Edwina Ings-Chambers: Want A-list hair… at a snip?

Hairdresser to the stars George Northwood has just made home styling a whole lot easier for us all.

George Northwood
Our lockdown hair saviour George Northwood. Image: Benjamin McMahon for GN images

If the past year has taught us one beauty lesson, it’s how much hair matters. ‘I had so much press during lockdown,’ agrees George Northwood. Of course, being one of the country’s leading hairdressers with a roster of celebrity clients that would send a Hollywood agent into a courting tailspin (Rachel Weisz, Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Claudia Winkleman), George is used to his fair share of good publicity. But lockdown 1.0 saw him morph into the hair industry’s equivalent of Joe ‘The Body Coach’ Wicks, with his YouTube videos showing how to trim, cut and style your hair racking up an impressive two million views.

Rachel Weisz
One of George’s all-time favourite hair references: a perfectly tousled Rachel Weisz, 2015. Image: GC Images

Of course, George, 42, is also no stranger to understanding the power and importance of hair. After all, he is the man who invented the haircut that changed everything – for him and for us: The Alexa. It was back in 2007 when Alexa Chung was a young unknown, about to make the career change from model to TV presenter with T4. ‘She’d had long hair as a model and couldn’t cut it because as a model you had to look like the pictures in your book,’ he recalls. She wanted to make a statement and go short. And the loosely-tonged shorter bob look was born.

Alexa Chung
The cut that started it all: Alexa Chung’s loosely-tonged bob caused a trendquake in 2007. Image: WireImage

This, says George, was at a time when long festival hair was in fashion and femininity was all tied up in length. It created a trendquake. This was the most seismic hair shift since the Rachel, the haircut sported by Jennifer Aniston in Friends in 1995. The Alexa became one of the top searched images on Pinterest and George was seeing 18 clients a day all wanting the same style – so many he got RSI in his thumbs. It stamped his style and influence on hair for ever and remains the key look de nos jours: George calls it ‘undone’ hair, the grooming equivalent of no make-up make-up.

Alicia Vikander
Beautifully undone: Alicia Vikander winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Danish Girl, 2016. Image: Getty Images

Not that George takes all the credit. He’s modest, saying it was a collaboration between him and Alexa. Which makes the launch of his haircare line all the more appropriate: this is him collaborating with us in our own homes, helping us to achieve his signature undone look by ourselves. Well, not totally by ourselves – there’ll be plenty of YouTube and Instagram (@georgenorthwood) video tutorials to help guide us.

Then there are his products, all salon quality at high street prices, including shampoo and conditioner, a weekly detox shampoo and some key styling products all inspired by the ‘un’ element of that Alexa look and a signature spirit of all of George’s work. There’s the Undirty for an everyday cleanse that won’t strip the hair, Unparched to tackle dryness, Undamaged to restore and repair (all from £12). There are styling products, too: a Wave Holding Spray, a Volume Spray and a Moisturising Cream (all £15). The electricals offer Curl It Tongs (£65), Straighten or Wave it Flat Iron (£55) and a Blow Dry It Hair Dryer (£65).

George Northwood shampoo and conditioner
Undamaged shampoo and Undirty conditioner, from £12 each

‘It’s all about giving people the tools to get the hair that everyone wants,’ he says. ‘During lockdown we’ve seen there is a thirst for education and knowledge but in a simple way. So we’re demystifying the maze of hair: it’s clean and simple.’

George Northwood tongs
George’s ‘Curl It’ Tongs, £65

All the products are vegan, sulphate-free and in recyclable aluminium packaging. They also, by the way, smell gorgeous – notes of violet and sandalwood; like an expensive fragrance but just a hint, nothing overpowering or that would clash with your perfume.

George Northwood hair dryer
George’s ‘Blow Dry It’ hair dryer, £65

Of course, you don’t have to have short hair for this whole ethos. Some of his key hair moments are on longer lengths. Even an up-do or a ponytail can be ‘Georged’ by adding a sense of ease. It’s a notion that can be perfectly seen on his other well-known client, the Duchess of Sussex.

Meghan Markle
George created Meghan’s relaxed evening look for her wedding. Image: REX/Shutterstock

He was responsible for the relaxed evening look on her royal wedding day and for that ‘farewell’ evening before they left the UK last March, which produced one of the best photos of the year under a brolly in the pouring rain, as well as many of her other hairstorical moments when she brought a looseness to her hairdos in situations that are usually more regally rigid.

Working with Meghan, says George, ‘was a real honour – I had a great experience. I love them both; they’re good people and they’re trying to do good things,’ is all the ever-discreet George will say about them.

Now, with his own range to help us, we can all create the look at home. It would seem that, in the best way possible, George Northwood is going to be the undoing of us all. Undone by George Northwood is available exclusively at Boots and boots.com. @edwinaingschambers.

Styling tips from the pro

It’s all about a softer cut and one or two clever styling tricks, says George…

  • As you age your features get harder, so less is more, essentially. Look at Dames Judi Dench or Helen Mirren – when they were younger their hair was cut in a more blunt shape, but as you age, a softer look and softer haircut look better. Go for less colour as well, rather than trying to cover up too many greys.
  • There’s no hard and fast rule about length, but often shorter is better as you get older. The key is that your hair should be well maintained. Also make sure you have texture and movement as this will help to create body. Run a tong through your hair and, of course, some of my volume spray!

Beauty assistant: Alice Robertson