A Conversation with

Gerald de Cock

Gerald de Cock is an artist to the core. Besides housing his works in his apartment in New York's Chelsea Hotel - where his digs have garnered plenty of recognition among the downtown set - he boasts a hairdressing portfolio with the likes of Tilda Swinton and Elijah Wood on its pages. As a go-to stylist for photographers including Bruce Weber and Dewey Nicks, Gerald flies cross-country, and even to his old home bases in Europe, to instill his signature "abstract nuance" into shots for editorial work, advertisements and films.



This week, Gerald shares why he let his dreams for the silver screen died (sort of) and how being selective can work for newbie stylists. We're lucky we caught him in between his days on set to steal his advice.

How did you get involved in hairdressing, and how did you know it was right for you? I got involved in hairdressing when I was 16 years old because I was bored with high school and had the option of going to a vocational school. I was always fascinated about how hair could change one抯 appearance for better or worse. I was inspired by a guy who used to cut my hair. He was a very expressive artist who wore whatever he wanted and seemed to have a genuine passion for his craft.



Is there anything else you considered doing? When I was younger, I always wanted to be an actor but I don抰 think I wanted it badly enough to deal with all the rejection that goes along with it. It抯 one of those things where you better not be able to live without it [if it抯 going to be the career for you]. However, I recently had a role in a film I helped produce; I did production design and styled the main character抯 hair for a film called All that Glitters. It抯 a feature-length urban fairytale we sent to Sundance.



You moved to New York in the 80s. Where did you move from? Colorado. That抯 where I grew up: the Wild West. It抯 beautiful, but I don抰 relate to the sporty lifestyle. I have six sisters and four brothers, and most of them still live there.

How did you end up living in the Chelsea Hotel? I had a friend who used to live here. When I was living in Paris, I would come back and stay with her. I got hooked. A rooftop apartment opened up in October 1994, one year after I moved back, and I grabbed it.



Since you抳e spent time in both America and Europe, tell us: how is the hairstyling industry different on each continent? It抯 quite different, actually. In America, it抯 more professional and better produced. In Europe, it抯 all about the art. There, it doesn抰 matter how long it takes, as long as it抯 right. 



What have you learned by working with Bruce Weber? Bruce is so fantastic and passionate and has so much fun while he works so everyone working with him has fun, too. His brilliance springs out of spontaneity. He抯 never too planned-out and just lets things happen. His memory is unbelievable. He knows so many different worlds and eras.

Your favorite client, to date? My favorite actress that I抳e worked with was Tilda Swinton, hands down. She was remarkable. My favorite experience with an actor would be Elijah Wood. He抯 effortless and very positive.



How is editorial styling changing now that everyone抯 so focused on technology and immediacy? Some of the tools are really nice to work with because they make your job much faster and more efficient. The new blow dryers are fantastic; they dry the hair quickly without burning it. Products today are designed to condition and protect the hair, so that helps so much. I抦 sad that there aren抰 any surprises, and the digital thing [for photography] has its pros and cons. Bruce shoots only film, and so does another photographer I work with, Gareth McConnell. It抯 nice to see the Polaroids, as well. I guess it抯 like everything: six of one, half a dozen of the other.

You抮e a great artist. How do painting and hairdressing connect? Do you separate the two in your mind, or do you just consider yourself as an artist first, with different ways of expressing yourself? I see myself as an artist first, and the feeling I have for hair is the same I have for art. It抯 all about abstract nuance and texture, texture, texture. I love hair that抯 really soft looking and touchable but hyper-real. It抯 the same with paintings: layers of different mediums, intense, deep and vivid. I want people to want to touch them and see how they feel. Being called a great artist is the ultimate compliment. I try to live art, and that抯 what makes me happy.

What is your favorite Oribe product and why? It抯 between Dry Texturizing Spray and Volumista Mist for Volume. Like I said, I love super-soft, light, touchable hair. Oribe has got it down, that being his signature style.

- JILL HILBRENNER

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