By Oribe Hair Care / March 2, 2012
For Gary Croteau, it is hard to believe that 26 years styling hair have gone by so quickly. Currently the Director of Education at Salon Mario Russo in Boston, this experienced stylist has been involved in all facets of the industry, from establishing a very loyal clientele in the salon to styling for editorial photo shoots and high fashion runways. Gary’s love for hair grew out of his love for the arts in general, something he is still passionate about today. Read on to find out Gary’s current style fixations, how he got started in the profession and why he’s been referred to as the “wig whisperer”…
How did you get into the profession?
I studied fine arts at Saint Michael’s College in Winooski, VT. There I honed my skills in both the performing and visual arts. As a performer, I was always interested in the physical transformation that actors and dancers undergo as they take on different roles on stage.
As time went on, my interest in this area grew stronger but at same time, I was interested in finding new mediums to explore. My mother is a great artist, and she had me studying art from the time I was old enough to hold a paintbrush until college. Because of her, I have a profound understanding of colors. I also understand how to use lines to make the eye move around a canvas in a certain way. I know how to bring attention to a certain area of a piece or take it away; to make objects appear to come forward or make them recede.
These principles of line, design, color and texture apply to hair and makeup. The hair is just a different medium to sculpt with: a three dimensional canvas rather than two dimensional canvases used for painting.
As an artist, I am always happiest when I’m creating. I started cutting and styling friends’ hair in my dorm room long before I received any formal training. I have to credit my classmate, Michele, for being the first person to let me do this. After I was finished, I think we were both surprised and delighted at how good her new haircut looked. When complimented on her new cut, she would give me credit and eventually, I was cutting hair almost every day, usually in exchange for food or beer. It was then that I decided I wanted to learn more about hair so I moved to Boston to attend Blaine Hair School.
Do you have a signature style?
I don’t think I have a particular signature haircut, but I have been instrumental in creating signature looks for some of my clients. Many of my long time clients tell me that they have come back to me over the years because of my ability to consistently give them the same haircut and/or color time and time again. Other clients have like that they never leave the salon looking the same way twice. The key to a successful career in this business is based on one’s ability understand a client’s expectation, and to meet or exceed that expectation consistently.
Favorite Oribe product?
It is very difficult to say which Oribe product is my favorite because I love so many of them. What I love most is that they do exactly what I want them to do without doing something additional that I don’t want. I love Impermèable for its shine and workability. I can’t imagine building up a style without it. I also love what Royal Blowout does for course hair.
What do you do on your days off?
I have an unusual schedule as a hair stylist. I work Monday through Friday and have the weekends off. I have a summer home in Truro on Cape Cod where I spend most of my time off – beaching, boating and barbecuing with my incredibly fun friends. I love cooking and entertaining at home, but also love going out to dinner and drinks. I still have a huge interest in art, so I attend shows or concerts often and visit the many art galleries and museums in Boston and New York.
Your current muse?
I would have to say that my current muse is my friend Marisa. She is always up for anything and has one of those gorgeous faces that looks great in anything. There is neither a length that is too short nor a color that is too wild for her. I have an entire portfolio on Oribe.pro devoted to some of her hair colors. Currently she is wearing a short, chocolate brown cropped cut with an accent of hot pink in the fringe. We did that for her neon-themed birthday party last week.
What is your favorite word?
My favorite word is “yes”. I love to hear it, and it usually gives me great pleasure to be able to use it. A close second is “honey boo boo child” though I guess it’s more of a phrase instead of a word. It’s from my latest YouTube obsession.
What is your current style fixation?
I am tired of the long, layered hair augmented with tons of extensions and curled, to the likes of Kim Kardashian or one of the Real Housewives. These days, I like hair that is just past the collar bone or shorter with tons of layers and movement. I’ve always been a fan of gorgeous healthy hair, but I like the matte texture, volume and separation that Dry Texturizing Spray creates.
Funniest thing a client has said in your chair?
Having worked in the same city and for the same company for several decades, I have a very loyal and regular clientele. Many say that ours is the longest relationship they’ve ever had. I’ve been there through dates, weddings, promotions, children, divorces and deaths. At a party once, a client introduced me to her friend by saying, “This is my dear friend and fabulous stylist, Gary. He does my hair for ALL of my weddings.” Though true, I thought that that was a very funny comment.
How is styling for fashion editorials different than your salon work?
I take bigger risks and do more experimentation. In my editorial work, I am working for myself, not for a client, so I constantly challenge myself to do something novel. After all of these years, I am delighted I can still come up with things I’ve never done before. Some of my best work has come as a result of redoing something that didn’t work the first time. As with any type of art, the process of creating can be more gratifying than the finished product.
I can’t really say that I have a guilty pleasure, because guilt is something I try to steer clear of in my life. I will admit that I do have a ridiculous obsession with buying gym shoes. I have them stacked in labeled boxes from the floor to the ceiling in one of my closets. Though I do work out regularly, I should probably be in better shape than I am with all those sneakers…
Profession other than your own?
If I were not a hair stylist, I would still be in a very creative field. I could be a chef, party planner, architect, graphic artist or writer, but preferably an actor. I perform regularly here is Boston as a professional actor with the Gold Dust Orphan Theatrical Company. They perform all original works by Ryan Landry, the creative director of the company. Backstage at the shows I am known as the “wig whisperer” because I can fix any wig destroyed during the show.
What’s your current state of mind?
My current state of mind is happy and relaxed. This profession has been very good to me. It has brought me all over the world, allowed me to meet incredibly interesting and successful people at the top of their respective fields and it has taught me the importance of working hard and smart. It’s earned me a great living and given me the ability to have everything I need and want in my life. Most importantly, it’s made me very happy, as I am happiest when I’m creating and in this profession, I create every day. I get to conceptualize and bring art projects to fruition daily in the form of hairstyles and for me, that is a beautiful thing.
“This article ran on Oribe Hair Care’s professionals-only site, but you can read more of their content on Oribe.com”