Whisper Campaign: Stylists Talk Quiet Luxury Hair Trend

by | Sep 29, 2023 | Beauty

Manolo Campion/Trunk Archive

The growing trend of “stealth wealth” extends to hair.

Quiet luxury, ever heard of it?

L’OFFICIEL USA: In theory, you shouldn’t have. Quiet luxury, or “stealth wealth,” as it’s also described, is the idea that truly high-quality things—like $1,500 Loro Piana cashmere sweaters and $925 The Row flip-flops—do not announce themselves. They’re logo-less, simple-looking, and simply the best. The people who own these things and those who aspire to be them know this. But the general public—the prolétaire, you might say—they’re not supposed to. It’s an insider secret. If you know, you know, right?

Well, now everybody knows. According to Google Trends data released in January, searches for “quiet luxury” increased by 614 percent over the course of the year prior. Shoppers wanted to know what “quiet luxury” was and how to get it for themselves. The premiere of the final season of HBO’s Succession in March tipped the scales. The designer turtlenecks, sneakers, and power suits worn by the Roy siblings were all blaring examples of “quiet luxury.” That “ludicrously capacious” tartan-check print Burberry tote bag, however, which Greg’s date brings to a somber family function and is swiftly shamed by Tom Wambsgans, is not.

Less talked about, though, was how beauty, specifically hair care, plays into the “quiet luxury” equation—and how, arguably, without it, the whole thing falls apart. Had Shiv Roy, for example, rocked big barrel curls or styled her hair in an elaborate French braid, she would have probably been just as “capacious” in a room full of slick, well-conditioned bobs, clandestine dye-jobs, and razor-sharp trims.

Angel De Angelis, head hairstylist for Succession, said in an interview that she looked to members of the Murdoch family—the real-life dynasty that inspired the series—for inspiration, as well as to her own experiences with real-life rich people in her past working at Bergdorf Goodman. “We used to have standing hair appointments, every week or every two weeks,” she told Coveteur in 2021. “These people did not do their own hair. But they had to look a certain way; they had to show their wealth and their status in life through their appearance.” Maybe it was through a power bob, like Shiv’s, or a delicate chignon, like Gerri’s, or expertly done balayage, like Rava’s.

Annabelle Dexter-Jones as Naomi Pierce on Succession. Courtesy of HBO.

Or, maybe they looked like Gwyneth Paltrow during her ski slope “hit and run” trial this year—another oft-cited example of “quiet luxury.”

“She came in with just a simple blow dry, and her hair looked clean, polished, and healthy,” says Tommy Buckett, a hair stylist who works with a range of celebrities, brands, and magazines. “Blonde, in general, is also the most expensive hair color there is to get done in a salon,” he adds. “It looks natural, but you know she’s in that chair every six weeks getting those roots done in some way.”

The idea of quiet luxury, you would think, is to not talk about it. Those who truly embody the look aren’t advertising how much time they spend at the salon, or how much money they spend on products. But sometimes, it slips. As Marisa Meltzer outlines in her new book Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss’s Glossier, Into the Gloss was once (and will perhaps be again, with its recent relaunch) the place where quietly luxurious beauty regimens were finally revealed, and people ate them up. Moda Operandi co-founder Lauren Santo Domingo notoriously said in her interview: “I can’t even remember the last time I washed my own hair.” (She gets a blowout “once every five days,” during which someone does the washing for her.)

Turns out, having an effortless look takes a lot of money and effort. Paltrow, to her credit, was always transparent about this, selling her hair care “secrets” back to us in the form of one-ounce bottles of $48 serum. But after speaking with Annabelle-Dexter Jones’s hairstylist, Ashley Javier, I learned that even the most quote-unquote “chill” haircuts on Succession—Naomi Pierce’s chic blonde bobs and mullets— were carefully considered and executed.

“Le Mullet Mignon,” as Javier calls it, which viewers lost their minds over this season, had to embody a very delicate balance of vibes: Bushwick meets New England Billionaire. “We didn’t want it to become solid or wig-y, but we also didn’t want it to be pokey and jagged, or too edgy, or even rock and roll,” he says of the cut. “that would have been too aggressive. So there was a balance, but we didn’t want it to become too ‘80s, or too Princess Diana, where it felt a little too country club, either.” The trick—the “quiet luxury” of it all—was not doing too much of anything. Not too much blonde (low-lights provided some contrast); not too much shape (short bangs, long bangs, shorter tail); and not too much product. Javier only used a light, $46 “Subliminateur” serum by Leonor Greyl. But, of course, he’s a professional. Le Mullet Mignon cannot and should not be attempted at home.

 Gwyneth Paltrow during her ski accident trial in March. Photo by Rick Bowmer-Pool/Getty Images
Jennifer Lawrence on the red carpet at Cannes Film Festival. Photo by Antonin Thuillier/Getty Images.

“It’s really in the edit; restraint makes it less ostentatious,” Javier explains. “It’s not about what you do; it’s about what you decide not to do.”

Less, as they say, is more. This is the ethos of Crown Affair, a hair care product company founded by Dianna Cohen in 2020 with minimal branding that aims to elevate your daily routine without over-complicating it. In other words, making luxury hair care look and feel quotidien. “Our innovative formulas make your hair hydrated, soft, and silky—so you don’t have to over-style,” says Cohen. “I always say it would be rare to see Ashley or Mary-Kate Olsen with a blowout. We’re all about the ‘art of the air dry’: enhancing texture and adding touches of polish. You don’t need a full ‘done’ overstyled look for your daily life.”

Cohen has noticed a shift in recent years in customers wanting to take better care of their hair and invest in its health—and that itself being the look. “When the pandemic and lockdown first happened, people couldn’t run to their stylist or salon and were empowered to take their time at home and really get to know their hair,” she says. “They perhaps realized how much time they were spending getting ready in the morning—and how that was actually the opposite of luxury.

“Quiet luxury doesn’t necessarily mean time spent,” says Buckett. “It just means that whatever you’re doing is the best that you can do for your hair.”

He’s noticed that his celebrity clients are less interested in being Kardashian-ified as well, and are embracing simpler, more natural styles for the red carpet. “We’ve seen so much of the Kardashian glam, that now the pendulum has swung the other way where it’s like, Okay, I don’t need to look like I have a pound of clip-on extensions in my hair,” he says. “It was a lot!”

Jennifer Lawrence, for example, recently debuted what hairstylists like Jennifer Korab are describing as an “expensive honey” dye-job, or an easier-to-upkeep, more natural-looking blonde.

Models on the runway at the Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2023 show.

Lacy Redway, a celebrity and fashion hairstylist, will often joke that she specializes in what she calls “expensive hair,” or hair that’s “soft and touchable,” and “can be translated into all hair types, and that feel personal.” She cites client Laura Harrier’s sleek, luxuriously smooth texture at the Vanity Fair Oscar party as one example, as well as Tessa Thompson’s “elevated and expensive” look for her Creed III press tour, which was elegantly brushed, with just one statement forehead curl. Plus Emmy Rossum’s loose, beach-y curls for the Crowded Room premiere. She describes all of these styles as “trend-worthy, but quiet and timeless at the same time.”

On the runways, we’re also seeing what some would call Mamma Mia hair, or easy-breezy beach wavesBottega Veneta, which basically invented “stealth wealth” with its logoless-yet-identifiable intrecciato, or signature woven technique, sent models with long, natural-looking hair down its Fall/Winter 2023 runway. As did Celine (the Los Angeles version as opposed to the Italian version), while Prada also offered a more sleek, streamlined look.

Buckett sees this trend as an inevitable shift away from Alessandro Michele’s maximalist Gucci and Demna’s hard, gel-heavy Balenciaga look, and towards a more Phoebe Philo–esque minimalism. Before, it was “lots of hairspray and product,” he says. The look was “less everyday.” Now, you might hardly notice a model’s hairstyle on the runway—and that’s the point.

As with anything in fashion, though, the second you start to notice a trend is the minute it’s over. Especially these days, with a new TikTok phenomenon popping up in our feeds every week, it’s impossible to keep up. The most quietly luxuriously thing we could perhaps do for ourselves, and our hair, is shave it all off.

by Emilia Petrarca



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