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ANGUS MITCHELL - First Family of Hair by Kaya Morgan

"Earning Your Stripes. . ." as Angus Mitchell put it, "can be a humbling experience." With a famous father, and a legacy known 'round the world, Angus Mitchell has finally taken his rightful place in the industry.

Certainly, his father, the late Paul Mitchell was a true fashion visionary — as the original creator of the first "wash-and-wear," free-styled hair that liberated women from weekly trips to the hairdresser. This famous young protégé began working the "hottest" Sassoon salon on London’s Bond Street attracting celebrities of the day such as the Beatles, Mary Quant, Twiggy, Carnaby Street, Jean Shrimpton, who happily waited for hours to have their locks tousled in this avant-garde salon.

After winning every hair contest in Europe, in the early 1970’s, Paul Mitchell opened "Superhair" in New York and a new era in the history of hairdressing was born. Beginning the first "Cutting Club" in America, hairdressers from all over the country came to be trained. Then, in the late 70’s, the shag, Paul’s invention, hit like wildfire. It soon became time to take his show on the road.

So, Paul bought a large furniture truck and hit the highways with backdrops and drapes, a mobile light and sound system with a huge video screen. It was a rock-and-roll hair show the likes of which rural America had never seen before, complete with elaborate, smoked-Plexiglas studio chairs that whipped out onto the modular stage at show time giving Paul center stage to work his magic.

Even as a toddler, Angus’s life decidedly revolved around Superhair. Limousines dropped off the "Who’s Who" of New York’s upper echelon with rock-and-rollers, models, writers, artists and celebrities such as Geraldo Rivera, Barbara Walters, Raquel Welch and even Pat Nixon, all patiently waiting their turn with famed hair guru, Paul Mitchell. Angus still remembers racing his radio-controlled cars under the chairs and between the customers’ legs, getting underfoot even while the hairdressers waved their scissors to try to scare him off.

Then came Bob Guccione’s slick, new "international magazine for women" — VIVA — purportedly the woman’s version of Penthouse. When friend, Paul Mitchell, suggested running a story on hairstyling with pages of slick pubic haircuts in heart shapes, flame, arrow and wave shapes, it was a creative roller coaster that everyone around him wanted to be on. The surrealistic, six-page, full-color spread appeared in the August, 1974 issue of VIVA making fashion history. No one who saw those pages will likely ever forget them. Six months after that, Paul and his entire Superhair staff, clustered around a sultry redhead, redefined moxie, in a controversial move, by appearing nude on the front cover of VIVA, immediately solidifying Paul’s reputation as an irreverent, flamboyant risk-taker.

Then in 1976, Paul brought Angus to Hawaii where he began the early Paul Mitchell Systems line of hair products. But it wasn’t until 1980, when John Paul Jones DeJoria, today the CEO of John Paul Mitchell Systems, with an initial investment of $700 became Paul’s partner. The rest is, as they say, history.

So, just how much does Angus Mitchell follow in his father’s footsteps? His life was anything but normal as he continued to fly back and forth between New York and his new home in Hawaii. Still a city boy at heart, Angus missed the sights and sounds of Manhattan, even though he soon learned to appreciate the simpler pleasures of Island life. "I’ll never forget walking up a dirt road in Waimanalo," he recalls. "All of a sudden it got muddy, with dirt squishing between our toes, and dad said, ‘I love it!’ So did I, but when I went back to New York and told my grandmother, she was appalled."

He still remembers well that his father wanted him to understand the value of a dollar and suggested Angus begin a newspaper route at a young age in order to earn his own spending money. But, more than that, Angus says, "My dad was a deeply spiritual man, who taught me that everything came from God, and was all connected in some way."

That thought carries over into everything Angus does today and has perhaps molded his character more than any other single influence. His quiet, inner calm is so powerful that you can almost feel its presence right through his energetic exterior.

Although, Angus says, it took him quite a few years to adapt to life in Los Angeles, he "wouldn’t change it for the world." His initial interests took him into the acting world. But, he quickly learned that his inborn talents might not have their full opportunity there. Once he made up his mind to turn his energy towards the industry that had such an affinity for the Mitchell name, it was as if he had finally come "home."

However, "Earning your stripes," as Angus put it, "can be a humbling experience." When you begin, Angus recalls, as "low man on the totem pole" at the well-known Vidal Sassoon Academies in London and Los Angeles, you sometimes, "feed the meter or walk the client’s dog. Basically, you learn that ultimate service is completely caring for your client during the time they spend in your salon."

Eventually, it was time to return to the fold, and Angus embraced the opportunity to take up the role as international educator, creating hair shows that demonstrated the total functionality of the Paul Mitchell products to hairdressers the world over. Also, it was time well spent learning from John Paul DeJoria, the "master," that literally took Paul’s initial idea and product line to a whole new level through his own sales and marketing genius, spiriting the company to become the most well-known hair empire in America, and eventually, the world.

"Another important aspect of business that I learned from John Paul was the contribution we can make to saving and restoring the planet through a variety of avenues," continues Angus. "It doesn’t matter what your particular or favorite ‘cause’ is. What’s important is that you have one and that you’re putting positive energy into something you believe in."

Recently, Angus returned from a European tour, beginning in London, promoting his high-tech hair designs, and soon-to-be released hair and body products, Angus M. Using pop music as a common language, he was no longer a stranger in a strange place. "The English embody just the right blend of rebellion and reverence. With their music, their fashion, their hair — they’re always trying to work up something new," says Angus. Whether it was David Bowie, Oasis, Radiohead, Hendrix or Blur on the CD, images took shape as the boom box blasted. Hence, the birth of his new PoPToPs Collection.

The greatest thing in Angus’s life is that he gets to do what he loves — his passion. He is proud to be a hairdresser and feels comfortable with being himself. Having the benefits of his father’s guidance and tutelage, Angus Mitchell is wise beyond his years. Icons like Armani and Gehry have impressed upon him the importance of not taking oneself too seriously. "Remember," says Angus, "when all is said and done — it’s only hair!"

Like father, like son, may be one way to paraphrase the story of Angus Mitchell as one of the world’s preeminent heirs of hair. It’s clear that his unique talent now has it’s own evolving trademark. Angus divides his free time between his Kailua beachfront estate and Big Island ranch in Hawaii, townhouse in Westwood and apartment in Manhattan.

To contact Angus Mitchell, visit the web site.

More stories by journalist, Kaya Morgan, can be found by clicking the link. Contact us for reprint rights as most articles are available.

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