MUDDY STILLETOS - 28/8/18:
I’d been hearing good things about Celtic Magpie hair salon in the sleepy south-west Oxon market town of Faringdon. Fortuitously, acclaimed novelist and journalist Clover Stroud lives nearby and even more fortuitously she had an unruly mop in dire need of some TLC. So in she popped to see if Celtic Magpie makes the cut (#mumjoke). How’s the new coiff, Clover?
My poor hair has been under assault recently. I have five kids in total, with three babies produced in the past four years: let’s just say that my hair is testament to the fact that the hormonal ups and downs of pregnancy really can play havoc with the way you look. And in between running around after toddlers, taming teenage tantrums, to say nothing of actually getting some work done, my hair has been neglected. The demands of motherhood also meant it seemed to be having something of an identity crisis to match its owners (who the hell exactly am I now?!). It’s not helped by the fact I’ve also recently gone through that devastating (yes, really) experience of breaking up with a favourite salon in Oxford when my beloved stylist moved abroad. For the past year I’ve been in that tricky phase of flipping between salons, trying to find one to really love. A bit like serial monogamy, only with a lot of dye and scissors involved.
It’s on the first floor above the Rookery Café, which is handy as you can stop for top notch avocado on sourdough or a flat white on your way up. It’s also a stone’s throw from the beautiful rolling hills of the Ridgeway and Uffington White Horse. This is appropriate as the building, dating back to 1680, originally housed the town’s carriage makers. A sense of history and heritage remains in the high ceilings and gorgeous exposed beams. Gazing at the ceiling with my head in a sink, it was pretty amazing to think of the leather smiths, carpenters and wheel wrights who worked there until 1920. Today, though, there’s nothing olde worlde about this space, and with its tall windows and enamel pendant lamps, it feels more like a groovy New York loft space, which matches owner Shane Evans’ totally contemporary vision for the salon.
Shane has a sister salon to Celtic Magpie in Windermere, and has been in the business 31 years, so knows his stuff, training as a make-up artist then working for Wella and several other big brands for over a decade. It was during this time he became increasingly disenchanted by the amount of plastic waste and harsh chemicals used in hairdressing. Since opening this salon four years ago, he pours a lot of energy into researching and stocking sustainable, organic products with a low carbon footprint, and now happens to be bang on the current environmental zeitgeist. He uses the Organic Colour System, by Herb UK, and also offers a refill service on shampoo and conditioner. It’s truly inspiring, and leaves me determined to cut down on the amount of plastic bottle rattling around my shower. Shane also stocks natural, organic moisturisers, lipsalves, bath salts and candles, handmade in the Lake District by Sophiology, and, from the end of April, will be stocking Zao makeup, fully vegan, refillable products packaged in bamboo cases. I left with some gorgeous treats for girlfriends (and, let’s be completely honest, myself.)
HOW THEY DID IT
I wanted low maintenance colour that would grow out naturally, so colourist Kirsty gave me a half head, rather than whole head, of highlights. I could almost feel my hair breathing a sign of relief as it was treated with two different shades of blonde using the Organic Colour System, with a brunette stripe added to break up any brassiness of the previous colour. The products are totally free from ammonia and harsh PPDs but are still able to deliver the natural golden, summery highlights I’ve been craving after this endless winter.
A previous stylist had tried to get to grips with my thick wavy hair by working dodgy layers into my cut which just looked like very heavy steps. Kirsty levelled out the layers, giving me a shoulder length bob. She then blow-dried it and trimmed it a bit more once dry, leaving enough length so I could still pull it into a quick ponytail on busy days.
One of my firmest specifications of my cut was that it should be something I could keep up with at home without a huge amount of effort. Too many times I’ve left a salon with a great cut and blow dry which is then impossible to maintain myself since, funnily enough, I don’t have my own personal stylist or 45 minutes spare every morning to perfect a blow dry. I love the work that went on at Celtic Magpie because there’s enough gentle colour to let me maintain the fantasy I’m a natural blonde, but I’ll also be able to leave a good 9-12 weeks before I have to get it redone. Although it’s by no means a radical restyle, it’s unquestionably the best cut and colour I’ve had in the last five years, and crucially it’s easy to maintain as well. At £52 for the cut, and £57 for the colour, it’s also really good value compared to the prices of a bigger city salon, and I leave with that warm, happy feeling of having done something good for the planet, too.