For the past 20 years plus, Philip Wolff (@philipwolffhair) has walked the walk, building a standout career that’s every bit as unconventional as he is―and on his own terms. The LA-based stylist, educator, Matrix Ambassador and #ItTakesAProTeam Artist has worked to break the mold of the stereotypical male hairdresser and to redefine the image. He’s crisscrossed the country and the globe, refining his unique skill set of classic and modern cutting and styling techniques. And all the while, he’s shared his talents with his celebrity clients and students alike. Here, get to know the hair maverick a little bit better.
1. When did you discover your passion for hair?
My aha moment happened my first day on the job back in 1998. I was fresh off the streets with zero experience. I hadn’t even gone to beauty school yet―I’d later apprentice to get my license. You see, my first day was a hair show. My boss-to-be wanted me to see what this industry was all about, and not just the salon work, since I truly was coming to this with new eyes. Being at that show and seeing all that went on was so amazing to me―I knew it was something I could be connected to.
2. Why did you gravitate towards cutting as a specialty?
I started specializing in cutting back in 2004 because the salon I wanted to be at forced me to choose. As much as I love color, there was no way I was gonna quit the scissors.
3. Are there any trends happening in cutting and/or styling right now that you’re really loving?
I love the fact that I'm seeing more deconstructed haircuts out there. Some obvious, some not so obvious, but the idea that out-of-the-box thinking is involved in order to create something that makes a client happy, makes me happy.
4. What has been the biggest career high so far?
I've had the honor of working in a number of different categories in this industry, but I have to say the biggest career high is and probably always will be seeing the look on stylists’ faces when they experience that aha moment in one of my classes. It never gets old, and it's what drives me even more. I absolutely love helping others achieve a better understanding of what we all do for a living.
5. What has been the biggest challenge for you in your career?
To succeed in the way I wanted. I've observed this industry as a whole since I started. I’ve seen how others became successful, but I wanted to be recognized for who I am and what I do, not just because of whose hair I do. I felt I had more to offer than just one look as I have a wide variety in taste when it comes to styles. It took much longer to achieve this success, but I feel that it’s finally happening and I couldn't be more grateful for it.
6. Share a memorable moment that you’ve experienced as an educator.
Some of the most memorable moments I’ve experienced as an educator have been when I've said or shown something that hit home so closely, that my students have shed tears. I know this feeling very well, and to witness this happen for others makes my heart warm.
7. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?
Always stay involved with education no matter what, and if/when the time comes, it's my duty to give back. I'll never forget those words.
8. How do you think stylists can make the most of their education?
I think in today's world, stylists can make the most of their education by choosing the right type for them. There are so many more outlets for education nowadays and that's a beautiful thing. We all have someone that we admire and want to learn from, and we know that when we feel connected with another’s style, we can directly reach out to them in an instant via social.
9. What is your number one social media practice?
My number one social media practice is simply sharing what I know and have learned over the years as well as what I continue to learn and how to implement that into my work. It's helped my business in a way where I'm able to connect with a wider audience of like-minded individuals, and can actually do more education which has been my passion for years.
10. Who are your go-to influencers?
My go-to influencers are both within and outside of this industry―Lenny Kravitz, Will Smith, Kandee Johnson, and Anthony Mascolo, to name a few. It's more about who they are as a person, their belief system, what they've taught me over the years and how it’s affected my life and business.
11. If you weren't doing hair, what do you think you would be doing?
If I wasn't a hairstylist, I would love to be more involved with the fashion world as well as music. I love to design clothing and play my guitar!
12. Do you participate in philanthropy and if so, why is it important to you?
Philanthropy is a huge part of my existence in life, particularly in this industry. To promote the welfare of fellow artists is a beauty in itself. I stand by this because I believe in giving back to the next generation, to help evolve an industry for the better. This industry gave me a chance, gave me a life of purpose. It helped me find who I was and what I truly wanted in life. And I feel very fortunate as I know not everyone discovers this amount of passion in life. When I see younger stylists and that sparkle in their eyes, I remember when I was like that myself―it allows me to never forget how I started. It’s an indescribable feeling. My dream is to give my all back to this industry and watch the younger generation take it even further than I ever could. It’s why it has become so important that I open myself up to them and offer everything that has allowed me to achieve my own goals. How can anything really progress to its fullest potential without the momentum of positive evolution and growth? It's not about one, it's about all of us within our time.
Photography: Courtesy of Philip Wolff