Hairbrained How-to: Flawless Backstage Look

Peter Gray liberally peppers the editorial styling world with his on-point skills; he’s constantly on the go – and very rarely standing still. But in spite of his hectic schedule, he confirms that when he’s working on-set, or backstage, that it’s “all about the vibe. It’s about teamwork.”

Here, get an up-close look, plus step-by-step tutorial for recreating Peter’s straightforward, simple – yet well-executed – classic directional set, as seen at the Fall ’17 Badgley Mischka show.

Step 1: Create a workable base. “Backstage, you’re working with hair that can arrive in questionable condition. Starting with a clean slate isn’t always an option – so if the hair is especially dirty – we’ll apply dry shampoo and then blast any excess residue out with a dryer.” says Peter. Next, the team wets hair with a water spray, and gel is applied to the roots. For maximum precision, a color brush is used to work a root-application technique with the gel. Volumizing spray (Peter used Cutler Hair Care Specialist Volumizing Spray) is distributed throughout the remaining mid lengths and ends. “Finish this step by blasting the hair dry on a high heat setting; make sure to work the root areas with the fingers for maximum volume.

Step 2: Section and set. “Next, apply a setting spray, section by section (Peter used Redken Fashion Work 12 Hairspray).” Comb through with a fine-toothed tail comb, and create a brickwork-sectioning pattern throughout the entire back area. In the crest area, implement a directional parting. “All sections are set on the base, which allows for maximum volume,” confirms Peter. 

Step 3: Curl and pin. To properly set the hair, use a ¾” or 1” curling iron, depending on the density of the hair. “For heavier hair, we use a slightly smaller iron, to ensure that it sets in,” says Peter. “We used two irons,” he adds. This helps to maintain the integrity of the hair, because the dual irons heat the hair from the inside and outside, simultaneously. “In this way, we can move the irons more quickly, leaving them on the hair for less time. But make sure that you avoid running the second iron over the lip of the first iron,” Peter advises. “The lip will give you a nasty ridge in the hair.” Make sure to angle the curls away from your parting for maximum volume, and then pin the curls into place.

Step 4: Cool and release. Softly diffuse the pin-set curls to ensure the setting spray is totally dry, and allow them to cool. Once cool, release the hair and invert the head, brushing through with a boar bristle brush (Peter and his team used Mason Pearson brushes). This will give you voluminous curls. Peter left partings natural, which he feels helps the models to “retain their sense of individuality.”   

Step 5: Light, airy texture. For the perfect, final touch, a dry finishing spray (Peter used Redken Wind Blown 05) was sprayed into the curls. This created texture, plus a light, airy feel.  

In the process of creating flawless, backstage looks, Peter has picked up what some might view as a questionable habit: placing his tail comb between his teeth. But he doesn’t see it as peculiar, at all. “I work extremely fast, and I work under pressure,” Peter reveals. “Every pair of jeans that I own has a hole in the back pocket from my comb or scissors – so everything just slips right through. And I don’t have the luxury of having a hair trolley next to me while backstage,” he adds. There must be something sensible about the tendency though, because without exception, 25 years of assistants have picked it up.    

“I’m quite happy to admit that it’s a bad habit,” finishes Peter – but not one that he’ll be kicking anytime soon. 



Founded by two like-minded hairdressers: Photographer and hairdresser, Randy Taylor, plus world-renowned educator and platform artist, Gerard Scarpaci. Both share a deep love for the industries professionals, and the craft alike. @hairbrained_official