You can always tell when a location is a beauty stalwart: there’s an air of calm, understated-yet-refined luxury and staff tend to treat you like a regular even if it’s your very first visit. Ridiculously, despite over 12 years working in the beauty industry, I hadn’t found myself in Van Clarke’s eponymous salon before, but even after one visit I hope to do so again.
Tucked in the centre of Marylebone, it’s a visit that has left a lasting impressed opinion. From the flower-filled decor of the reception, which makes a welcome change from the usually bland (if non-existent) waiting areas in hair salons, to the ridiculously good haircut and treatment that I trialled.
Van Clarke’s approach to cutting is what’s made him a go-to for the last 25 years. He cuts hair dry, explaining as he does so, why wet cuts end up with hair that’s harder to style and lamenting the current penchant of other stylists to make longer hair hang limply due to the shape of the cut. “Get a cut right”, he explains “and it should feel healthier, have more volume and bring a hairstyle to life”. It was interesting watching him do it – it felt both random and meticulously planned but the result was remarkable. Without using any product or restyling, my hair went from being flat to looking more like its thick old self, from having dry, scrappy ends to looking like I’d already had a blow-dry. It’s no wonder he calls this his Diamond Dry Cut. Afterwards, came their in-salon Lifesaver Treatment, which involves hair being coated in a deep conditioning cream and some luxurious relaxation time under a gentle steam hood (giving me time to devour a restaurant-worthy avocado on toast from their in-house kitchen), followed by an excellent blow-dry..
In the days and weeks afterwards – which included the lengthy first lockdown in London – rather than break off, my hair continued to grow past a point that I’d been trying to reach for years. His at-home haircare range, including the best-selling Cashmere Shampoos, Conditioner and Lifesaver Treatment is amongst the best I’ve tried and easily rivals (and surpasses) more well-known luxury brands. (Side note: the Lifesaver Treatment is so good I’ve happily repurchased it and slather it onto dry hair twice a week).
A cut with Michael doesn’t come cheap (it’s £395 at the time of writing) but it truly transformed my hair. If super edgy styling is your bag, this place may not be for you but this is the place to head to if you’ve been battling to get your hair healthy, if you want a classic cut that sits well even once you’ve washed and styled it back at home or want a cut that seems to outlast others without losing more length than you wanted to. Luckily, Van Clarke hand-picks and trains every single stylist in his method, so you are in safe hands whomever you see – and cuts start at £65. The team’s colour work is meant to be equally good – although we are yet to try it – but expect a natural approach that nurtures and preserves the health of your hair.
It isn’t often that a place surpasses all of my expectations – but here did just that.