Hairbrained Q and A with Nicholas Sansone and Dan O'Brien



The Hairbrained community is a tight knit one, to be sure – but every now and again the connections forged create lasting relationships. This is the case with ‘Top Members’ Nicholas Sansone and Dan O'Brien. Through Hairbrained, these artists have nurtured a symbiotic relationship.

Read on to find out how they came to know one another – and how their friendship evolved, overtime, ultimately resulting in a video that earned them an HVA3 nomination.


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Q. Nicholas and Dan: Years in the industry?

A. Nicholas: 19 years. I’ve loved every minute, so the time has literally flown by. 

Dan: 16 years and counting.

Q. Nicholas and Dan: You’re active members of the Hairbrained community. How did you get started here, and how did the community play a part in the partnership you formed to create your HVA3 nominated video?

A. Nicholas: I found Hairbrained through Douglas McCoy (an artist whose work I greatly admire and respect) at an opportune time: I had moved from a high-energy studio space in the city to a somewhat sleepy college town, and I found myself missing the culture, the movement. Hairbrained filled that space, giving me the connection and inspiration that I was craving. But meeting Dan? That was sort of accidental.

I follow Hairbrained on Instagram, plus I search for member work using the Hairbrained hash tag. I related to the suitability of Dan’s haircuts, and the really soft, textured looks he was creating. I felt like it was similar to what I was doing, yet completely opposite – a sort of juxtaposition. My work is more angular – but I always aim to create at least one element of softness within that hard edge. When I first saw Dan’s work, I was an instant fan: he really accomplishes a chic, yet understated aesthetic. Interestingly, he began to comment on images of my work. I was very flattered; it seemed like we were engaging in a form of mutual admiration. At some point, he had a color-related question that I was able to answer, and the ‘hair-mance’ blossomed from there, so to speak.         

Dan: I learned about Hairbrained through one of my favorite educators, Stephen Moody: I’ve been hooked since the day I signed up. I really love having somewhere reliable to go for inspiration and connection – and I love that the community is full of like-minded craftsman. Really, it’s been such a blessing.

Without Hairbrained, I never would have met Nicholas, and we’ve forged such a great connection. I’m lucky: I met a friend with whom I share open and honest conversation. Straight away, we just clicked. Hairbrained is like that. It nurtures personal and professional growth.

Q. Nicholas: You approached Dan and asked him to film a video with you. What were you hoping to get out of this experience?

A. You know, I don’t really think that I was hoping to get anything out of it – I just assumed it would be a good time (it was). I thought it would be great for us to ‘do what we do’ everyday, separately … but together this time. We mixed all of the things we love: hair, photography, music and editing. The only difference was – we filmed it. I think when you watch the video, it’s clear we love what we do. We’re pretty proud of that (collaborative) effort.     

Q. Dan: You noticed right away that Nick shared your passion for education, and craft hairdressing in general. What was it like to meet someone who’s ideals were so symbiotic with your own – a kindred spirit, if you will?

A. Kindred spirits – yea! That’s a great way to put it. Nicholas and I share an infatuation with all things related to hair. It’s a rare thing. Though I know a lot of stylists who love the craft, most of them put it down when they leave the salon. With Nick and I, there’s just no end. I like to think of it as a case of obsession sprinkled liberally with a bit of crazy.

Filming our video was similar to that. It was definitely a labor of love. We filmed (ate) and edited. It was a 24-hour experience – no sleep required.     

Q. Nicholas and Dan: Describe yourself in five words or less.

A. Nicholas: Give 110 percent, every time. 

Dan: Never rest: Be your best. 

Q. Nicholas: What tools would HB find in your kit?

A. I’m not a big tool nerd – that would be Dan. But for someone who doesn’t invest a lot of time researching craft-related tools, I’m really grateful to have the HB Pro Shop. I know I can count on Hairbrained to source top-notch, quality tools, no gimmicks.

In my tool bag, you’ll find my 9-row Vess brush, Essential Straight Pin Kit, Ibiza flat brush, YS Park Bag Diffuser and my YS Park #335 combs. Of course, I have my razor and scissors (I have too many to name, but usually a 5.5 to 6.5 blade for getting deep while dry-cutting) – but honestly – I’d cut hair with a Swiss army knife if it were considered appropriate. An unexpected must-have is my camera. I always have it with me.   

Q. Dan: Do you have a favorite quote?

A. I’m not sure who said it, but it’s always resonated with me: Do the best you can – where you are – with what you have, now.

Q. Nicholas and Dan: If you could share one piece of well-earned wisdom with the next-generation of stylists, what would it be?

A. Nicholas: Care about what you’re doing – have integrity. Be really honest with yourself, and know your limitations, your shortcomings, and grow from those. These days, there’s no excuse not to. There are so many resources! Surround yourself with people that have that same level of unshakeable integrity, people that will be honest with you, people that will help you grow – and you’ll be golden.  

Dan: Never stop learning; always strive to become more educated. In today’s digital world, you can find education anywhere. Soak it all up. Save your pennies, and invest in a hands-on class at a top-tier academy. There’s no substitute for working directly with a skilled teacher. 

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