Hair, what an ornament! In India, it is believed that rivers flow directly from the hair of Shiva. So, Indian women deposit their hair as an offering to their goddess, and these locks, sumptuous and intact, make a fortune for various places of worship, which sell them to hair extension manufacturers.

But, for centuries, we haven’t taken good care of this natural treasure. We will not recall here the sometimes-dangerous treatments that the Venetian women of Renaissance days inflicted on their hair to obtain the blonde shade that we still chase today. We will put aside the hairstyles in vogue at the court of Louis XIV, intricate constructions that sometimes took the form of a frigate, a castle, or a fountain crowded with birds.

Pins, hair spray and baking time

All this, for centuries, could only be done if you were willing to undergo a little suffering, if only one considers the quantities of pins needed to hold the building together. These complicated architectures are not easy to build oneself. That’s how a young Canadian woman, Martha Mathilda Harper, came up with the idea of opening the very first hair salon as we know it today, in Rochester in 1888.

Meanwhile, in Paris, a certain Marcel Grateau, who had been doing hair at home since 1872, revolutionized hairdressing by inventing the straightening iron and creating waves. The first hairspray was invented in 1920. Obviously these new tools would go on to create new hairstyles. Next came the hair drying hood under which hairdressers placed their clients, with their hair wrapped in curlers, taking advantage of this “cooking” time to do their manicure.

Ⓒ Lebanese Fashion History

The curlers gave you a puffy hairstyle. Almost all the housewives in 1950s American comics wore curlers. It allows the hair to hold like a soufflé, without pins, that’s the revolution, with the help of a little hairspray to finish it off. With time, going to the hairdresser becomes a real ritual. Big events require big hairstyles and “haute-coiffure” becomes the inevitable counterpart of “haute-couture”. A hairdresser is above all a confidant, an exclusive relationship that is shared with dozens of other clients. Having the same hairdresser creates a bond of quasi-kinship. Famous hairdressers are always called by their first name, which makes them one’s own, in a way.

Naïm enters the scene in the Arab world

Among the Arab capitals, Beirut is the first to see the development of salons where hairdressers compete with creativity and skill to create exceptional hairstyles. During the golden age of the Lebanese capital, the name of Naïm Abboud quickly became a reference in terms of talent, refinement, discretion, and know-how. There was not a big reception, a wedding, or a party to which his name was not intimately linked.

In the magnificent book dedicated to him by Carole Corm, “Naïm, a Brush with History” (Darya Press, 2013), we discover a journey where Naïm is called all over the world to bring to women a certain sparkle. His odyssey is transcribed in a constellation of points on the world map. In alphabetical order: Amman, Aqaba, Beirut, of course, but also Brussels, Cannes, Cairo, Damascus, Estoril, Geneva, Jeddah, Kuwait City, Limassol, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Mosul, Mykonos, Marbella, New York, Paris, Rio, Rome, Teheran, Tripoli, Warsaw.

He began his career as an apprentice in 1956, the year of the launch of the prestigious Baalbeck Festival, and was hired at the “Faubourg Saint Honoré”, a salon opened in Beirut by the famous Alexandre de Paris. In 1968, a double spread was devoted to him in French Vogue. He was already the king of the chignon and the Marilyn blonde.  In 1969, he opened a salon in Kuwait City. In 1972, he was the hairdresser of the singer Sabah, whom he accompanied on tour. In 1973, he became the only male hairdresser authorized to style the women of the Saudi royal family. In 1982 he opened his first salon in Paris, rue François 1er. In 1992, he opened his London salon, Beauchamp Place, near Harrods, and became the favorite hairdresser of Princess Michael of Kent. It is now a fourth generation of clients who confide in his comb and sometimes whisper their little secrets to him, he who has collected fifty years of small confidences tossed his way by the great and good of history.