When Daniel Stier went to Paris to photograph the 'Olympics of hair', the results were a long way from the 'cut and blow-dry' school of styling.

We are all familiar with the sleek, highlighted manes sported by denizens of the fashion and celebrity magazines, from Gisele to Jennifer Aniston and Kate Middleton. But, says the German-born photographer Daniel Stier, "I like the idea that there are different ideas of beauty." Seen here are a startling array of locks Stier shot earlier this month at the Organisation Mondiale Coiffure (OMC), the "Olympics of hair", in Paris. Some are several hairstyles in one, with 1940s rolls, waves, curls and sprays of hair looking like some sort of sci-fi flower arrangement.

The OMC competition and trade fair takes place every four years – "like the World Cup", says Stier, who has been biding his time to snap the event ever since he saw an "unforgettable documentary about a guy from a small town who goes to compete in the show". People come from around ' the world to take part with a team or as individuals, many of whom are from small salons – and they take it extremely seriously, down to the preparation and the kit. One team from America arrived a week in advance to acclimatise, as if they were going to be hairdressing at altitude. Stier recalls a German team with customised tracksuits with Hairworld 2010 on the back, and a team from Mongolia with the name of their country emblazoned on their clothes.

The competition is divided into categories from Classic and Creative to Hair by Night (unsuitable to be viewed in daylight, perhaps?) and Trend Cut, which seems to be mainly a short, spiky style with tips coloured red, pink and peroxide; rather like a punky porcupine. Eye-catching? Certainly. Likely to topple Alexa Chung or Jennifer Aniston from their hair-icon pedestals? Maybe not. The Fantasy category certainly lives up to its name, featuring one ' model dressed as a pineapple, another with hair teased into something resembling a tree stump covered in flowers, and a third with hair – or rather extensions – teased into vertical blue ringlets in the style of an underwater scene, complete with replica clownfish. "The really outrageous ones were like something out of a carnival, with trees and leaves," says Stier. "It was mayhem and there was no way of even getting near to the entries, because there was so much excitement." But, he adds: "I liked the idea of the more realistic hairstyles." Well, everyone's reality is different.