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The TikTok-viral hairstylist was recently dubbed as such thanks to his otherworldly capacity for predicting the haircut trends that will soon be on everyone’s lips. “Birkin bangs” (think short, sharp corners to frame the face à la late style icon, Jane Birkin), the “butterfly cut 2.0” (which plays around with layers of varying lengths for a ’90s feel) and the “skinny lob” (a long bob with tips that flow into a longer haircut) are just a handful of viral styles that Smith has pioneered recently. So when I was offered the opportunity to meet with Smith, who is currently based at Billi Currie on London’s Chiltern Street — and get my hair cut by him — I naturally jumped at the chance.
I’m no stranger to a dramatic chop. In the past few years, I’ve had the “Italian” bob, a chunky-ended bob with maximum volume, the “bottleneck” bob, a layered bob with curtain bangs, and most recently the “flipped French” bob, a jaw-cupping bob flipped to the side for a retro vibe. The latter haircut was back in July so I was well overdue for a salon trip. My hair fell limp past my shoulders and was, to put it very simply, nothing-y. It had no shape; the layers were grown out; the ends were starting to split and wearing it down became incredibly boring. In other words, I needed Smith’s help, and fast — but thanks to the abundance of haircut trends out there right now, I was indecisive.
Of course, it’s great to have so much choice, but that often means I want to try everything all at once. I’ve been eyeing up this mid-length haircut on digital creator, Paola Matute, and this shorter cut on Sarra Hammami. For this reason, I decided that I’d let Smith have most of the creative control over my new hairstyle. I appreciate that this sounds like a terrifying prospect. We’ve all heard the old adage about a “hairdresser’s inch” and I’m pretty certain the phrase “scissor happy” (to get carried away with cutting) was born in a hair salon. But as a hair trend forecaster who travels the world with brands like evo and Olaplex, Smith would know exactly what would suit my style and face shape. What’s more, he never gets the next big thing in hair wrong, so I trusted him implicitly.
I did have requirements, though. One of them was that Smith didn’t touch the length too much. Over the years, the short bob haircut has become my signature, though I’m keen to grow it a little so that I can whip it up into a claw clip with ease on lazy days. Another must was that the cut works with my natural, wavy hair texture. While I love my Shark FlexStyle Air Styler, some days I want to wash my hair, scrunch in some hair cream and let it air-dry naturally. That said, not much was off the cards: We discussed long layers, blunt ends, a chunky curtain fringe and even a new hair colour (though I chose to stay put when Smith pointed out that my front bits are naturally quite sun-kissed). After a thorough wash at the basin, Smith combed my hair out and that’s when I realised how much it had grown since last summer. Though I wanted Smith to do his thing, we both settled on a length that sat just above my shoulders, also known as the long bob or more commonly, the “lob”.
I’ve had my hair cut at various London salons over the years, and almost all of those hairstylists have favoured a razor over a pair of scissors. While razoring has its benefits (such as lending lengths a softer, more lived-in quality) when the hair grows, the ends look a little wispier. In my opinion, this eventually makes my hair appear split and a bit dry, so to see Smith reach for the scissors — after a spritz of Olaplex Volumizing Blow Dry Mist, £28 — was a breath of fresh air. (This made sense seeing as he was trained at Vidal Sassoon, the birthplace of all the coolest, most intricate cuts.)
The idea was to give my lengths a little movement by chopping in some long and subtle layers, accompanied by face-cupping pieces of hair that aren’t quite chunky curtain bangs but can be blow-dried using a round brush to frame the face in a similar, voluminous fashion. In what felt like moments, the initial cut was done and my hair was rough-dried completely with the Dyson Supersonic Hairdryer, £329.99. I say “initial cut” because Smith’s technique is to snip away, dry the hair to determine your natural parting and then start shaping. But there were no crunchy, thinning scissors used here. Instead, Smith opted for the “directional cutting” or “slicing” method: “Thinning scissors weaken the shape of the hair,” Smith told me, “but slicing in a downwards motion encourages hair to sit in a certain direction so that it kicks back nicely.” When razors are used at a steep angle, said Smith, the hair can almost appear frayed. “Slicing allows the stylist to control the angle better,” said Smith, so the finished result is more polished — exactly what I was after.
Something that no other hairstylist has asked me to do is to run my hands through my hair after the cut. This is a non-negotiable step for Smith, who prefers his clients to touch their hair in order to see how it might fall when they head home and style it themselves. “I want to see how it settles when you reposition it,” said Smith as I mussed up the front sections slightly. “Now, I can see which sections are sitting right and which ones need a bit more slicing.”
After carving away at a few more sections, Smith blow-dried my hair using a large round brush; I’ll be recreating these subtle waves and flicks with Moroccanoil Ceramic Round Brush 55mm, £19.85. To style face-framing pieces or curtain bangs, Smith likes to gather both sides around the brush at the same time. He lifts up the hair and rotates the brush so that the hair is curled backwards (here’s a simple tutorial). The reason why Smith prefers to do a blowdry on rough-dried hair rather than damp hair is simple: “The cuticle is sealed, so any moisture in the hair is protected,” he told me. “This way, you’re also putting less heat on your hair compared to when it’s wet,” said Smith. This was eye opening for me as usually, I have to do multiple, painstaking passes to achieve a dry wave when my hair is wet, and I worry about damage, no matter how much heat protector spray I’ve used.
Smith’s top tip is to then run an aerated or vented brush (I’ll be using Bsisme Large Vented Brush, £5.99), through the lengths to loosen any tighter, retro-looking waves and to haul things into 2024. Finally, he spritzed a heavy helping of Hair by Sam McKnight Cool Girl Barely There Texture Mist, £27, through the mid-lengths to lend my hair a tiny bit of grit, as I prefer my hair to have structure about it, rather than appear too airy. I’m especially excited to style it myself with the new tips and tricks I’ve learned about blow-drying like a professional.
As I examined my hair in the mirror, I realised that the finished result merged two coveted haircuts in one: the long bob and the “butterfly” cut, the latter of which enlists layers to create the illusion of a shorter style without losing too much length: the “butterfly lob”, if you will. Aside from trends, this haircut makes me feel like me again. My grown out bob was lacking oomph and personality, but this is packed with the stuff and it has given me the confidence boost I so needed at the end of a long slog of a month.