Long-time stylist cuts through myths about the maintenance of long hair

July 31, 1991|By Jean Patteson | Jean Patteson,Orlando Sentinel

To George Michael, shoulder-length hair is short.

If your hair tumbles to your waist well, it's getting there. But to really qualify as long in his book or in his Madison Avenue salon your hair would have to hang at least below your buttocks.

The longest hair the 72-year-old stylist and hair-care specialist has ever worked on was 10 feet long.

Think of it: hair down to your heels, plus another 4 or 5 feet left over to trail behind you on the ground.

And think about the time you'd have to spend taking care of hair that length. Or even half that length.

"But if you have long hair, you cannot hate it. You love it. And because of this love affair, you enjoy taking care of it," says Michael.

Born in Russia, Michael trained to be a doctor, writing his thesis on hair. But after moving to New York in 1951, he decided to combine his medical knowledge and artistic talents and open a hair salon. His clients include Crystal Gayle, Judy Collins, Faye Dunaway and Liv Ullmann.

His motto: If you have long hair, we love you; if you want to grow it long, we help you.

"We believe in hair on the head, not on the floor," Michael said.

In his salons, any lock longer than 3 inches must not be allowed to fall to the floor. It must be collected, tied with a ribbon and stored in an envelope out of "respect" for the hair.

He does shorten long hair quite drastically on occasion. (His record is 7-foot tresses to chin-length.) "But we're not scissor-happy. When a woman says she wants her long hair cut, the first thing I do is try to change her mind," he said.

Now that's something that doesn't happen in every salon.

Now that's something that doesn't happen in every salon.

Michael is quick to come to the defense of the older long-haired woman.

"Who says a grandmother can't wear her hair long and loose? Who says it has to be short and curly?" demanded Michael. His wife, who is in her 60s, still has hair to the back of her knees.

Short hair actually makes you look older because all the little points of hair focus attention on unwanted wrinkles around the eyes, mouth and forehead, he said. It also makes the scalp show through and the hair appear thinner.

But long hair "is majestic on an older woman. It will do much to downplay wrinkles, especially if the line of the hair is going up in a flip or upswept style," he said.

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