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Sam McKnight's witty wig project
November 25th 2013
Hair hero Sam McKnight is adept at more than just styling - he's quite the social media expert too. Anna Hunter chats to him about his Instagram exploits
The fact that hairstyling legend Sam McKnight creates mane masterpieces goes without saying. His styling supremacy takes centre stage on catwalks, red carpets and magazine covers worldwide. He travelled the world with the late Princess Diana, has meetings of minds with Lady Gaga and had Chanel, Fendi and Balmain at hello. He’s been in the business for over thirty years, and he’s still ever the trailblazer, creating innovative looks for the most prestigious design houses season after season.
He may be a sage and wise industry icon, but don’t for a minute imagine that he hasn’t got the hang of this social media business. As usual, Sam is at the forefront. His genius and hilarity has found another outlet, and if you aren’t already following him on Twitter or Instagram, you’re in for a treat.
Something for which Sam has become particularly notorious is his ‘wig project’. You see, Sam occasionally has extended periods of time on his hands during shoots. He also has lots of wigs to play with, not to mention a cracking sense of humour. We’ll let Sam take it from here…
GTG: When did the wig series begin? Are you intentionally poking fun at the narcissism of the ever-popular ‘selfie’ or is that just a happy side effect?
SM: Really, it began in the eighties. I have boxes and boxes of Polaroids at home taken during shoots and backstage at shows during that era. I worked a lot with some incredible photographers, Demarchelier, Nick Knight, Irving Penn, and of course wonderful supermodels such as Kate, Naomi and Linda. We were a tight-knit bunch and would essentially take ‘selfies’ and silly pictures with the whole crew. I see Instagram as the modern Polaroid. The only difference is that everyone can see it, whereas in the past it was private.
GTG: What inspired you to create the wig project in particular?
SM: It first really took off on a Topshop shoot with Kate Phelan, but the magic mostly happens when I have some downtime in the studio, mainly when the make-up is being done. Then I can really have some fun. It’s become a tradition, and let’s be honest, boredom, a bag of wigs and an iPhone make for a really good time. Added to that is people’s reactions - their comments amuse me so that’s half of it.
GTG: What has been your favourite response so far?
SM: The best response has been that the wig images capture people’s attention and allow me to reconnect with people that I’ve worked with in the past. I’ve been lucky to have a very long career and I’ve worked with some amazing teams and individuals, but they come and go, especially in this industry and particularly the models! Instagram is a great visual tool and means I can stay in touch with people. For example there’s a fantastic American model called Nancy Donahue who I used to work with a lot but now she lives in the States. She commented on my Instagram feed and we went to Browns for tea when she was in London. That probably wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Instagram.
GTG: Does playing around and experimenting on Instagram keep the work juices flowing too?
SM: It does, but mainly because I like to make it my own. No one posts for me, it’s all me. Yes, it’s a work tool, but I like to keep it as light hearted as possible. It’s not corporate and it’s not boring - I don’t want to take life (or myself) too seriously!
GTG: Do you have a personal favourite wig look?
SM: It’s very hard to choose a favourite. I like to keep it real. The ones that combine reality with a disturbing edge are probably the best. The blonde surfer dude with the black roots is a good example. I also love the curly Linda Evangelista style blonde wig. That one’s great. The mushroom’s fun too. I put a plastic dog poo on my head recently and uploaded that but a friend told me to take it down. I think I’ll put it back up at some point though.
GTG: How do you go about naming your works of wig art? We’ve noticed that Lionel Ritchie song titles are a recurring theme…
SM: (Chuckles) I do try to aim for musical titles yes. As for Lionel I saw a very funny picture of his face superimposed onto a rich tea biscuit with the caption ‘Lionel Richtea’. I liked that. Maybe that’s why he’s crept in.
GTG: Understandable. On a final note will the wig project ever end? You’re not planning a grand finale are you (please no)?
SM: I find it very funny and other people seem to as well so I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon. It’ll only end if Instagram evolves into something else, as it inevitably will. But for the moment the wig pictures belong on Instagram - it’s instantaneous, disposable and a lot of fun!
We couldn’t agree more Mr McKnight. Keep ‘em coming.
Follow Sam on Instagram here or find him on Twitter @sammcknight1