Young American: Patrick Chai

Patrick Chai is living proof that merging the left and right brain can yield transformative power when it comes to a career. A former software engineer in the defense industry with a master’s degree from Harvard University, Chai decided a few years ago to trade in his calculator for shears and a camera, and pursue his passion for hair and photography. “Photography is always capturing what’s current, so it’s a road map to the latest hairstyles,” Chai says. “Hairstyling is a perfect blend of technical skills and creative artistry that results in making someone feel better about him or herself. That really inspires me.” ✂ —Kelley Donahue

What inspires you?
Nature, architecture, art and photography.

AHA MOMENT
I took up hair when one of my photography school teachers suggested I learn how to do it so that I could better direct my photo shoots. Then, last year, when my 92-year-old grandpa fell ill and was too weak to move I was able to step in and cut his hair. It opened my eyes to the magnitude and gift of this craft.

IN TRAINING
After studying cosmetology at Southern California’s Santa Monica College and apprenticing under Franck Verhaeghe at Joseph Martin Salon in Beverly Hills, I finished barbering school in Los Angeles. I then trained at the American Crew MensWork Academy in Denver and currently serve as an American Crew educator.

STYLE PREFERENCES
While I like today’s men’s grooming looks, I also appreciate ’50s styles, such as the reverse fade and pompadour.

BEAUTY MUST-HAVES
American Crew Forming Cream and a Mason Pearson brush.

MY MENTOR
My parents for their everlasting support, Franck Verhaeghe for cementing my foundation in this industry, and American Crew artists Craig Hanson and Theri DeJoode for their unparalleled vision and artistry.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE
Believe it or not, it was doing hair! I was anything but a natural, and my first haircut was as hopeless as Cinderella without a fairy godmother. I am where I am today because of faith, persistence and hard work.

BEST PIECE OF ADVICE I EVER GOT
“Be wise enough not to be reckless, but brave enough to take great risks.” Author Frank Warren said that; I try to live it.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT
Making the venturesome transition from being a software engineer in the defense industry and setting aside my master’s degree from Harvard University to pursue my passions in the creative field of hair.

NEXT STEP
Finding representation and maneuvering into the advertising and editorial realm, both as a photographer and hairstylist.

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photography: Courtesy of Patrick Chai

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