Put a sheet of tracing paper over hairstylist Garren’s work and you’ll see a map of pop-culture landmarks. The images he created over the last 50 years are a reminder of what it was like to be alive in the 80s or the 90s or the 2000s.
He snipped off Farrah’s feathers. He created basically every look in the Madonna canon. He’s styled the hair for more than a thousand magazine covers and worked with, to name a tiny fraction, Oprah, Gisele, Audrey Hepburn, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Gwyneth Paltrow, Taylor Swift … Christ, just writing this is exhausting.
Garren arrived in New York City from Niagara Falls in 1974, and by 1976, “I’m doing Vogue, Avedon, Penn, Farrah, the Factory,” he told me. That’s Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Farrah Fawcett, and Andy Warhol’s Factory. “I was in the right place and got the right girls.” His success was more than circumstance. For half a century, Garren has made hair seem like more than a pretty afterthought. (Don’t even think about asking him for his last name—he absolutely hates it.)
Now there’s a collective nostalgia for the supermodel era that Garren helped shape. With a pair of scissors and a round brush, he offers a refreshing antidote to the strobe light of flashing images, self-destructing pictures, and fake backgrounds that fill our lives.
The co-founder of the hair-care line R+Co, he’s 74 now and still does the occasional ad campaign. The supermodels of the 90s call him Pappi, “like I’m their father.” And perhaps, in some ways, he is.
Farrah After Charlie
“It was 1976, and Farrah had broken away from Charlie’s Angels. We were doing a shoot of the collections for Vogue, but no one would tell us who we were shooting. I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be crazy if it was Farrah?’ Then there’s a knock on the door, and Way [Bandy, the makeup artist] said, ‘O.K., Garren, fasten your seat belt.’ Not bad for my big break.”
The Ironing-Board Affair
“The first day [of the shoot], we stayed in her realm—I brushed out her hair and kept it loose. But the next day, I pressed her hair straight with an iron and an ironing board—can you imagine the biggest star leaning over an ironing board!? She had this little tail in the back and said, ‘Just cut it off.’ The next day, pictures hit all the papers on every newsstand: Farrah has straight hair!”
“We had just come from Harry Winston and were heading to Bulgari. And when Farrah walked in without an appointment, whoa. I’d never seen service like that.”
“Someone had the idea that she should wear jeans, make it really relaxed—but she didn’t have any. Paul [Cavaco] was like, ‘Well, I have mine.’ Farrah said, ‘O.K., if you don’t mind … ‘”
Farrah’s Factory Days
“Andy [Warhol] was over the moon to have Farrah at the Factory. She was nervous—the Factory was such a big thing, and Andy was so quiet when he worked. He asked her to take her top off, and she said ‘Sure’ and wrapped a sweater around her breasts. Andy took a ton of Polaroids—there was a whole table full of them. You could see the Warhol in them—the simplicity. When he got the right Polaroid, he turned it into a portrait. He gave her one of the huge portraits.”
“We went to a party at Studio 54. I put some gel in her hair, and the curls really came out.”
The Making of Madonna’s Sex Book
“Everything was really planned out. Steven Meisel [the photographer], Fabian Baron [the art director], François Nars [the makeup artist], Paul Cavaco [the fashion editor], and I all met with Madonna and discussed everything.
“She wanted the hair and makeup to look not dirty, not like pinup or Hustler. Beautiful, simple makeup and high-class hair. Belle de Jour was one of the inspirations. Even in the S&M pictures, her hair is curled and really proper.
“It wasn’t a regular shoot—she was always naked. You’d have to say things like ‘Move your booty to the right.’ You know, there are lots of parts in there.
“She and Steven had planned the hitchhiking picture and hadn’t told anyone. So one minute we are by the gate of a house and the next minute, she drops her robe and walks out to the road. Paul hands her a handbag and Steven goes click, click, click. It probably took seven minutes. The cars went by, and I remember thinking, Oh, my God, that old guy is going to crash.
“For one picture, she went to a pizza parlor wearing a trench coat, naked underneath, with high heels, hair, and makeup. Paul ordered the pizza, and when it came she dropped the coat on the floor, and Steven went snap, snap, snap.
“Then we said, ‘Can we get the pizza to go?’”
The First Short-Haired Supermodel
“Whenever Linda [Evangelista] would do an ad, the stylists would set her hair in Velcro rollers and make it all big and bouncy. I couldn’t visualize what else she could be.
“Then Julian d’Ys [the French hairstylist] cut her hair really short. I gave her a Louise Brooks bob, which separated her from the other models. That was the start of supermodels and short hair, which dominated the 90s.”
“When Linda did that Allure cover, she had started bleaching her hair, and we pressed it out. A month later she went red. I remember going to Paris and cutting her hair like Andy Warhol and bleaching the top and leaving the bottom dark, and then three weeks later, we did it all blond.”
Introducing Naomi Campbell
“I started working with Naomi when she was young, young, maybe 19? Everyone’s used to seeing her with long hair, but I loved it when she had a short bob. We could blow it out and make it flippy and always find something new. Naomi is a professional; she was not one of the models who called me Pappi—she has always called me Garren. She was late to a shoot once, and everyone was waiting. I told her, ‘I’ll never wait for you. That is not how I operate.’ She was never late again.”
The All-New Naomi
“She had extensions and wanted to give her hair a break. She was ready for a new look. I decided to cut it really short, blow it out, and have it like a little gamine. She looked different from the old Naomi, and that’s how she got the Vogue cover, because it was a fresh, smiling, all-new Naomi. She wore it that way for six months, parted on the side and slicked back. Then she went back to her old look.”
Is That Amber Valletta?
“Steven [Meisel] said to Amber, ‘If you don’t cut your hair, you won’t be on the cover [of Mademoiselle].’ She relented. That’s when I decided to do the bowl cut.”
“Amber was in a relationship with a French guy, and he really wanted her to have long hair. I remember Steven [Meisel] was like, ‘Amber, we have to cut your hair again.’ She was not happy about that. But she let me cut it and loved it. No idea what happened to the boyfriend.”
“Gaga showed up [to the shoot], and she had plaster and gold leaf all over her face, these crazy red lips. It was absurd and insane but also fabulous. It took us three hours to dismantle her. After she showered and we peeled off all the plaster, she got very emotional. It was a big moment for her—she had never been photographed as herself.”
From Posh Spice to Victoria Beckham
“Victoria—then Posh Spice—had told Naomi and Amber that she wanted a new look, and they said, ‘Go to Garren.’ I sent her pictures of Mia Farrow and Jean Seberg and Amber all with short hair. She was like, ‘Oh, well, but I have extensions.’ I got her to come to my salon after everyone left. I took out all the extensions: ‘You have to let go,’ I said. She was nervous. I told her, ‘Look, we’ll just cut it until it works.’ Then we dyed it a dark, rich brown, and she loved it. [She was scheduled to go to] the Marc Jacobs show but it wasn’t for three more days. She said, ‘I’m not leaving my hotel.’ I told her she had to smile with this haircut, and she goes, ‘I can’t smile.’ She hated her smile, but I told her she would look frightened if she didn’t smile with this cut. When she showed up at the Marc Jacobs show, it was a big deal. This was a few days before she announced that she would do a clothing line. We had transformed her into Victoria Beckham.”
Danielle Pergament is a Madrid-based freelance journalist. She was previously the editor of Goop and is a contributing writer at The New York Times and Allure