Era-defining international hairstylist Jawara Wauchope took to the stage at Vogue‘s Forces of Fashion to discuss all things hair and culture and one thing was immediately clear: Hair isn’t just what Wauchope does, it’s through hair that he perceives. And with Kimberly Drew in the spotlight with him, the conversation flowed as beautifully as Naomi Campbell’s hair.
Raised by two Rastafarians between New York and Jamaica, Wauchope learned to see hair as a spiritual extension, a sacred aspect of self-identity that communicates style, health, socioeconomic status, and more.
“I just grew up in such a rich culture, hair was really the big backbone of congregating so many people around styling hair and going to parties, everything involved hair; It was hair everywhere,” says Wauchope. “So I think for me, hair is like—I can’t even describe it, honestly—I think it’s like my everything, not just me being a hairstylist, but just how I view the world.”
Having grown up (and come up) in the world of salons, Wauchope values hair as a key to one’s inner world and one’s community. In terms of the personal: “You can tell through someone’s hair what they’re going through, what they’re dealing with, how they feel about themselves.” And as for the community? That’s born of the innate intimacy of the classic salon experience. “I think it’s an ecosystem, especially a Black beauty salon,” says Wauchope. “It’s like you see so much in there. You go in there for hair, but you leave with a nanny. You leave with everything because everyone congregates there.”
Now that the bulk of stylist’s work centers on creative projects and partnerships, Wauchope views his mane creations as a documenting of a moment, both cultural and emotional. “One of the things I love about what we do is we get to document beauty and image as it’s changing in every picture that we take,” he says. “We get to document people, how they feel.” This want of realness is aided by Wauchope’s inspiration, which he pulls from people watching around the world, observing his teenage niece and nephew, and amassing references. “I keep all pictures from old films, books, magazines, shoots, and art exhibits in three different computers,” he says. “It’s a mess, but I love to collect images because it helps me dictate where I’m moving and what I’m feeling as it pertains to hair.”