The cut

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Post-summer styling sends everyone into a sartorial meltdown, but these lifelong devotees to long hair went the extra step for a new season style

'''''[[[ Click here to get 25% off a cut, colour or styling service at Atelier Liberty]]]'''''

When was the last time you went for it? I mean really went for it. A haircut that is. Not a trim; a chop. Mine was 16 years ago. Bar a switch from a side to middle parting and a three-year fling with lightened ends (the colour for commitment phobes), the last time I did anything drastic to my hair – like, say, cut it – I was 12.

People just don’t get their haircut anymore. Cascading, graduated lengths have been the Holy Grail for so long we’ve almost forgotten what a cut actually is. Call it a by-product of the GHD-era (the first thing I did with my student loan was buy a pair) but glance around your office and I bet 90% of the women have long, straight hair. A gorgeous yet styleless glossy comfort blanket flung around their shoulders. We’ve turned into a nation of hair clones. But as we segue into a new season, one thing is becoming apparent. The haircut is having a renaissance. It started with the models: first Arizona Muse, then Daria Werbowy and Lindsey Wixson. But when Karlie Kloss hacked those swingy Victoria’s Secret waves into a choppy, blunt bob it was on.

Note actress Jennifer Connelly’s recent jaw-length bob and Coco Rocha’s ‘Tilda-inspired’ crop – there is nothing more youth-ifying or attention-grabbing than a proper haircut. Beyoncé will vouch for that. We’ve been conditioned to think long, flowing hair is the feminine ideal and not just by Disney. Long hair has played a role in our self-image since ancient history; in the Garden of Eden, Eve’s hair is depicted cascading down her back, while Cleopatra’s thick, black locks are associated with female sensuality. But it’s 2013 and time to break this ancient notion of attractiveness – because nothing can breathe new life into your look in the same way.

With this in mind Stylist sent six women for a hair intervention with two of the world’s greatest hair experts: Josh Wood, Wella’s global colour director (and the man Elle Macpherson flew out to gloss over her pre-wedding roots) and George Northwood, hair stylist to Alexa Chung and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (two of the world’s most requested haircuts). Their mission? To prescribe the perfect haircut, taking into account everything about the individual: their job, their commute, if they go to the gym, as well as their eye and skin colour. A proper haircut is image changing. Turn over for the big reveal.


Samantha before:

My long hair was my defining feature but we weren’t without our spats; lack of volume, laborious styling and constant up-keep came between us. I had talked about cutting it for years but it was time to put my money where my mouth was. But I was terrified. Colourwise, my grown-out ombré was nothingy but I couldn’t be doing with the commitment root touch-ups require.

George says:

I bluntly cut six inches off the ends to create a simple, one-length shape but then added discreet layers, carefully slicing through the midlengths and ends with sharp scissors. This meticulous process of calculated weight removal breaks up the hair and adds Alexa-like texture; Sam can wear it straight or tong it for a soft and wavy look.

Josh says:

Sam is low-maintenance with her colour and didn’t want anything that would require regular appointments so I used understated, subtle nuances in dark chocolate tones only slightly darker than her natural colour. Underneath the top section I added a few barely there, toffeecoloured low-lights – her hair will look as if it’s glowing from within when it hangs loose. It’s very Céline-like; expensive-looking yet nonchalant.

Samantha after:

My new hair may be a major departure from my long girly waves but it’s easier to manage and requires a lot less maintenance; it takes five minutes to blast dry after showering, barely needs any volumising products and looks better the more lived-in it is – I’ve stretched hairwashing from every two days to three. It’s breathed new life into my wardrobe, too.


Mariam before:

My hair was stuck at an annoying mid-length but I was nervous about a bob as the upkeep that comes with it terrifies me.

George says:

I created a little graduation and sliced in a sidesweeping fringe. This produces a slick shape with some movement to keep it modern.

Josh says:

Asian hair is naturally dehydrated so I used gentle tints in nutty browns which colours without drying.

Mariam after:

I love it now but I felt a little emotional when my meagre three inches were cut. As my bob took shape my hair started to look more structured, healthy and shiny.


Siobhan before:

I wanted my hair to ‘do more’ for me – emphasise my eyes or slim my face or something, anything!

George says:

Siobhan’s gamine features lend themselves to a dainty crop. I utilised the existing length on top to keep it feminine and cut it short at the sides using a razor to add ‘edge’.

Josh says:

This colour relies on a graphic haircut. I used a dovegrey toner for a softer, more celestial feel.

Siobhan after:

I’ve never had my haircut using a razor, it was so quick. It only took me a couple of hours to get used to it; I’m so happy. I love how icy the colour looks.


Jennifer before:

I hadn’t changed my hair for 10 years; I didn’t know what to do with it so I couldn’t wait to have the decision made for me.

George says:

Taking Jen’s round face shape into account, I started with a box-bob which I cut shorter, keeping the length slightly below the jawline to make her striking features the centre of attention.

Josh says:

I added buttery golden and amber shades around her face to warm up her natural colouring. These subtle tones work well for a mid-season change.

Jennifer after:

I can’t get over how different I look. It’s dishevelled, yet chic and put-together.


Elinor before: A fringe brought back bad memories of unruly, ‘flicky’ hair while going blonde reminded me of stripy highlights. Hmm.

George says:

A fringe needn’t be hard work. For hard features you need a softer, grown out style but Elinor’s soft features and thick hair can take a heavier style.

Josh says:

I used a warm wheat shade that won’t drain Elinor’s olive skin. I painted the roots a darker blonde, making the colour much easier to maintain.

Elinor after:

Surprisingly it takes no time to style. I’ve had so many compliments – the best was Jessica Alba in Sin City.


Sarah before: My previous colour was like soggy leftover cereal so I was open to a new shade. I wanted something stronger and more defining although I was scared about the cut. I’m low-maintenance; I like to wash and go so the last thing I wanted was to have to blow-dry it every morning.

George says:

There’s long and then there’s super-long to the extent that it becomes pointless. I cut the ends squarely to sharpen up the style then added a grownout fringe, sculpting a ‘wing-like’ shape around her face so it didn’t just hang. This is incredibly flattering and suits most people – it’s essentially the ‘Rosie H-W’ cut.

Josh says:

There is a shade of red to suit everyone: orange-based reds, like this, suit warmer skintones while burgundy suits cooler tones. Be warned – red has a tendency to fade fast because of its smaller molecule size. Wella Illumina’s new technology allows red pigments to last longer but eventual fade is inevitable. On Sarah’s pre-bleached hair this will actually look quite chic, fading through shades in the rose-gold and coral spectrum.

Sarah after:

When discussing my colour, Josh and Heidi [the principle technician] simultaneously quoted a dye-number. I thought, “Oh God, they’re going to experiment on me!” but I love it; I’m meant to be red. It’s the cut that I struggled with. George only took four inches off, but it felt a lot shorter. I have to admit it looks far more stylish though.

Words: Samantha Flowers | Hair Styling: George Northwood And Josh Wood | Photography: Mark Cant

Ask celebrity hairdresser George Northwood which style will suit you in our web chat on Friday, 1pm at

'''''[[[ Click here to get 25% off a cut, colour or styling service at Atelier Liberty]]]'''''


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Stylist Team