All London’s Best Stylists Do ‘Instinctive Cutting’ & It’ll Transform Your Hair

If you've ever walked into a hair salon with an exact style in mind only to step out disappointed, you're not the only one. Perhaps you brought along a picture for inspiration — Adele's bouncy layers, Florence Pugh's new pixie cut or Emma Corrin's coveted curtain bangs. But there's a problem. It doesn't suit me! you scream internally as the stylist spins you around. Nevertheless you tip generously and leave, hoping desperately that you can fix it with the right styling (and maybe even an emergency DIY chop) when you get home. If that sounds familiar, it pays to make your next stop a salon which practises 'instinctive cutting'.
Book into any trending London hairdresser and you can bet that each stylist swears by the game-changing technique, which encourages clients not to expect carbon copies of trends. Celebrities, influencers and TikTok hair movements may serve as great initial inspo but a stylist who practises instinctive cutting will never cut by numbers, and for good reason: they want the style to suit you perfectly.
Celebrity hairstylist George Northwood encourages all of his expert coiffeurs to practise the method, which is essentially a fluid approach to cutting by eye. "As a stylist, it's important to innately understand the best look for a client's hair," says George, "but I also cut hair instinctively, often in a more freehand way, allowing the creative vision to evolve, rather than being solely led by technique. The outcome of this instinctive approach is a bespoke cut which feels just right." This could mean moving away from the trend you initially wanted (for multiple reasons: it might not work for your face shape or hair texture, for example) in order to craft a cut that is truly unique and complements you better than anything else. The cut might still feature elements of the look you wanted to emulate (perhaps a wispy fringe or layers) but with an individual edge. "Although haircuts might look similar," adds George, "they are never identical. Hair should always be shaped for the individual so bespoke hair is my modus operandi."
London salon Hare & Bone is also a big advocate of instinctive cutting. Fitzrovia-based art team member Amelia Evans says that when following big trends such as the shag, curtain bangs or invisible layers, it's important to make the haircut suitable for the client. "This means looking at face shape, hair texture and lifestyle," says Amelia, to ensure you go away entirely happy. "Hare & Bone was founded on the ethos of instinctive cutting so all of our training and education comes from here. It's always how we work." Amelia explains that the salon was inspired by a desire to create hair that works with the bone structure of the face. "We spend time getting to really know each client in order to create a hairstyle that will truly complement them," says Amelia. "Educating clients on why a celebrity style won't be an exact replica is the most important aspect of everything we do as stylists. A good hairdresser will always study their client's face and create a personalised style (and colour, if that's what you're after) every time they visit."
London's most sought-after hairstylists, Nick Latham and Sean Paul Nother (better known as The Hair Bros), have based their whole business on the concept of instinctive cutting. They encourage clients to head in with air-dried hair so that they can work their magic on your natural lengths and dream up a style that suits you to a T — all without the need for too much styling. Their 'signature cut' is so popular, the Bros have recently brought a third stylist on board and release a select number of appointments monthly. "Everyone's hair looks the same when it's wet," Nick told R29 recently. "Sometimes you go into a salon, have your hair washed straightaway and the stylist hasn't even seen it. We start from a dry perspective and always at the front so the client can see what we're doing. That way, we both know exactly how it's going to look." The Hair Bros think about longevity and how it can become a haircut you love. "You could have amazing textured hair but it's only as good as the haircut," said Nick. "It's crazy that some people might never know what their hair is capable of. You don't want a carbon copy of someone else's haircut."
That's not to discourage you from referring to your Pinterest board in the salon chair. George likes people to bring in pictures because it gives him and his team of stylists an idea of your aesthetic. "It's like a mood board or a touchstone," he says, "but we tend to look at the picture and then put it away. My priority is to give my clients a look that truly suits them, albeit in the mood that they prefer." There are lots of things to consider when getting a haircut right, adds George. "I always think about the client's lifestyle, for example what they do professionally, how much time they have and how they maintain their hair." Then it's down to how best to shape and enhance.
The team at Adam Reed in London's Spitalfields doesn't believe in following rigid lines, either. The salon's website bio hits home the importance of instinctive cutting and emphasises "being open-minded and fluid". To Adam, getting the very best result means channelling originality. "We're in tune with our clients. A specific style might demand some dry cutting, a new product or the use of a razor." The latter is a cutting trend favoured by The Hair Bros, too. Adam adds: "Our stylists instinctively know what works and it's their job to make sure you trust them and are on board with their creative direction."

The three most versatile hair trends for winter

If you're in need of some solid inspiration, we asked three of the hair industry's top experts which cuts they think will reign supreme into the new year — and they're all easily tailored to your hair type, texture and personal style.

The Polished Shag

Celebrity hairstylist and Tangle Teezer brand ambassador Liam Curran boasts clients like Lana Del Rey, Cara Delevingne and Lindsay Lohan. He predicts a twist on the popular choppy shag. "The shag and mullet has had a softer, more polished upgrade for 2022," says Liam. "This look is more wearable in comparison to the more extreme, shorter layered looks we have been seeing everywhere in 2021. Not only is the new shag 2.0 softer but the styling has lots more bounce, volume and an overall more polished finish." Billie Eilish and Alexa Chung are the ultimate polished shag influencers.

The Power Cut

According to Frédéric Fekkai, the power cut simply means a style that is versatile. "It needs to look great during the day and easy to transform for the evening, almost like a reversible jacket, if you will." For curly hair, Frédéric says it's about a modern, shaggy style that "gives a cascade of curls and allows the hair to be swept to the side when you want to." For straight hair, Frédéric says: "The cut can be more angled and asymmetric, so you can part it one way or the other to have a more dramatic style." Layers are especially beneficial for those with curly hair, taking away any blocky heaviness and lending the look volume and dimension. Look to this cut by The Hair Bros.

Curly Draped Bangs

"The curtain fringe works well on clients with hair types ranging from 3b to 4b on the curl scale," explains Alicia McLaughlin, creative director at Bad Apple Hair. She suggests asking your chosen stylist to dry your hair into a style you're happy with, then cut in the fringe curl by curl. This is a lot easier on dry hair (as The Hair Bros recommend) as your stylist will be able to see where your hair sits naturally. Take a cue from this style created by Charlotte Mensah.
Refinery29's selection is purely editorial and independently chosen – we only feature items we love! As part of our business model we do work with affiliates; if you directly purchase something from a link on this article, we may earn a small amount of commission. Transparency is important to us at Refinery29, if you have any questions please reach out to us.

More from Hair

R29 Original Series