Backstage

  • A portrait of Thanos Samaras <br />
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Image courtesy of Thanos Samaras
  • Thanos’s first 'Greek Vogue' cover featuring model Madisyn Ritland<br />
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Image courtesy of Thanos Samaras
  • A behind-the-scenes shot of a wig styled by Thanos and the final image from the editorial from the January 2014 issue of 'Dazed and Confused Korea'<br />
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Image courtesy of Thanos Samaras
  • The January 2014 issue of Vanity Fair Italia, hair by Thanos Samaras
  • Schön! Magazine, issue 23, hair by Thanos Samaras
  • Tina Fey on the October 2012 cover of 'Entertainment Weekly,' hair by Thanos Samaras
  • Inspiration on Thanos’s desk <br />
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Image courtesy of Thanos Samaras
  • Tools of the trade <br />
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Image courtesy of Thanos Samaras
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Thanos Samaras

Even though he has only three years of hairdressing experience under his belt, Thanos Samaras has built an impressive body of work. Samaras’s editorial career took off after he was approached by Greek Vogue to style a cover shoot in 2010, which led to an ongoing partnership with the magazine. Since then, his work with both wigs and human hair has graced the pages of publications like Tatler, Vogue Italia, InStyle UK and Madame Figaro. We asked the hair maestro about his signature look, his best tips for working with wigs and which Oribe products are always in his kit.

Tell us about your background in hairdressing—how and when did you decide to become a hairstylist?


I never formally studied hair or trained with a great master, which has its advantages and drawbacks. I didn’t get to quietly observe on set as an assistant and acquire all the skills you need to survive in this very intense environment where no mistakes are allowed. I studied art, design and architecture at London Guildhall University. I then went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to study theater. I’ve been acting in movies and plays for the past 13 years. That was my lot in life, or so I thought. I only just fell into doing hair three years ago.

How do you balance being a hairdresser with acting?


It’s often madness trying to juggle auditions and shoots, praying that they don’t overlap. It tends to work out, though. I have an agent for films and TV, and one for hair.

Do your Greek roots influence your work?


As a kid, I was enamored with ancient Greek statues; not just the amazing marble bodies, but also the delectable tendrils and curls forming the hair and beards. I fantasized about how it would feel to touch and run my fingers through and color it would be. I dreamed of looking like Poseidon when I grew up.

Do you have a signature look? How would you describe it?


I love hair that tells a story, that’s inconvenient and doesn’t look effortless and natural…hair that insinuates things. To quote Raquel Zimmermann in the My Dior film by Steven Meisel, “Natural? Cows are natural.” Natural hair is pretty, but boring to me in the studio. I’m driven to make hair that you don’t see in real life…because who doesn’t want what they can’t have?


You worked with Greek Vogue on a seminal cover in 2010, and it lead to a beautiful partnership. Can you elaborate on how you guys came to collaborate?


Greek Vogue had photographed and interviewed me a number of times for movies and plays I had done, so I was familiar with the people there. They also knew of the dolls I had been photographing and styling for Japanese magazines. One day they just called and asked me to do the hair for a cover story. I worked with model Madisyn Ritland, who was simply magical; she inspired me to start creating characters for fashion shoots. That’s how I got into it. A friend then sent my portfolio to agents in New York, where I was signed and shipped over.

How do you approach styling a wig for a shoot versus styling real hair?


It depends on the project. If the wig needs to look like it’s the model’s own hair I will lower the density and rework the hairline to create natural imperfections, cowlicks and quirks. I’ll also color and cut the wig to soften it and make it feel like the girl’s own hair. Sometimes I want you to think that a very unnatural hairstyle is actually her own hair; other times I want the seams and secrets exposed and use the wig like an accessory. After all is said and done, I take the wig home and prop her up like a trophy.

With a real head of hair, my approach is not that different. Hair is hair. It reacts to the elements the same way.

Do you have any tips for stylists who are just beginning to work with wigs?


Often cheap, low quality human hair wigs hold the most promise and are great as a base to work on. But a great, painstakingly created custom wig is a work of art. It gives me goosebumps.

Which Oribe products are your must-haves?


I love Dry, of course, who doesn’t? I always have it with me on set, along with Shine, Original Pomade, Superfine and the amazing Grandiose.

What do you like to do in your free time?


I am constantly watching old movies. I detest CGI effects and the ultra high definition look of most films today. Some favorites are Les Yeux Sans Visage, Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête, La Vérité with Brigitte Bardot and the obscure film Corridor Of Mirrors.

When I come across a film I love, I'll research everything from how it was made to the people behind the camera to the art director, the set designer, the director of photography, the makeup artist and more. I also love amazing black and white shows like Dark Shadows.

What’s one thing people might not know about you?


I’m terribly shy and wary of people. Going out to parties with the cool kids is a terrifying venture for me. I spend a lot of time alone with spinster idiosyncrasies.


To see more of Thanos's work, click here.
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