you can’t.
MJ:You have mentioned your love for playing synthesizers. Do you write music?
HMc: Actually, I do, yeah I’m actually doing an installation for David Lynch - his installation in L.A in October. So I create these soundscapes. It’s what I do, the very first thing in the morning. Right when I wake up I work on music, it’s when I’m the most clear.
MJ:What time do you wake up?
HMc: Usually, when the light comes up. I live in a glass house so... usually, 6am.
MJ: How essential do you believe travel is to one’s success in life?
HMc: I mean, personally I think it’s up to each individual. For me, it’s so important to see different cultures. Even the hair, like mullets are great in Spain because they have great hair for a mullet, but they don’t work here. You know, so when you travel you get to just experience culture. Even through food. But it’s really how you find out how a city is running by the food that they’re serving and who’s there.
MJ: Do you cook?
HMc: I do, yeah. I like to eat and uh people would call me a ‘foodie’ but I don’t take pictures of the shit.
MJ: What do you eat for breakfast?
MJ: Nothing!?! Coffee? Tea?
HMc: If I’m too lazy to go and get it; then nothing - just some water.
MJ: What's an upcoming trend you'd love to see take-off?
HMc: I think crimping hair is really cool. I liked it back when, in the 80’s and stuff. And I think there’s lots of ways how to do it. You saw Mary – crimping, just in the front and on the bottom (of the hair). So it’s again, taking old tools and rethinking how to use them.
...Like we learned during the live demonstration.
MJ: Looking forward... What's next for R+Co?
HMc: We started really getting into conditioning the scalp and the hair; so, treatments. We tend to tear the hair up a lot with products, buildup; we have to give people the stuff to help them use the products but also take care of the scalp, because that’s the root of everything. Which, we just launched the product “Crown” it will come out in the next couple of weeks.
More Later… xo
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