Robert Forster Time Out, 11th July 2001

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Hair Care in The Modern Age

During a long recording career with stylish Australian pop combo The Go-Betweens and as a solo artist, Robert Forster has sported an infamous array of hairstyles. Once, in 1987, he spent eight hours in a hairdresser's salon, refusing to leave until they got his hair exactly the same shade as 'Dynasty's' Blake Carrington's. On his 1990 album 'Danger In The Past', he paid tribute to his hero James Joyce with a slicked-back replica of Joyce's haircut. In this exclusive he shares with us his most treasured tonsorial tips....

There have been times when I've been down to my last 5 and I've had to choose between food and shampoo; and I've chosen shampoo. It's the way I am. It started in my teens and continues to the present day. Nose pressed to the window of hair salons, wondering 'What's going on in there, and what are the right products? What do the stars use? Perhaps there are products they don't even pass on to their own customers?' Over the years, I've pieced together a hair-care philosophy, a quilt, a web of knowledge that I'll now pass on.

Before I start, one fact. You are born with the hair you have. It's in your genes. Hair products, hair preparations - they can't really stop your hair falling out or growing in a different way. Accept this, but also know there are a thousand things you can still do to improve what you have.

1. COMBS

No plastic. None of those black ones you see in chemists. Go wooden, tortoise-shell (politically incorrect, I know) or some hard, natural form. I get Kent combs - quality, from good chemists. There are speciality comb and brush shops. Remember, a good comb is the foundation of good hair care.

2. SHAMPOOS

The key word here is Redken. They have a bewildering range of products. They change their packaging every six months. Originally Swiss, loaded with chemicals, but brilliant. Now, to offset the chemicals you go natural. What I do is buy a matching shampoo from a health food shop to balance the power and cleanse of Redken shampoo. Two Redken washes, then a health-store shampoo. Or vice-versa. Don't be afraid to rotate shamppos. Your hair loves it. Go hi-tech, low-tech. That means a hair-dressing salon for the Redken - I use Redken VIVAGEN Enrichment Shampoo; ask the hairdresser what best suits you - and the health-food store for the organic equivalent.

3. CONDITIONERS

Stay in the health-food store. Redken do make conditioners which are good. But I like to balance the rich Redken shampoo with organic, natural, thousand-herbs-and-spices conditioner. Tray Sante or similar organic product.

4. THE WASH

Always comb your hair before you wash it. This separates the hair and stimulates the scalp. Your hair-care products will bemore effective. Use warm water for all washing.

5. TOWEL DRY

While your hair is wet, use the comb. Don't hack wet tangled hair with a brush. Your hair hates it. Be gentle.

6. DIET

Fish, plus (and this is important) the odd B6 vitamin tablet. B6 is the tablet for hair. Buy a bottle and take three a week.

7. HAIR COLOURING

For women, no problem. For men, it's hard on the hair, and can lead to accelerated hair loss. (The grand exception to this is David Bowie).

8. STYLES

For men, the question for a long time has been: Gel, or no gel? Since my hair is fine, I've tended to avoid gel and go for hair spray (organic shop, too) when I want that wet look or that Al Pacino/Robert De Niro swept-back 'Godfather' look. More often I go natural. Which means sun-drying (avoid hair-dryers wherever possible), then combing into the desired style.

9. THE HAIRCUT

Here's a fact: most hairdressers are taught four or five cuts and no matter what you say to them, they will nod and then do one of those four or five cuts. What can you do? Either go home-grown and get a friend to cut it, or go wild and cut it yourself. Alternatively, take a photo (Samuel Beckett, say) to the hairdressers and say: 'THIS IS WHAT I WANT.'

Finally, my favourite haircut of all time? Robert Redford from the late '60s to the mid '70s. From 'Downhill Racer' to 'Three Days of the Condor'. Redford originally went for the wet look and stuck with it for a suprisingly long time. The switch came late, but when it did: perfection. A great haircut. Side parted, medium length. A great fringe. Not rock 'n' roll. Not square. Just sheer perfection. This column salutes him, but wishes he'd realise it's 30 years later. he should stop dyeing it (orange!) and go grey. Either shoulder-length, for freaked-out 60-year-old look, or short and swept-back. That's a tip for him.

From 'Time Out' magazine, published in London, England, issue dated July 11-18, 2001