Hair Heir: An Interview with Angus Mitchell, Son of Paul Mitchell


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Angus Mitchell, son of John Paul Mitchell Systems co-founder, the late Paul Mitchell, followed his father’s heart as well as his footsteps. Paul Mitchell was revered for his hair artistry and loved for his commitment to causes that extended beyond the salon world and Angus continues this tradition of giving back—to his industry, community, and to young professionals launching their salon careers.

The Beauty Changes Lives Foundation will honor Paul Mitchell with the Legacy Award on Sunday, March 31, 2019, during the 7th annual Beauty Changes Lives Experience co-hosted by America’s Beauty Show and Pivot Point International and Angus Mitchell will accept the award honoring his father’s legacy.

We spoke with him about what it means to be an advocate for professional education and the son of Paul Mitchell.

MS: Tell us a bit about your first memories of being in the salon.

AM: I was born in Manhattan in 1970 and at the time my father was working for Henri Bendel and was the general manager. He opened his salon, Superhair, and that is when education, something he was so passionate about, really came into play for him. He would be in the salon giving education until the wee hours and I was there, playing and watching. If I had a time machine I would go back to and visit that time period. You had the British Invasion happening, The Beatles and The Stones, all the excitement of hair and music colliding and exploding.  It was the creation of the wash-and-wear hair that was happening in London, and that Dad brought to America.

MS: And how did he make his way to Hawaii?

AM: At one point, he just got burnt out and decided that he wanted to step away. He found this beautiful place in Hawaii. It was a little studio beach shack with a Volkswagen bus that had broken down on the side of the house and that we used as our cottage. The bedroom was just a bed with curtains around it. The kitchen was a two-prong, plug-in electric stove top.  Every summer, from the age of five until I was ten, I would go and stay with my Dad. One of my favorite stories from that time is when my Dad had offered to buy me a bicycle and we went to three garage sales and the last one had three bikes for sale; a BMX, a 10- speed and a rusty girl’s bike covered in flower stickers.  Well, I wanted the BMX but he said, no, you get the girl’s bike because no one will want to steal it.  He was about being practical and he taught me the value of a dollar.

When he started the business with John Paul and they had finally paid off all their debts, the first thing he wanted to do was to buy a piece of property. In the beginning, all the awapuhi on the farm was planted by me. His vision was about leaving a carbon-free footprint and we actually built electric cars up there. So much of this is the norm today, but back then, people thought we were crazy. 

MS: How did you decide you wanted to go to beauty school?

AM: I’m sorry to say my father had passed away before I had made that decision. He passed when I was 18. I had always asked my Dad to teach me to cut hair but he said he wanted me to finish high school and get some college behind me, first, but I didn’t feel like college was the right fit. My Mom was an actress and her agent thought I had a lot of promise but I really thought that since hair is a family business, I should at least try and see if I like it or not.

When I got into the Los Angeles Vidal Sassoon Academy, I put a lot of pressure on myself.  It was the first time I did something that hadn’t come naturally to me but that drove me harder.  And there were a lot of people who though I was there because I had to be not because I wanted to be. Halfway through school, one of our platform artists said,’ how are you doing, are you ok?  Because if you’re just ok, quit now, because you’ll never be as good as your father.’  Instead of feeling defeated, that really stimulated me, actually. I loved the culture at Sassoon and Vidal was the reason my father had come to America.

When I graduated, I worked between the salon and the school as an educator. When Vidal would come in the salon, I would sit with him and thank him because if he hadn’t brought my father over, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity. We always had a beautiful friendship.

MS: At what point did you say to yourself, ‘Wow, I actually like this?’

AM: Well, this is what I tell students; I put so, so much pressure on myself, that I didn’t allow myself to enjoy it until about ten years ago.  Truly.  But now, every time I get on stage, it starts to feel better and better. You have trained your eye and you have trained your hands to move efficiently and the more you can relax into it and enjoy what is in your hands, beautiful things happen.

I feel so blessed that I get to work next to this incredible artist, Robert Cromeans. The Sassoon culture is about taking your time but when I work with Robert he says, you have twenty minutes onstage and I need three haircuts out of you. It’s taking what I know and pushing past it to still create quality. Really, I have the best job in the world; I get to cut hair, from shoulder to chin, in ten minutes and make something amazing happen.

MS: You are a real inspiration to the Future Professionals of Paul Mitchell Schools—what would you tell students about why beauty is a beautiful career?

AM: Beauty is so diverse—you can be a cutter, a colorist, a stylist, you can do it all.  You can be an independent artist who travels doing fashion shows, working closely with celebs, or a successful salon stylist in your hometown. It’s a career you can take with you everywhere.

MS: What does it take to be successful in your first salon job?

AM: After being a salon owner, I know that you really have to step out of your comfort zone and build a clientele as quickly as possible.  Coming out of beauty school, you have to go through whatever apprenticeship program they have but once that is done it’s really important that you go out and you get your models and you promote yourself.  A clientele is not going to walk in and make you a successful stylist. 

MS: Today, you have a son. Is he going to enter the family business?

AM: It’s a little soon to tell.  He just started school full time –and I miss him when he’s gone all day!  He gravitates to his left but he cuts with his right hand so I can still hand down my shears.  I’d love for him to be the fourth generation but obviously I would support him no matter what he would do with his life.

MS: And to close, Angus, what is one piece of life advice that your father passed on to you?

AM: To lead with your heart. People that speak from their hearts are the ones that are remembered.