If you want to get ahead, call Josh Wood

The man who keeps grey hair at bay for stars and moguls talks to Tim Walker

You can see it in the tell-tale orange halo at the far reaches of Silvio Berlusconi's hairline. It's there in the miraculous golden tint of Tony Blair and John McEnroe's sometime greys. It's been massaged into Michael Douglas's Donald Trump do. And then there's Paul McCartney's Heather Mills-era ginger rinse, which made such a compelling argument for divorce. The message: men, do not dye your hair. I've been going grey since university, but have never once considered colouring it, not least because the public results seem so risible. Tom Jones kicked the habit in 2008, after, he said, "I saw myself on TV and thought: 'Nah, that fucking hair!' It looks dyed, it looks false. You can't have dark brown hair when you're in your sixties."

We're always being told how good grey looks on a man: Mark Foster, Dermot Murnaghan, George Clooney. And yet, according to Josh Wood, probably Britain's premier colourist, more and more men are turning to the bottle. "We only hear about hair colour in this country if it's bad," says Wood, whose exclusive west London atelier serves both sexes. Men, he estimates, account for 15 per cent of his clientele. "I'm always asked about Paul McCartney's hair. Yes, it was coloured and yes it was bad. But there are plenty of men who you'd never know had hair colour. The secret of good hair colour for men is that it doesn't look coloured. It's taboo because nobody talks about it, because it's not meant to be talked about, because it looks natural."

Wood's female clients include Elle Macpherson, Laura Bailey, Kylie Minogue, January Jones, Jemima Khan and Sam Taylor-Wood, but he has attended to a few very famous men's heads, too, among them Mick Jagger's and David Bowie's. He was responsible for the blonde bouffant atop Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Taylor-Wood's husband, during the new film version of Anna Karenina. Most of his regular male clients, though, are "men that run huge financial institutions". Grey hair projects wisdom and experience, which is suitably reassuring on pilots and politicians – Blair and Berlusconi notwithstanding. But, says Wood, "in the entertainment industry there's a great pressure to see yourself as you've always seen yourself. And the financial sector is all about looking as on-the-ball as you possibly can."

Given the clandestine nature of men's hair colouring, Wood puts a premium on privacy and discretion. He is about to open another atelier inside the department store Liberty in central London, but his Holland Park premises is behind an unmarked black door in a quiet mews. He would never, he says, have a shopfront with a big glass window. "I have legal confidentiality agreements with some of my clients," he says. "If you go into someone's bathroom with them to do their hair every three weeks, you become part of their lives. It's not medicine, but you still have to have ethics, and if I'm privileged enough to be in that situation then I owe it to them not to write about it on my blog!"

Many of his male clients, he explains, are the husbands of his existing female clients. How does he approach a first consultation with a man? "It's very different for men and women. With women, you discuss fashion, you talk about how they're styled, what their look is. A woman walks into a salon thinking of their whole image. Most men wear trousers and a shirt, so their needs are of a different level. A woman will think nothing of bringing in a tearsheet of Gisele. I've never known a man to bring a tearsheet of anyone, not even George Clooney."

There is a unique intimacy to the relationship between Wood and his clients: these powerful men aren't trusting him merely with their hair colouring, but with the knowledge that their hair is coloured at all. He's due to travel to Moscow and Saudi Arabia after our interview, to perform maintenance on the pates of two top-flight clients. "The problem with believable hair colour is that it needs doing a lot, which is why I fly to Naples or Beijing so often. If you go to the extent of getting a colour that looks completely natural, you cannot have that tramline of grey roots. I've got clients that come in every 10 days. Generally, men who colour their hair to keep up appearances do it a lot more often than women."

Wood was born and brought up in working-class Barnsley, South Yorkshire. He "fell into" hairdressing, he recalls, after a friend of his got a Saturday job in a local salon. Wood signed up too, and was soon enrolled on a Youth Training Scheme. He saw hairdressing first and foremost, he says, as a way out of Barnsley, and before long he got a job at Vidal Sassoon in Leeds. "That was the first time I learnt that there was a difference between someone who cut hair and someone who coloured hair. I wasn't really that good at cutting and blow-drying, and there weren't that many colourists at that time – certainly not male colourists – so I thought I'd have a better chance of forging a career."

Aged 20, he left Yorkshire, and spent the next few years working for Vidal Sassoon in London and New York. In 1999, he and hairdresser Belle Cannan co-founded the Real Hair salon in Chelsea. "If I asked you to name five hairdressers, you'd immediately have Vidal, Nicky Clarke, John Frieda," he says. "If I asked you to name five colourists, you'd struggle. In this country we've always been geared towards celebrity stylists; colourists were an afterthought. If I've contributed anything, it's that I've got the colourist out of the basement."

Last year, he opened the Holland Park salon, with its staff of 24 stylists and colourists; it's breathtakingly chic, without being the least bit intimidating. (Well, maybe the least bit.) Its success has led to the in-store atelier at Liberty, which opens this month. There, too, he expects to have male clients. The recession may have made people more afraid of ageism costing them their jobs, he suggests, but, "Men's grooming has always been there. In the past, you'd have somebody to shave you every day, or to cut your hair and put oil in it."

He doesn't colour the grey in his own hair, which is spreading apace. "It's ageing," he admits. "We're not all George Clooney. But I've never really coloured to cover grey. I haven't got time for the upkeep."

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

    £70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all