The Edit

Christiaan, stylist at the cutting edge

Belong to the legend
What do Grace Jones’s flattop, Debbie Harry’s tousled bob and the shaved undercut have in common? They were all created by Christiaan, the legendary hair stylist who turned hair into a moving art. Dubbed ‘the natural man’, he helped create some of the most iconic fashion images of all time.

When Christiaan was starting out in the Sixties, women were spending hours having their hair immaculately coiffed into highly lacquered, immobile fixtures. Horrified by the look and the way hair seemed to rule women’s lives, he was determined to instigate change. He bravely set about pioneering a new era of natural hair, freeing up women’s time and money, and in doing so freed their attitudes and inspired a fresh sense of new possibilities.

Starting out

The son of a barber and the eldest of 12 children, Christiaan grew up in a small Dutch village and spent his teenage years helping out in his father’s barbershop. After training to be a hairdresser in Amsterdam, he was drafted into the Dutch marines and sent to Aruba to carry out his national service. To keep his career ambitions on track, he spent his spare time cutting and styling hair for the military wives and visiting entertainers.


He began to notice how women were limited by their hair, fearing to go swimming on holiday in case they got their hair wet. He witnessed a complete disconnect between the relationship men and women had with their hair, and it bugged him. He saw how unfair it was and set about transforming the situation.

It went around the world so fast. I became known as the natural man.


Gaining a reputation

This level of close observation and empathy became the hallmark of his work, and he gained a reputation for creating styles as individual as the person. Word soon spread when a well-connected military wife recommended him to an editor at Glamour magazine in New York. 


By an incredible twist of fate that was to change his life, the editor mistook this recommendation as coming from a Broadway star and introduced Christiaan to all the top stylists in the city. Through these new connections spotting his exceptional talent, he was quickly appointed creative director for the hair salon at Bergdorf Goodman’s department store. 

Transformation time

Over the next two years, he encouraged the society ladies of Park Avenue to let their hair down. He took inspiration for their new looks from the long-haired hippies and civil rights activists of the time – and women adorned him for seeing something different in them and transforming the way they looked. 

In the spotlight

As his experience grew he realised the need to come up with new techniques. Along with other big industry names, including Vidal Sassoon and Paul Mitchell, another movement for change began that got people talking. Christiaan caught the attention of magazine editors and left Bergdorf Goodman behind, in favour of high-profile runway shows and photo shoots. 


He worked closely with New York’s celebrated fashion editor, Polly Mellen, at Harper's Bazaar and American Vogue, with his styles captured on camera by many world-famous photographers, from Arthur Elgort to Mario Testino. Together they created some of the most iconic fashion images of all time.

I hate anything that stays the same. And hair is like water – it doesn’t stay still.


Creative drive

Christiaan’s wider legacy lies in showing that hair can be an avenue for self-expression and experimentation – values he continues to prioritise today on a more personal scale by making art and writing poetry. While relishing the knowledge that his work has had a ripple effect around the globe, today he takes life at his own pace, seeing it as payback time for living such a busy and fascinating life.

Christiaan and his trendsetting career are the second story in our Belong to the Legend series. Look out for more unique stories coming soon.