The Salon Solved It – no shape, no style, no clue!

Getting your dream cut can be a bit like having access to a secret club, complete with codewords and inside references. Currently locked out of hair heaven, we sent Deborah Murtha to Metropolis Hairdressing in Kingston upon Thames to decode her look with the help of Robert Masciave

I’ve never had a distinct style for my hair. It just sort of… hung there, often thrown up into a bun to disguise its lack of shape. Sure, I’ve moved my parting from centre to side and the length has yo-yoed from shoulder to mid-back, but that’s where any semblance of proper styling ends. I’ve always had the same issue with cuts – I don’t know what I should be asking for. I don’t know what shape my face is – Heart? Oval? HORSE? – and thus what would suit it. I have fine hair, so apparently I should ask for a blunt cut, only to hate the harsh look of it. It might be fine but there’s plenty of it, until a request for layers leaves me in a wispy, static state. Frustrated, I chopped it all off into a lob about 18 months ago, but missed the versatility that length gives. Which brings us to now – a grown-out, one-length mass. Help!

My usual vague request of ‘a bit off the length and some shaping’ can result in pretty much anything, making me even more nervous about going in for a cut. Too many stylists have just nodded sagely and whisked me off to the backwash without any word of what they’re actually planning to do to me. Occasionally I’ll stumble out of a salon with a style I actually like, only to realise I have no idea what they did and thus can’t ask for it again.

Realising that (as a grown woman) this is getting ridiculous, I decided that I needed an expert eye to tell me, once and for all, what it is I should be asking for. I made my way to Metropolis Hairdressing in Kingston-Upon-Thames to meet Robert Masciave, whose career has been built on exactly these skills. His expert cutting method – the ‘Visagiste’ technique – takes into account a client’s hair, body, face shape and personal style, as well as her personality and lifestyle.

Could he finally be the one to help me?

Robert’s broad grin as he approached instantly put me at ease. Once I was seated in front of a sleek vanity, he paused to have a look at my current look while asking how I usually like to style it. Letting me nervously babble about my current shape and styling history, he reserved full judgement until after seeing my hair’s natural texture and movement post-wash. “I think layers, definitely, to work with the natural movement, and with your face shape,” was his opening appraisal.

“What is my face shape?” I blurted out, desperate for any magic word to use in the future (hopefully he couldn’t see the panic in my eyes). He patiently explained that my face is oval in shape (hallelujah!) and that I really wouldn’t need anything drastic to have a great look. Small tweaks and knowing what to ask for is all it takes. Shortening the front would bring my jawline forward, as well as accenting my cheekbones – “Nothing too short, we don’t want a disconnection from the rest of the hair,” he added, almost as if he’d seen the evidence from my teen years (it wasn’t a good look). “What I want to do is give you something that gives you many options for the way you style it, whether it’s straight or wavy.” I could have wept from relief – he seemed to instinctively know what I wanted.

At 5’2” I normally hate having my hair washed because I struggle to comfortably get my head in the basins, but Metropolis’ chairs lift and tilted me back to the perfect spot. The lovely assistant Sam gave my hair a double-wash and condition with Kérastase Nutritive Bain Satin, then a quick head massage and spritz of a detangler, before I was whisked back to Robert.

Combing through, Robert told me about his work in education and his new ‘e-cutting’ course, which is all about the same issues I’ve had – how to style and shape hair so it’s individualistic. “It’s not like buying shoes. You can’t just say ‘that’s my size’, hair doesn’t work like that. It’s up to the hairdresser to translate – that’s why I set up this education. Your words are just clues, and from that we have to figure out what will work. Sometimes people don’t know how to describe their haircut, so it’s up to us.”

Rather than just starting to snip away, Robert made sure that we were settled and agreed on a base length. He then explained that adding just a few layers would help lift and give movement, but not so much that it removes the thickness at the back. His focus was mainly on shaping around the front. Unlike the harsh, razor-like blunt cuts that I’ve hated previously, the ends were gently softened. When it came to shaping the front he switched out his scissors to his own e-blade design, using them in all sorts of shapes and positions to get the perfect gentle gradient, beginning at my jawline. He took his time, seeing how the hair changed as it dried and adapting his cut accordingly.

It’s hard to explain the result, but I think my huge smile spoke for itself. It was nothing new, and yet it was – all the aspects of haircuts past, but finessed and carefully designed to properly accentuate my features. As a blow-and-go kinda gal, Robert’s layering gives me the lift and flicks that make it look like I’ve spent 30 minutes instead of three on it or a sleek, chic waterfall of hair should I choose to straighten it. With a weight figuratively and literally lifted off my shoulders, I practically skipped out into the sunlight, armed with the magic words and know-how I’ve always wanted.