It seems like it was just yesterday that I was a style-starved student at beauty school in New York City. Coming from a small town in upstate New York was not exactly the best environment for fashion or beauty awareness. It has many other wonderful attributes, but it is hardly the epicenter of style.
I have always loved beauty and fashion. I was the guy who devoured every magazine, newspaper and movie that illustrated or hinted at the latest trends. When I started my first job as a shampoo boy in a trendy midtown Manhattan salon, I was in heaven. All of a sudden I was in the center of the fashion and beauty scene. Every client and co-worker seemed to have such incredible style. I had found nirvana. At this point in time, I was married to my college sweetheart. She shared my love of fashion and we would constantly walk around any avant-garde store, fashion event, museum exhibition or nightclub that would let us in for free. You see, we had no money, only a thirst to become more worldly and sophisticated. Back then, we were still playing catch up.
This was a time when a new style was beginning to surface and the look of hair was changing. Until then, hair was very finished. It was blown and then sprayed perfectly into place. Tousled hair was not an acceptable option.
A liberating hairstyle enters the scene
Then fashion took a turn and the "savage" haircut became the rage. This was the first time we saw randomly layered hair without a finished look. Before this, women with waves and curls had no option but to control them. This new style was liberating, sexy, young and beautiful. It very much reflected the attitude of women at this time. Instead of repressing their sexuality, they embraced it. Obviously, women have continued to express and become more confident in their sexuality even though the look of hair has changed dramatically through the years.
Her best haircut ever
One night when my wife was complaining about her hair, I cut it on impulse even though my skills at wielding scissors were nil. She had naturally wavy hair that she perpetually made straight. A rainy day was the torment of her existence. When I cut her hair, it released her curl. She took one look in the mirror and her anger manifested itself as I had never seen before. I remember going for a long walk that night with no place to go. After hours of feeling like a complete loser, I went home. She was asleep. The next day she was with her friends and they all loved her new look. When I came home from work, she told me how wrong she had been and that this was her all-time best haircut. I was vindicated and gained instant self confidence.
The shag is back
Ironically, the shag haircut is resurfacing once again. Of course it is different from the famous shags of the past. It does not resemble Jane Fonda's signature hairstyle in "Klute" or David Cassidy's famous heartthrob haircut. The new shag hairstyle has longer layers and no longer has the porcupine crown top made famous by Tina Turner and Rod Stewart. The hair is cut in layers that show movement without a spiky look. Also missing is the excessively long back or "tail" of the old shag. Now the hair is in proper proportion.
What is similar is the unfinished look. This style should never look like it is coiffed; it should look like it occurred by happenstance. The best shags have fullness without weight. This undoubtedly will also mean the resurgence of mousse styling products. Mousse lightly adds fullness and control without making the hair stiff. A rough finish is key to this look. A blown dry, finished look is contradictory to this style. The finish can change the look from fashion forward to backwards.
This is a universally flattering fit for almost any face shape and hair texture. The new shag looks most stylish and modern worn with longer bangs. The haircut should almost look like you did it yourself. It is essential that you don't try to make an exact copy of the old shag. What's old is new, but it's hardly the same.
Celebrity hairstylist Louis Licari is our hair expert and a 'Today' show contributor. We love his Ambush Makeovers on Fridays! Follow the "King of Color" on Twitter: @louislicari.
This story was originally published Sep. 20, 2011 on TODAY.com.