Hairstylist Sam McKnight on Kate Moss, Princess Diana and Good Hair

  • Written By:Bobbi Brown
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You have an emotional connection to every job you do.

Sam McKnight is the hairdresser of all hairdressers. His legendary career spans over four decades and he has worked on everything from fashion week catwalks (Chanel, Tom Ford) to fashion magazine covers (he has over 200 covers to his name from British Vogue alone). He’s styled everyone from Kate Moss to Naomi Campbell. And if that's not enough, he was behind Princess Diana's iconic hairstyle from the 1990s and worked as her personal hair stylist for years.

We met years ago on the set of a shoot for Vogue and I’ve loved following his incredible career. In our conversation, we talked about how he began his journey as a male hair stylist, and how being positive is a key component of success and his new line, Hair by Sam McKnight. Listen to the full episode of Long Story Short here.

On his favorite British Vogue cover...

I think there are more than 200 [covers] now. They are all so different. When people ask you about your favorite shoot, your favorite model. You have such an emotional connection to the day, the people in the shoot. Sometimes it can be not so great emotions, and sometimes it can be such a strong memory of something that happened that day. You have an emotional connection to every job you do. I still do.

On working with Kate Moss...

I’ve worked with Kate since she was a baby, a teenager. She is the model to end all models, really. She hit those heights that no one ever imagined and created a new blueprint. It’s been a pleasure doing all these different looks on Kate. And she’s become a really good friend, too. You are spending a lot of time in vulnerable situations growing up together. It’s a special bond you have, its nice. It’s like family. It’s another family.

I don’t thrive on drama, tension, and fear. I thrive on positivity.

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On always surrounding himself with positive people...

Luckily, I’ve had a career working with nice people. I don’t thrive on drama, tension and fear. I thrive on positivity. I like being around nice people, I like having fun. I remember being in a situation and thinking, I don’t want my career to be like this and I’m not going to back here. I was working with a well-known team and a big publication and I said, I’m just going to say no next time. And it worked out fine. Learning that early on was a good thing for me.

On cutting Princess Diana’s hair...

That came through British Vogue through Anna Harvey. She was the wonderful fashion director of British Vogue and she introduced Diana into fashion early on. Patrick [Demarchelier] was shooting some of the young ladies in the royal family and they didn’t really tell us who. We had Sarah Armstrong Jones, Helen Windsor and Victoria Lockwood. And then someone else came up the stairs, it was Princess Diana. She was absolutely divine.

I had made her hair look short with a tiara. She was so disarming and enchanting, you kind of fell in love with her instantly. She is one of those women that have that incredible power, intoxicating charisma, and all in a positive way. She was just really cool.

After the shoot, she loved the pictures. She said, “What would you do with my hair if I gave you free reign?” And I said, “I’d just cut it off and start again.” It was 1990, and the models were starting to have their hair cut short. I was going from the full on 80s to a streamlined 90s idea. She said, “Okay, let’s do it now.” I put a plastic garment bag down and cut her hair. It was the start of a lovely seven-year relationship. If I was in London, I would see her everyday. If I wasn’t, I had two girls that would fill in.

On his new products…

We made four different dry-styling products. What we need now are products that are quick and easy to use. One-step, easy to use, transformational product. They work well if you use a little, and really well if you use a lot. They build on each other and just as important, they brush out really easily.

Make yourself available for everything until you get a handle on what it is you want to do.

On his best advice...

Make yourself available. Don’t say no. Take every opportunity, don’t turn your nose up at things. Make yourself available for everything until you get a handle on what it is you want to do. Even now, making myself available is one of the most important things. If people think you aren’t available, they aren’t going to call.

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