Hair Stylist Interviews: How Oliver Went From Pre-Med to Harlot
Los Angeles hair stylist Oliver Shortall is one of the original Harlots, and we can’t get enough of him and his talents. He was a finalist in the What’s Next Awards this year, joins us for all our New York Fashion Week gigs, and tours the country as a Sebastian hair stylist to teach. Despite all his success though, Oliver originally envisioned using scissors for a very different career. Want to find out more about Oliver, his career, and his advice to clients and aspiring hair stylists? Read on…
How did you get into hair?
I didn’t get into hair, hair got into me. I was in college as a pre-med, and left because I just needed a break from college. I started working at a salon as a receptionist, and from there I went to assisting, and then became a hair dresser. I never wanted to be a hair stylist growing up, I wanted to be a surgeon. But working as a receptionist I saw people come in looking one way, and leave looking and feeling another. It was pretty fantastic, so I wanted to see how that magic happened, and that’s when I started to dig a little deeper and see what it was all about.
So I went to school, did a year in school, and was pretty much self taught until Sebastian six years ago, which was about two years into my career as a hair dresser. I was a salon owner in Maryland at the time, at just 22 years old, and was asked to audition by my account manager, who had become my client. It’s also through Sebastian that I met Marylle. I then sold my salon, went to San Francisco for a year and when Marylle told me about starting the Harlot, I wanted to be on board.
Why did you want to work as hair stylist in Los Angeles?
It wanted to be a Los Angeles hair stylist because of Marylle, because of the Harlot salon. That, and Sebastian. Our headquarters are here, and this is the city that I feel like you can really grown as an artist, and grow as a hair stylist.
What is your strength as a hair stylist?
I feel like my strength as a hair stylist is educating. Whether it’s educating a client about what they should have, educating a student on how to do something new, or even just educating and inspiring a client to do something with their personal life or do something with their career. I feel like my strength as a hair stylist is communication.
I’m also very strong with color. I guess I’m the lead colorist in the salon, I teach most of the color classes here. And working for Sebastian I’m also a very strong cutter and styler. But if I would have to say what my one strongest thing is, it’s teaching. Teaching clients how to do their own hair, blow drying and styling, that kind of stuff.
What are your hair stylist career highlights?
I don’t know. Every year just keeps getting better and better, and bigger and bigger things are happening. At one point I would have said New York Fashion Week, then I would have said being hired by the Harlot, and right now I’m traveling the country doing a lot of trade shows for Sebastian. So going on stage in front of 500 to a thousand people, you know, that’s a huge moment. It’s such a journey, it’s hard to say just one thing. There’s always more to look forward to. I mean, being a finalist for the What’s Next Awards was also really cool. There’s just so much.
What was one of the most special moments you’ve had with a client?
I just got an email last week from a client who had to go on medication. She’s a young girl, probably in her late 20’s. She had to go on medication I believe for thyroid issues, and her hair dried out really bad, and got super thin, and she’d always had really good hair. And she sent me an email saying that for the first time in years she could look at herself in the mirror and feel like she looked attractive again. She’s a very pretty girl, who works in a high profile job, so it’s important. We ended up cutting off eight inches from her hair to make it look healthy again, and change the way she felt about herself.
“This is a salon full of artists,
not just service providers.”
What makes the Harlot the best hair salon in Los Angeles?
It’s just something very different here from all other Los Angeles hair salons. Every stylist is very strong at something. It’s an experience, you know? This is a salon full of artists, not just service providers. People come here to look the best they can absolutely look. They don’t come in saying: “I want this and I want that.” They come in and sit in the chair and maybe give us a few guidelines, but it’s more like: “What’s gonna make me look hotter?” A lot of other salons take the easy road, whereas we cater to each client differently. Like, for me it’s not about putting one color in a bowl and slapping it on the head, it’s about creating a custom color for each client according to eye color, skin tone, personality…That’s really important.
Sebastian Whipped Cream is one of my biggest. It’s a treatment styler, so it’s great for air drying curly hair and doing blowouts. It just adds a lot of moisture and protein to the hair. Sebastian Trilliant Styling Spray is another one of my favorites. It’s a heat protector that adds shine, moisture and hold. I use it on most of your clients. I also love Wella Oil Reflections, it’s a very lightweight oil that you can put in the hair and it repairs while styling. And I love Eviza Boar’s Hair Brushes, because they’re really good at smoothing hair, and they’re easy for clients to use. (All mentioned products are available at the Harlot Salon on 1641 Abbot Kinney)
As a hair stylist, what’s your biggest piece of hair advice to clients?
Hm, how do I say this nicely? Haha. My biggest piece of advice for clients would be to listen to your stylist. Because we’re artists. This is what we do, this is what we have trained so hard for. So if you trust your hair stylist, then listen to them. We take your personality and wishes into account.
What’s you advice for aspiring hair stylists on how to become a hair stylist?
What you’re coming into is a lifestyle, it’s not a career. So you need to be willing to eat, breathe and sleep hair to be next big thing. Don’t be a cookie cutter hair stylist. Be an individual, be an artist. And the only way that’s gonna is happen is by putting in lot of time and hard work.
What are your amibitions for the future?
I just want to inspire. That is what it come down to. Inspire clients to evolve their look, inspire hairdressers to become better hair dressers, inspire other people to take that next step in their lives. That’s who we are as hair dressers. We’re not only just artists behind the chair, we’re coaches.
Want to get your hair done by the lovely Oliver Shortall? Call 310 399 6525 to make an appointment, or visit us at our salon on 1641 Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice!