In the decades before he passed, it is highly unlikely that Oscar could have taken on some talented young player in an attempt to teach him, particularly over the course of 2 to 3 years. Sure, if this young talent was a keen student with natural abilities they definitely would have been able to learn from Mr Peterson. However, as their individual talent and intentions are likely different, the teaching process would ultimately lead the student to their own unique destination. Ultimately, there would be no guarantee this student's playing would even be appreciated or enjoyed by fans of Oscars Peterson. Aside from raw talent, desire and effort, it also takes one other important thing to obtain proficiency. Time. It takes decades to reach a level of skill that could one day be considered remarkable or masterful. There are no shortcuts, particularly when it comes to the refinement of a craft.
Fully understanding and developing the tactile skills necessary to successfully cut someone’s hair takes many years. This ultimately has to be a personal journey however someone chooses to go about it. Personally, I am a firm believer in autodidacticism. With this process of learning, one will avoid the indoctrination of bad habits and practices the industry is known for. No matter how one chooses to pursue their development, it will take countless sessions of trial and error. In this way, similar to how anyone achieves: lots and lots of practice. Paired with that period of experience-based refinement are other abilities that also take at least a decade to develop an understanding of.
So what are the overall skills that can help with becoming a masterful hairdresser? A high level of dexterity is, of course, a start. An understanding of geometry and relative space is another. Add to that a highly critical, deductive personality type and one is definitely on the right track. Things then need to shift into other areas. One must have the ability and desire to communicate well with others. Perception and emotional intelligence are both essential here. I recommend some considered reading in the principles of basic clinical psychology. Alternatively, just see a therapist yourself for a decade or so. Also helpful, is an understanding of touch. Researching and experiencing shiatsu will help greatly in that area. An overly analytical tendency is also important if that wasn't already abundantly clear. Probably the most important quality, however, is just the desire to make people happy. Positive intentions can often lead one in the correct direction. It seems simple but without that driving motivation a hairdresser will regularly come up short, pun intended.
You may be thinking, “That’s all great but you’re missing the one key ingredient, creativity!” To that, I urge caution. In fact, this is precisely where many people have got wrong. Indeed, most individuals who enter into the industry think the dominant trait one needs to possess is creativity. They think hairdressers are artists first and foremost. As my years in this industry have accumulated, I dispute this misguided thinking. Creativity is often exactly why so many clients are unhappy after a visit to a salon. With creativity as the primary driver, a hairdresser is not capable of truly seeing the person in the chair. They see hair and what they want it to become, and think little of how it will grow out. An unrefined hairdresser will often jump in with raw creativity and never look back. Yes, there needs to be some form of the creative process involved in the act of cutting someone's hair but it must be entwined with critical analysis, consideration and communication. For the haircutting process to become well developed and support a client's long term happiness, there must be a balance.
So, how and where does one find people who are both creative and intelligent critical thinkers? This is another issue entirely. It's a societal one that has multiple layers. Do parent want their child to become a hairdresser instead of attending a reputable university? How many parents actually encourage hairdressing? In many cities, hairdressing isn’t placed on the list of highly regarded vocations for intelligent individuals. Over time, this has led to a bit of social stigma. Hairdressing tends to attract people who aren’t necessarily high achievers right? It’s for drop-outs and the unmotivated. Consequently, the industry now attracts the wrong sort of candidates that could one day become quality professional. Yet, every woman desires and often complains about how there aren't any good ones out there. Apparently, good hairdressers must somehow fall out of the sky or otherwise exist by mere chance. This entire situation is not an easy situation to resolve.
To be fair, the problem is not just a lack of quality candidates. Becoming a qualified hairdresser in Australia is just too easy. In order to attract and develop more intelligent mindful hairdressers, the process needs to be more challenging. There needs to be a filter of sorts. A means of getting rid of individuals who do not exhibit the type of ideals that are in a client's best interest. Even with that though, the industry itself doesn't train up in any sort of way that would yield quality individuals upon completion. Most salons have long-held standards and practices that are the very definition of poor hairdressing. Education classes that are often organised by product companies focus on products sales, profits and trends. They are directly responsible for many of the bad habits and tactics that directly affect client satisfaction.
The conventional salon industry in this country, if not globally, has a long history of churning out insufficient and misguided talent. A lot of this has to do with the ‘artist’ mentality that was mentioned earlier. In contrast, my practice has been modelled after the various psychological and alternative health practitioners I’ve attended throughout my life. Their quality of consultation and care resonates soundly. If there is one absolute in all this it is the following. An clients relationship with their hair can have a strong physical, emotional and psychological impact on their daily life. If the statement is true, then working with them absolutely warrants much more of a considered practitioner-based approach than one that is primarily artistic in nature.
At some stage, there needs to be a shift. I'm not sure how that is going to happen. There probably should be a move away from the apprenticeship program and towards a more regulated training and licensing system. While this wouldn't guarantee more happy clients, it may start to attract more qualified intelligent individuals. It would take time. It needs to start with the the individuals who go to a salon. Clients need to be better informed and insist on a higher standard of practice. This will be difficult as clients inherently trust the hairdresser, and hairdressers typically think they know best. Admittedly, I don't have an answer at this point.
So where does that leave things? I’d gladly mentor the correct candidate. That's what I tell my clients when they ask me about apprentice training. This individual would first need to make contact and prove their intentions. In the meantime. what I am striving to do is to capture my philosophy in written form as best I can. Perhaps one day someone might be influenced in a way that helps them serve clients better. For now, I'll just keep on doing what I do best and strive to improve every day.