Hip-hop artist and DJ, @madisonlst
“My afro has always been my signature. It’s helped me a lot in terms of being memorable. People can pick me out of a crowd from a block away.
“I always felt good about my hair. I never wanted to cut it. It’s navigating people’s reactions that can be hard. Even now, people will try and grab my hair without asking. Ask anybody with big hair, and especially afros: People will grab your hair in the street, out at bars. Regular people. ‘Can I touch it?’ is something that happens when their hands are already in your hair. It’s completely absurd. But I guess afros are cool now. And today, value lies in being different or unique. To make money, you have to stand out with a voice loud enough and a look distinct enough to deserve attention. Because of how the internet operates and because people are obsessed with people who are unique and different online, people try to be more unique and different. It’s a trend.
“I’m a hip-hop artist first and foremost, and for money I DJ. If you told me I was going to be a DJ I wouldn’t have believed you. I was just present one time when my friends were exchanging DJ software and they asked me if I wanted it. So I began messing around at home. At the time I was a barback at the Thompson Hotel and one night they screwed up and didn’t book a DJ. Under my breath I said, ‘I can DJ.’ Even though I had never seen a mixer in my life and had never tried to hook anything up. So I ran home to get my computer and called everyone I knew to ask how to use one. My transitions were really shitty that night, but my song selection was on point, so I didn’t lose the crowd that was already there [laughs]. Soon after, they started a happy hour and hired me to DJ. It just went from there.”
Model, actress, and founder of Aftertastes.co,
“When I was fourteen I had very long, curly hair down to my hips. My sister would say it was my strongest asset. Then when I was fifteen I got dreadlocks. I lost a lot of my hair when I took them out and it was never really the same. Then I dyed my hair black and red and started modeling, where so much damage happened through color and blow-drying. But recently I’ve been trying to regain its strength by blowing it out less and wearing it natural. I like that it sets me apart. That it’s a little wild and messy and leonine. It’s one of those things that you can only fight for so long before you say, ‘Fuck it, I’m always going to have this, so I might as well embrace it.’ Then try to work it to your advantage.
“I moved to New York in 2011 to model, after graduating from college and spending a year in Europe. I interned at BlackBook magazine and PEN American Center because I wanted a career in journalism, so I did that simultaneously while pursuing modeling. About two years ago I started shifting toward acting, which happened by luck and circumstance. I’m very grateful for it, because it has become an all-encompassing life direction that I feel very motivated by. I also took on a personal project, an online literary magazine that focuses primarily on stories about meals, called Aftertastes. They’re both highly competitive, very difficult jobs, so I kind of hedged my bets, knowing that if one failed the other would win out. When I was modeling exclusively, I was bored. So I decided to start something on my own that I could work on when I had free time. At the moment I’m juggling all three. It’s a lot of work, but I feel like I’m following through on all the things I love the most. And now I have zero free time [laughs].”
Owner of Brooklyn lifestyle concept store Sincerely Tommy, @kaiaventdeleon
“This haircut is new, actually. My hair is usually really big and curly, but since I opened the store I just don’t have time to fix the curls. I needed something where I could wake up and go, for the most part. Sometimes I use a Bumble and Bumble styling serum — I just rub that in for a wavy, messy look. And every now and then I’ll use a curling wand for more structured curls.
“I opened Sincerely Tommy in Brooklyn about eighteen months ago. Growing up, I never saw a woman, or women in general, who were also the face of their projects. I feel like there’s a whole community of women doing their own thing where you can associate who they are with what their brand is and what they represent. That’s really cool to see. I get to connect with so many other young women who want to start their own business and who are inspired by my story, and that’s really gratifying.”
Menswear blogger and relationship guru
“A lot of my identity is wrapped up in my hair. I’m the guy with big hair. But it took me almost thirty years to learn how to do it properly. I found out that if I put product in when it’s wet it will look completely different than if I put it in dry, which makes everything go really, really curly. I use Fatboy products, made by New Zealander Tyson Kennedy, who works at Cutler Salon and was the lead singer of Steriogram. I’ve always been obsessive about my hair. I first started coloring my own hair when I was nine or so — my mum colored her hair at home, so I’d use the remnants. In New Zealand, I guess I became well-known for my haircut, which was short on the sides but big and curly on top. It was a weird haircut at the time, sort of Eighties-style. But about two years ago I got a haircut and began styling it pulled back. As soon as I did that, people told me I looked so much better [laughs].
“I started my blog, Isaac Likes, similar to the Cut with news and opinions, in New Zealand in 2008, and moved to New York in 2011. Everybody was living in New York, and I figured if I was ever going to compete against the best I’d need to move here. I started writing for the New York Times, GQ, Esquire, Details, etc. But it turned out being a freelance writer in America is insanely difficult to pay the rent. All the other bloggers were switching to personal style, so I got an agent and now that’s what I do. I also DJ with my fiancée, Jenny Albright, under the name Isaac Likes Jenny, at fashion events and nightclubs. And I give relationship advice. Young women write to me asking why guys they’re dating are behaving a certain way, or what to do if someone’s been cheating on them. I tell them what they don’t want to hear [laughs].”
Creative director of menswear label Basic Rights and contributing editor at So It Goes
“I’ve always been a redhead. I never experimented with color because I didn’t want my hair to break and fall out, so I use vegetable dyes to give it a small pop — like copper Herbatint, which you can get at Whole Foods. I’ve had bangs since I was seventeen — I’ve really had the same haircut my whole life, mostly because I hate my eyebrows. They look like I’ve overplucked them [laughs]. I also cut my own hair. Recently I let a hairstylist on a shoot trim it, but he’s the first person besides myself who has even taken a scissor to it in five years.
“I was the head designer at Reformation for five years, so I felt myself less compelled by womenswear — it wasn’t new anymore. A year ago I started working on Basic Rights, a menswear label, with the Vaccines guitarist Freddie Cowan and David Chambers, a Savile Row tailor. Men’s basics are either insanely expensive or it’s very normal, normcore-dude. There wasn’t anywhere for the guys in my life to get the perfect T-shirt and perfect trouser that are good quality and won’t fall apart. Our big thing is we’re direct to consumer. We’re online-only, but we’re going to do a pop-up soon. We’re trying to keep it as low-cost as possible, because all of a sudden you’re dealing with a million markups.”
[This is part of the spring 2016 edition of Sheer, a quarterly style supplement by the Village Voice devoted to exploring and sharing the most dynamic elements of New York City’s fashion and design worlds, from the iconic to the as yet undiscovered. Check out the rest of Sheer’s featured stories here.]