After a teenagehood of terrible at-home dye jobs and dodgy cuts by my BFF in her back garden, I found my failsafe hair formula a few years ago in blonde balayage and virtually the same haircut every time: a slight side parting, a longish fringe, and layers to frame my round face. Having found my happy hair place, I’m therefore risk-averse at the salon, and never get the fun of experimenting with cool in-season cuts (like the shag).
That's why I was so intrigued to hear about the "calligraphy cut" technique. Originating in Germany, it's currently trending all over Instagram and, like midlights and the razor cut, has since made its way into some of the coolest hair salons in Paris and L.A. Instead of a standard pair of scissors, the technique consists of a unique tool: an angled blade to cut the hair’s ends on a diagonal, the same 21-degree angle at which florists cut flower stems. According to the pros, this maximizes the surface area of each strand of hair, so lengths can absorb more conditioner and moisture, resulting in bouncier, fuller, and even longer-looking hair. Yes, longer, even though you're technically cutting off inches.
The unusual tool can be used to cut most hair types and to create most styles, such as long layers, blunt-cut bobs, and pixie cuts, though it's better suited to straight and wavy textures than thick and curly. Stylists who swear by the technique — so-called because the cutting tool is held like a calligraphy pen — say it helps promote the overall health of the hair, leaving ends looking and feeling softer than they usually do when cut with scissors or even a razor.
Happily, a calligraphy cut would allow me to stay loyal to my look while also experimenting with something new in the hair department. While hairstylists around the globe are championing the cut, it's currently only available in one UK salon: Frankie Cochrane in Holborn, central London, at the hands of two stylists who have been specifically trained over the course of three years.
Despite its being very much under-the-radar here, Paul Cochrane, the salon’s owner and director, believes the calligraphy technique is the next stage in hairdressing. "Because of the unique 21-degree angle at which hair is cut, the hair sits with a lightness and a healthiness that isn't delivered with any other razor or scissors," he told me. Cochrane can’t fathom why other UK hairstylists aren’t rushing to embrace it like the rest of the world, as the salon frequently sees women who've had it done abroad and hunted them down to recreate the effect. "The calligraphy cut is being grasped everywhere else around the world," he says. "Australia, New York, California, Florida, Russia... yet in London, we’re the only ones that do it."
So what happens during the cut? Well, stylists always employ a skill called feathering. Designed for straight hair to give it more shape and volume, it's pretty much finely-textured layering without the severe "step" look. This is noticeably more relaxing than a typical haircut because the way they hold the hair mimics the techniques of Indian head massage (sometimes known as "champissage"). The tapping and pulling relaxed tension in my scalp and left me feeling uncharacteristically chill for 10 a.m. on a weekday.
As you can tell, a bizarre but totally welcome outcome of a calligraphy cut is that your hair can look and feel longer when you're done than when you first set foot in the salon — perfect if you're trying to grow your hair and reluctantly book haircuts just to get rid of straggly ends. I was, to put it mildly, skeptical about this new haircut technique, but I was shocked by how the length of my hair seemed to have barely changed, despite having a good few inches' worth of split ends taken off. My only gripe? It took nearly three times as long as my usual cut.
A week after the appointment — and the blow dry you see above — my ends still feel softer and more voluminous, and are free of split ends (despite my ongoing daily ghd habit, which my stylist ordered me to cut down on — sorry!). It's a wonder that more salons haven't given the calligraphy cut a try.