A million different roads lead to Las Vegas—some marked by desire and others by necessity. Hairstylist Brannon found himself on such a twisting path. He left New York City in 2001 after losing his apartment following the 9/11 tragedy. He knew Los Angeles wasn’t for him but saw some opportunities in Las Vegas. So he rolled the dice on the possibility that it would become the next big destination for hairstyling.
“If a restaurant worked really well in New York City, they would bring it to Vegas next, and I thought, since they’ll do it with chefs then why not with hairstylists?” he says. With big talent and an even bigger personality on his side, Brannon, 41, ran his eponymous salon Brannonhair in the Hard Rock Hotel for eight years before recently migrating off the Strip to Red Rock Resort.
What great head made you want to become a stylist?
It was actually Frederic Fekkai’s work. I was originally going to design women’s shoes. I ran into some legal trouble from a brutally big speeding ticket and got thrown in jail for six days and missed the deadline to register for school. My apartment was right across the street from the Aveda Institute, and I watched Fekkai cut hair, and that initially turned me onto it.
You were notorious for a few things while you were in New York City, one of which was you would only cut models’ hair after 6 p.m. True?
I created Brannonhair in a brownstone in New York City after working for some of the biggest salons. My apartment was in the basement; I used the ground floor as the salon and the top floor was a music studio. I would take clients from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and then after 6, I stopped and only cut models. I was the lead stylist for Next Models. It was just all models, and then it would turn into a party from there, and I’d cut hair till 11 p.m. And the wine would be flowing.
The golden age for hairstylists was the 1960s and ’70s with Paul Mitchell, Vidal Sassoon, Jay Sebring. If you could’ve been one of them, who would you choose?
Vidal. He was the man. He didn’t take what someone else was doing and improve it; he did something no one else had done before. He was a god.
You cut hair with a different kind of intensity; it’s like you go into the “Brannon zone.” What is your signature style with the shears?
Most people learn how to do haircuts. I don’t know how to do haircuts. I cut for the shape and balance out the weight of the hair. I cut more for the weight than the length. With curly hair, there are a million different lengths. I don’t pull out the hair and cut a section of it. I just start grabbing hair and cutting until eventually I get the shape that I want. The way I cut is more like sculpting as opposed to precision cutting. I don’t want to make the hair look shorter; I want it to look lighter.
Last year you made the move to Red Rock, which possibly signified the start of a trend of stylists moving away from the Strip. What’s the future of hairstyling in Las Vegas?
There needs to be more of an editorial base, like what Smashbox Studios did in L.A. I would like to see someone take a space downtown and incorporate photography, fashion, makeup and hair. Like they do in New York where you take a raw space, and one side of the room is fashion and one side of the room is beauty. Everything is created within that space. It really has nothing to do with a retail feel.
Who are your style icons?
Alexander McQueen [because of] his balance. Whether he was using different textures, shapes, fabrics, it would never match, but it was always balanced. And I also grew up studying Valentino.
Which celebrity do you wish you could get ahold of and fix their hair?
I want to give Victoria Beckham a new look. She’s had the same thing for so long. I would like to redefine the Beckham cut and create something different for her.