Thick, thin, straight, or curly, hair, for Guido Palau, is raw material for making art. The word hairstylist is seemingly reductive for what the Vidal Sassoon-trained, New York-based Palau (known familiarly as “Guido”) does with the fiber. Rather, he’s had a hand in creating some of the most indelible images in fashion, subverting preconceived notions of beauty by engineering elaborate, high-concept, meticulously realized fantasies that have topped off runway looks for Alexander McQueen, Prada, and Marc Jacobs, among many other designers, publications, and campaigns. It’s no surprise, then, that Guido’s latest project, a new book entitled Hair (Rizzoli), gets to the root of his livelihood.
“I didn’t want to do a book about realism,” he says. Hair is, in part, not just a follow-up, but a foil to his first book, Heads: Hair by Guido (2000), a survey of the undone, grunge-era, street-inspired looks he pioneered in the ’90s. Guido reunites with his longtime collaborator, photographer David Sims, on Hair, and at several sittings over the past two and a half years, the pair captured a folio of hauntingly austere portraits showcasing 70 unique hair looks—from amphibious up-dos and gravity-defying spikes to bleached-out braids and electric Technicolor coifs—conceptualized individually for each model, including the in-demand Raquel Zimmermann, Edie Campbell, and Hanne Gaby Odiele.
The visual lexicon of the images, featuring a youthful, gender-bending crop of characters, came from an amalgamation of references, according to Guido, including Greek marble busts, 18th-century portraiture, futurism, and Japanese animation, as well as the influence of subcultures from his own youth in London. “There’s a punk ethos. There’s a quality of anarchy to it,” he explains. “We tried to do something that was rebellious without using the obvious codes like piercings or tattoos. We made it much more about the austerity, the pallidness, the vacantness of these characters, and the weird twilight world they might live in.”