Thursday, 03 October 2013

The man who saved Audrey's hair

From Audrey Hepburn and Dame Maggie Smith to Sir Laurence Olivier - when the world's greatest film icons had a bad hair day, they all turned to one man, Philip Kingsley

Written by Fiona Hicks
He has been called the Hair Guru by the New York Times, the Hair Wizard by American Vogue and The Hair Doctor by The Sunday Times. Philip Kingsley – who has also been called a friend by Audrey Hepburn, Jean Shrimpton and Laurence Olivier – is the stars’ secret when it comes to preserving a perfect head of hair.

Kingsley is the world’s leading trichologist. Now enjoying the seventh decade of his profession, he has been pivotal in ensuring many of the most famous figures maintain those crucial luscious locks. As we sit down to chat in his discreet and beautifully appointed offi ce in Mayfair, Kingsley reminisces about the moment that his career really took off.
Philip-Kingsley-02-382Philip Kingsley: coined the phrase 'bad hair day'
It is the 1960s, and London’s theatre scene is thriving. English actor Harry Andrews went to see him and said, ‘I hear you’re very good, and you could grow me some hair back.’ Although a little in awe of his distinguished client, Kingsley maintained the courteous yet direct approach, which has become his trademark. ‘He had very little hair, so I said, “I wish I could, but you have male pattern hair loss and you can’t do anything about that. But I can make what little you have left look and feel better.”’

Andrews was so impressed by Kingsley’s honesty that he went straight back to the National Theatre and raved about him to his peers, one of whom was especially famous. 'And that’s how Laurence Olivier came to see me,’ smiles Kingsley, looking quite boyish, despite his 80-something years. ‘I was quite star-struck.’

A consummate professional, Kingsley would not discuss the particular concerns of his clients, but considering that Olivier maintained an impressive head of hair well into his twilight years, it would appear that the star heeded this expert’s advice. ‘He was a great guy, I was very fond of him,’ he smiles, ‘and of course, the rest of the National Theatre followed him.’

Dame Maggie Smith, Sir Robert Stephens and Derek Jacobi have all paid him a visit, and at points, people have queued down the street, eager to benefit from his wisdom. ‘I was so naive, I didn’t realise what was going on. I’ve been very lucky,’ he says.

Kingsley’s graciousness is both endearing and genuine. He has a gentle manner, and each staff member I meet (many of whom have worked for him for decades) praises his kindness. All of this, along with his pocket handkerchief and matching matching socks, makes him seem like a gentleman from a forgotten age. But his current situation belies his start in life. Born to an impoverished family in the East End in the 1930s, he originally wanted to be a doctor, ‘but my parents couldn’t afford it, so I did the trichology course instead.’ He turned out to have a natural affinity for the subject, and went on to win his first job at a salon in Berkeley Square.

'I knew nothing of life really, because I’d spent five years studying trichology and my whole life was about hair,’ he says. ‘But that salon taught me a lot about women, and an awful lot about the importance of hair.’ After fi ve years he branched out on his own, opening his fi rst clinic on Dorset Street in 1960. He moved to his current location in upmarket Mayfair in 1968, and premises in New York followed in 1977. Dedicated to his clients, Kingsley continues to work in both, making numerous trips across the Atlantic every year.

Not only was Kingsley the man to coin the phrase ‘bad hair day’ (he used it in conversation with famous beauty editor Veronica Papworth in the 1950s, who then printed it in her column in The Sunday Express) but he is unrivalled in his work to make people understand the emotional and psychological signifi cance of hair. ‘It doesn’t matter what jewellery you have, what clothes you’re wearing, what your skin is like… if your hair is a mess, it seriously aff ects your morale.’Philip-Kingsley-00-Quote-590-NEW
The reason for this, he explains, is that hair is a secondary sexual characteristic. ‘If your hair looks good, you know you look more attractive. People use their hair to fl aunt sexually whether they realise it or not.’ The psychological eff ects are deep and should not be dismissed. Kingsley deals with all sorts of issues, from scalp problems to breakage to ‘the fi nal taboo’: hair loss among young women. ‘I’ve had lots of women suicidal because of hair problems,’ he says.

Along with his consultations, he  has also spent years building a range of products, one of which was conceived especially for another notable client. ‘Audrey Hepburn came to see me, though I didn’t realise it was her, because she booked in under her married name, Mrs Dotti. I remember saying to her, “I don’t know if you’ve heard this before, but you look an awful lot like Audrey Hepburn.” She almost fell off her chair laughing.’

The pair remained firm friends from that appointment in 1974, until her death in 1993. Kingsley’s hero product – the pre-shampoo treatment called Elasticizer – was created for the film star because ‘she wasn’t happy with how her hair was behaving, from shot to shot’. Hepburn, in turn, remained a regular visitor to Kingsley’s clinic, even buying shoes for all his staff , as she observed they were on their feet all day. ‘She really was the most divine person,’ he says.

With a career that spans a lifetime, Kingsley shows no signs of slowing down. When he is not writing books, continuing his research or seeing clients, he makes a point of going to the theatre to unwind. ‘I’ve had so many people from the theatre and movie business coming to see me, I’d like to put back some of the money that they pay me,’ he laughs.

Philip Kingsley’s London Clinic is at 54 Green Street, London W1: 020-7629 4004,

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