December 19, 2023
JD Academy – Interview with Nicholas Church at our 2023 Hair Skin Show!
JD Academy was honored to host Mr. Nicolas Church at its August 15, 2023, Hair and Skin Show in its boutique academy in Danville, CA. Nicolas Church has quite a story about his journey from England to California as a hairdresser and how his haircutting system evolved. Mr. Nicolas Church – His Early Years Nicolas, born in Bournemouth, England, started his professional hairdressing career by serving as an apprentice under Marc Artiste de Coiffure of Poole, Dorset, in the age of the weekly wash and set. His life changed after he made tracks to Knightsbridge to work under the tutelage of a young rebellious Turk, Vidal Sassoon, who mastered “precision haircuts” and revolutionized the hair industry the same way the Beatles affected the music world. For over ten years, Nicolas maintained a directorship with Sasson and was a principal in Sassoon salons in London, Toronto, Beverly Hills, and San Francisco. Shortly after arriving in the City by the Bay, Nicolas realized he had found his home. He struck out on his own and opened his own Salon and Studio. The Nicolas System Of Haircutting Evolved Gradually. After attending numerous shows and seminars, Nicolas would come up with the same question, unanswered. How does one deal with the way hair grows?
He incorporated all his previous knowledge and training, including Sassoon, and began inventing his own haircutting system. He began to sculpt the hair by identifying the hair texture and growth patterns following the shape of the head, making the haircut work in relationship with the finished hairstyle. Using these principles, he established guidelines that anyone could follow. The Nicolas System was logical and innovatively simple compared to the old theories of angles and imaginary lines drawn away from the head. The next step for Nicolas was clear: share his system with his peers. That is how the Nicolas Academy of Haircutting was born. Nicolas personally trained over a thousand stylists in his haircutting system over the Academy’s ten years of existence. Nicolas Today Nicolas still runs his salon and studio inside the Nikko Hotel in the bustling Union Square area of San Francisco. In 1995, he added a product line to the mix, and this has grown to over twenty-five Nicolas-tested products, from shampoos to hairsprays, sold in salons throughout the West. The Nicolas System of Precision Haircutting was introduced on DVD in 2004, and it has proven wildly popular, both with experienced stylists and new cosmetology graduates. Nicolas lives in the vibrant North Beach area of San Francisco with his wife, Anna.
JD Academy of Salon and Spa’s Hair and Skin Show audience enjoyed interviewing Mr. Nicolas Church. The following are excerpts from the interview. JD Academy, “What is the hardest part of being a hairstylist?” Nicolas, “Well, Gwen (his manager) and I were talking in the back, and just to be a little bit flippant, I would say the hardest part about being a cosmetologist is standing on your feet for eight to nine hours daily. But, getting serious, it’s the consultation! We, as cosmetologists, have a client in our chair and have roughly an hour or an hour and a half to figure out what exactly the client wants to end up with and execute it.”
JD Academy, “How do you go about that?” Nicolas, “When I do a consultation, I introduce myself. Then, with the client sitting in the salon chair, I’ll first say, “Tell me the story of your hair. I want the client to tell me everything they like and dislike about the hair. What am I doing while the person is talking to me? I am looking at the hair and what I have to work with. I’m listening, but I am also really studying the hair. Is it wavy? Is it curly? Is it straight? Does it have straight pieces with curls? I have to determine whether or not this client can have the style requested. The determining factor is whether or not the hair is capable of achieving that particular style. It often works out, but sometimes, the hair is not conducive to the client’s desired style.” JD Academy, “What do you do if it won’t work?” Nicolas, “Compromise. Yes. I have to come up with another idea. The idea falls on what the texture of the hair is capable of doing. So, as stylists, the hardest part of the consultation is figuring out what the hair is capable of doing.
Knowing the texture of the hair is important because that is the thing that’s going to determine for us how we’re going to cut the hair. It doesn’t matter how many haircutting systems you have under your belt. We have to put the right system on the right texture of hair to achieve the look we want. This is not always as easy as it sounds because we want to please the client. Sometimes, we do what the client wants, and that may not necessarily be the right thing to do. Our job as stylists, during the consultation, is to advise the client on what should be done with the hair. As far as the style is concerned.” JD Academy, “Does the pattern of hair growth matter?” Nicolas, “Yes. It’s not always easy to cut the hair the way it grows. That means we may need to cut it shorter than the client wants, so we must advise the client. If the client agrees, we can go ahead and cut the hair the way that the hair grows. If not, then we have to compromise. Sometimes, when we compromise, the hair will not always be as desired.”
JD Academy, “How do you initiate the compromise?” Nicolas, “The idea is to plant a seed for the client to think about, so next time, the client will let me cut it correctly for its texture and growth pattern.” “Now, you know, we have one hour to create a look for the client. When you think about it, nobody understands how difficult our job is. You go to a party, and somebody asks, “What do you do for a living?” You say, “I’m a hairdresser.” And they go, “Okay, fine. That’s great. You must love playing about with hair. But when you think about it, what we have to do in one or one and a half hours with a client sitting in the chair is hard. As a hairstylist, you have to introduce yourself, start looking at the hair, listen to the goal, and you have one to one and a half hours to create something that suits the client, suits the client’s hair, and suits you!” JD Academy, “That is a lot going on in a short amount of time.” Nicolas, “Like I always say, three things must happen when you do a haircut. Number one, the hair has to work. If you’re dealing with curly hair, the curl has to work. If you’re dealing with wavy hair, the wave has to work. If you’re dealing with straight hair, the straightness of the hair has to work. That’s number one. Number two, the client has to like what you’ve done. If not, we haven’t done a good consultation session. And the third thing is that I, as a stylist, must like it. If one of those three things is missing, I haven’t done a good haircut.
All I’ve done is just cut some hair off.” JD Academy, “Tell me about your haircutting systems.” Nicolas, “I use seven haircutting systems daily in the salon. Each system is for a different texture of hair and a different look. After the consultation, I make sure to use the right system for the right texture of hair. As a haircutter, I am literally sculpting a shape into the hair. I am making it do what I want. I think of myself as a sculptor. I look at the hair. I think of the shapes I have to cut into, the texture of the hair, and how I will make the texture work into a finished shape. Then, with the right tools, I can take anybody and make the hair do whatever I want.” JD Academy, “I like the thought that haircutters are sculptors.” Nicolas, “Yes! Thank you! The difference is that when the client wakes up the following day, the hairdressing part of the whole procedure washes away, and what I have sculpted into a shape is there for another five or six weeks. I mean, that’s the real difference. So, for those of you getting into the business, it is worth considering: Do you want to be a hairdresser, or do you want to be a sculptor? If you want to be a sculptor, your medium is hair, and you really have to know what the hair can do. That is one the hardest parts of what we must do as cosmetologists and hairdressers because it’s scary!” JD Academy, “Can you share an example of a challenge you experienced?” Nicolas, “Sure.
A new client comes in, sits in my chair, and tells me she has very straight hair that she can’t seem to do anything with when blowdrying. We talk, I see and touch her hair, which looks and feels straight, and we agree on a simple bob. I take her back to the washbasin and wash her. Then, back at my station, I run a comb through her hair, and suddenly, I find all of this curl at the back of her head. Oh, boy! She has wavy hair, not straight. I have to pivot and redo the consultation and negotiate a different look or explain the challenging styling techniques necessary for her to achieve the previously negotiated cut. All the while, the clock is ticking, and my next client will arrive in forty-five minutes. So, when I say the consultation is the most crucial step, I mean it. We need to listen well, touch the hair, feel it, learn what the hair is capable of before we pick a haircut system, sculpt the hair, blow dry it, and finish it. We must create a work of art in under one hour without making any mistakes. I can’t think of another art form that requires an artist to create something in forty-five minutes and have it be perfect. Can you?” JD Academy, “What about painting?” Nicolas, “Very good. Okay, so here’s the thing with a painter. I’m glad you brought that up. Thank you. Pretend I’m a painter. I want to create something. I’m painting, then I stand back and look at my canvas. Hum, it could look better. I get rid of that canvas. Let me try again on a new canvas and then another and another. Then, suddenly, I look at my canvas, and it is exactly what I want. Now, back to the client in my chair – you. You’re sitting in the chair.
I’m cutting your hair, and I tell you, “Sara, this is not working out how I thought it would. Would you come back in five weeks when your hair grows back, and we’ll start it again?” The JD Academy audience laughs. Nicolas continues, “I mean, what would you do? Probably you’d say, “Are you kidding me?” We are different than painters; we have to get it right the first time.” “Another challenge is the length we cut. We have to ensure that when we cut the hair, it’s cut to the correct length and that the client understands precisely where that length will be, which can be challenging. If we don’t get the consultation right and the client doesn’t understand exactly what we’re going to do, the client may be unsatisfied.” “Remember, a thorough consultation provides a clear roadmap to work with, and the client will be confident during the process.
We then use the proper tools and cutting system (for the specific hair type) to sculpt the desired result. JD Academy, “What made you want to enter the cosmetology industry?” Nicolas, “Oh, it was so long ago. I never wanted to be a hairdresser, ever. Honestly, I wanted to be a research chemist, but I could never pass my exams. So, I was at home and not doing anything. My mother encouraged me, yes – my mother, to go down to the local hairdressing salon and see if they needed an assistant, and I got the job shampooing, doing wetsuits, beehives, and updos. I hated it! One day, a publication came out in London. It was called The Hairdresser’s Journal, and it’s still around. I was opening up the pages, and there were all of these photographs of these hairstyles from this guy called Vidal Sassoon. As soon as I saw those photographs, I knew that that was what I wanted to do. That made me enter this business because I saw “sculpting hair” instead of hairdressing. I’m not knocking hairdressing because it’s two completely different philosophies. Both have their place. But, like I said earlier, I think of myself as a sculptor, and hair is my medium.”
JD Academy, “What would you do for an unsatisfied client?” Nicolas, “I don’t have very many unsatisfied clients. However, if I did, I would ask the person to come back so I could have the opportunity to redo or fix the hair. Maybe confusion arose from a picture not being the actual desired result. It returns to the consultation being the most essential part of the haircut.” JD Academy, “You have a hair product line. Is that correct?” Nicolas, “Yes. I do. I have had a haircare line for about twenty-five years now. I have about twenty-five products in the line, and they are sold only in salons. Please take a look at the JD Academy retail area. They have a good selection of my products at a reasonable price.” “Thank you so much for having me here at your award-winning academy. It is always a pleasure to visit!”
Nicolashair.com YouTube: Nicolas Precision Hair Cutting Systems.
This article was published in our Quarterly JD Academy Magazine. The complete Magazine is free view here