They are our confidantes, our shrinks, our soothsayers, our style gurus. They prop us up, console us, transform us, and give us hope. With the best of them, we develop such a profound sense of loyalty that going to another for the same services is tantamount to cheating on one’s partner.
My beloved hairdresser, Gregory Parvatan, who works out of Rapunzel on Irwin St. in Toronto, has been doing my hair since 1979. He’s outlasted a husband and three boyfriends, and advised me on everything from affairs of the heart to real estate, child rearing to career planning, red carpets to fast cars. We’ve laughed together, cried together, danced, dreamed and schemed together. And all the while, the creative visionary in him saw my myriad hair possibilities, as he skilfully coiffed my tresses into a thousand different ‘dos,’ making me see myself in bold and beautiful new ways, and often transforming me with only the help of a brush and blow-dryer.
I first met Gregory, a native of Guyana, the year I started doing The New Music, on City TV. It was my first foray into regular TV hosting and I needed a hairdresser I could count on to whip my locks into wild and wonderful styles on a weekly basis. Gregory was one of the top stylists at Robin Barker’s salon at the time. I was instantly charmed by his elegant demeanour, natty sartorial sense, and quick, dry wit. He had recently arrived in Toronto by way of London, England, where he’d worked at the prestigious Ginger Group, even styling Anna Wintour’s hair on occasion.
From the get go, what I adored about Gregory was his easy going approach, never imposing his esthetic on me, always merely suggesting, and respectfully appreciating how I wanted to look. I wasn’t a fan of arrogant hairdressers who would intimidate me with their self-serving ways, dismissing my notions of what it was that I wanted, only to foist their fabulousness on me in maddening, Machiavellian ways, and turn me into someone I practically didn’t recognize in the mirror. Gregory was different: He always listened. And what’s more, he had the patience of Job.
I’ll never forget the time, a few years back, that my usually manageable mane temporarily took on a will of its own, suddenly becoming super static-y and not doing at all what I thought it should be doing. “Oh it’s just that it’s so dry in here,” explained Gregory. “Or maybe it’s that shearling coat you’re wearing that’s making it so fly-away.” I was convinced it was more than that, as I fussed, fidgeted, and whined in Gregory’s chair. I could practically see him rolling his eyes behind my back as I kept on kvetching about how much I hated my hair. But the ever cool Mr. Parvatan just continued smoothing and spritzing, doing his best to style my unruly tresses into some semblance of chic-dom — anything to get me to shut up.
By the time I got to the TV station I felt like a proper brat. After all, it was only hair. I was lucky to even have any — a good friend of mine had just lost all of hers to chemotherapy. And how dare I put dear Gregory through all that bitching? I started thinking about all the impossible women he must run across constantly, and I hoped to heck that he realized it wasn’t him I was coming down on — I was just dissatisfied with myself. So I sent dear Gregory a box of chocolates to apologize for my whiny ways. The next day, he laughed when he saw me come into the salon, my tail between my legs. Instead of even mentioning that wretched mood I’d been in just the other day, he immediately started chatting about how he was going to layer my hair some more, which would likely make it behave better.
It isn’t every hairstylist that actually becomes your friend. But in the case of Gregory, it was a no-brainer. I can let really my hair down with him — not just literally, but figuratively. He always try to enable me to be the best “me” possible. He knows when to chat me up, and when to be silent and let me stew. He’s seen me evolve over the past three decades and helped me grow, always quick to offer both his professional savvy and personal point-of view. Not only has he given me my signature look, but he’s been there for me in so many ways, celebrating my successes, cheering me on, lending a compassionate ear, and a stalwart shoulder to cry on. There’s a special bond between women and their hairdressers, alright — and it’s those rare, princely ones, like Mr. Parvatan, who are worth their weight in gold.
By Jeanne Beker - Fashion Columnist