Here's how you can get the edgy quarantine haircut of your dreams
Dylan Chavles is offering FaceTime appointments and a chance to rock her signature styles, from the mullet she helped repopularise to Karen O's chunky side bangs.
Photos by Richie Davis and Olivia Malone.
It’s been roughly one month now (why does it feel like six?) that New York City’s been on house arrest. Some of us who have stayed — and not gone to eat home-cooked meals and drink hand-delivered glasses of wine at their parents’ house by some warm, sunny, Instagrammable beach — are dealing with it better than others. Some are even contributing their skills and time in order to better their community. One of these standouts is acclaimed hairstylist Dylan Chavles.
She got her start at the renowned hair establishment Salon Benjamin in Los Angeles, where she built an impressive reputation for her experimental cuts and styling. For instance, she’s been connected to the resurgence in mullets and to popularizing its close cousin, the razor-straight, chunky side bangs. “It’s not that I didn’t find some of it beautiful, doing the more common styles pays the bills. I just don’t find it that compelling,” Chavles explains. While remaining the resident extension specialist for Benjamin, Chavles is now based in Brooklyn and repped by The Wall Group. Her cracking cast of clients include i-D, Nike, Karen O -- and possibly now you, and your roommate Chelsea, at a very humble rate.
After posting an offer to give donation-based FaceTime haircutting sessions to those looking to trim their bangs or give themselves a full-on fresh mullet, Chavles’ inbox began to flood with requests (and her Venmo, thankfully, with some grocery money). “It’s been amazing,” she says. “Not being able to be there can be a tiny bit frustrating; explaining things over a video call can be difficult. But they’ve been going really well considering. I must say, I’m impressed.”
Considering that the tools being used for the at-home sessions are those found easily at hand, like cuticle scissors, razors, X-Acto knives and even BIC lighters, that’s an understatement. But Chavles has been using these unconventional instruments on herself and her friends since high school. “They’re so much easier to deal with than scissors and a comb,” she explains. “It doesn’t make sense to spend a ton of money on professional scissors for this. You’re not going to use them again. And they’re sharp as fuck. You can slice your fingers pretty bad.”
This week i-D hopped on the phone with Chavles to discuss how to successfully cut one’s own hair with fire and why sticking to your guns pays off.
How have the FaceTime haircuts been going?
It’s been really fun. I posted it and people went crazy. They’ve actually been donating money, which is cool. I’ve been doing as many as six to eight some days. And some people are taking like two and a half hours. It’s a lot. But everyone’s haircuts have been looking pretty damn good. I didn’t do any today though; I needed a little break.
How do you approach it? Do you try to get to know people first?
It’s a lot of figuring out what they want to do. The cool thing is that I’ve only had one person who said, “You know I have to make it look as good as when my hair person did it.” I’m like, “Look, it’s just not going to.” They were really tripping the fuck out about that. If you want tips on how to clean up your bangs or if you want to go completely crazy and give yourself a full-blown haircut, then hell yeah. Do it. And people have been, which is sick. This hairdresser posted on her story today something like, “Anybody offering to help people do their hair at home, you’re destroying our industry from the inside out.”
No way. You shouldn’t be shamed for lending your skills in an unprecedented crisis.
It’s just crazy. We don’t have an industry right now. And we don’t know when we’ll have one again. There’s nothing that we can do at the moment. So, I went back and forth with this person. They were like, “Well look at it for in the future when people will just be doing their hair at home.” But when salons open back up, there’s no way people will be at home cutting their bangs using some trick they learned with their cuticle scissors. They’ll go back. I’m not worried. I think it’s more of a fun thing for people to do right now. And it creates this intimacy.
Yeah definitely. How has it been getting acquainted with some of the strangers over FaceTime?
It’s a bit weird; like I’m a bit shy on there... People’s dynamics are pretty funny. A lot of the time there’ll be a partner cutting the hair. And you know, it’s someone they’ve been stuck at home with for three weeks. You witness them just trying to keep the snippiness at bay, each one telling the other what the right way to do something is.
Any fun stories?
I had this one girl cut her hair with a lighter a few days ago because she didn’t have scissors.
How does one cut their hair with a lighter?
It looks very textured, almost razor cut. You’re not getting a blunt or very accurate line. So you twist tiny sections, like you’d twirl your hair when you’re bored in class. Then with a rag, you dampen down the part of the twirl that you don’t want to potentially catch fire. Then you hit the dry part of the twirl with a lighter. It burns up to where your hair is wet, where you want it to stop. It doesn’t create a big flame, but you’ll see like a woosh! Almost like a camera flash. When she did it, I was thinking like, Oh no! But then it stopped right where it was supposed to. And I’d cut my hair like that before. It smells bad. But it works.
Would you suggest people buy professional scissors?
I’ve deterred people from doing it. I cut myself all the time. There are rules to try to avoid it, but it still happens. Like if you’re cutting too close to your knuckles, you can easily slice off a little piece of the top and not even notice it. They’re so sharp, it doesn’t even hurt. But you’re like, “Goddammit, I’m bleeding.”
What else have you been up to during quarantine?
On my list is to make a mini online recipe zine for cheap, delicious and easy things you can make for yourself that aren’t boring. Like rice porridge. If you’d made rice and the next day it’s hard in the fridge, you put it in a pot with double its volume of water to turn it into a porridge. The other night I sliced up purple sweet potatoes and put those in. So it was purple, which is really cute. I added finely sliced fried garlic, soy sauce, uzu, grilled collards and kale. It was really beautiful. I haven’t wasted any food. Like anything I don’t use, I just put in the freezer for when I’m ready to use it. The only thing I’m really still buying is natural wine. Peoples Wine [at Essex Crossing] is delivering to Bed–Stuy where I live. And this guy Theo who works there did a FaceTime consultation with me to help me decide what I’d like. He’s helping me explore... Other than that, I’m playing Animal Crossing and video games like everyone else. It’s nice right now to create a fantasy island.
Whom do you let do your hair?
I don’t like a lot of different people doing my hair. I can count on one hand the number of people that I’ve let cut my hair, like Benjamin [Mohapi, owner of Salon Benjamin]. If someone gives me a cut that I don’t like, I take it personally in a way where it’s like they don’t know me as well as I’d thought. It’s a crazy thing; I feel like I’ve been lied to. “You thought I’d want that? Are you crazy?”
Like, is our relationship superficial? Do you not know me?
Do you think people seek you out specifically for more experimental cuts and styling?
When I was working in the salon more, others would ask me how I kept finding people who were down for the cuts I gave them. I guess I attract it. And a big part of that was not posting to Instagram hair that I didn’t find interesting. At some point the salon’s PR team -- this was a million years ago -- told me that I needed to make my social media more digestible. They wanted it to be more conventional to reach a larger spectrum of people. But I stuck it out and didn’t give in. And years later, my clientele is stacked with people that I’d actually want to deal with. Even the people I work with on set are people that I’d want to hang out with afterwards. I’m fortunate that I’ve carved out this little world. I stuck to my guns; I did me. And it paid off.