As an artist, David Kinigson has always taken his cue from Leonardo da Vinci, whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science and music. The gifted hairdresser studied ballet, jazz, tap and acting in high school where he was also captain of the gymnastics team (he has four varsity letters). He earned a degree in writing from Nassau Community College, but went to beauty school on the advice of his hairdresser, who reassured him when he wondered if he had talent. “You like poetry, and you studied acting and dance,” he said. “Don’t worry, you’ve got talent.”
So Kinigson enrolled in beauty school in New York City where he met Mary Brunetti, who has since become an industry icon. “She’s my oldest friend in the industry,” he says. When he graduated, he decided that the only place to work was at Vidal Sassoon on Fifth Avenue in New York City. “This was in the ‘70s, which I call the ‘silver era of precision haircutting,’” says Kinigson, who got to work alongside the greats, including Christopher Brooker and Roger Thompson. Other mentors from those early days include Mary Lou Green and Allan Vernon Keech. Eventually he became Education Director at Pipino Buccheri, which he calls the “last great editorial salon in New York City.” One of his colleagues there was Edward Tricomi, who went on to open a salon in Manhattan that became a magnet for celebrities. Then in 1988, Kinigson opened Salon Dada in Manhattan. The name, of course, refers to Dada, the avant-garde art movement in early 20th century Europe that has been called the “noisy alarm that woke modern art from its slumber.”
“Hairdressing is the best day job in the world because it gives you the opportunity to do so many other things. When I was deciding what to do with my life, I knew that I wanted to be able to express myself creatively, dress however I wanted, meet women, have cool music playing and travel around the world,” says Kinigson. “There are only a few other jobs—actors and rock stars come to mind—that afford you those opportunities.”
Kinigson is what you might call a renaissance man. Deeply curious and enough of a perfectionist to expect nothing short of excellence in any endeavor he pursues — he has been known to regularly push himself out of his comfort zone. Case in point: In 1983 when he was 29 years old, Kinigson entered the New York City Marathon. Despite the fact that he had never run a marathon before, he finished in the top 10-percent. A few years later he began studying Taekwondo, eventually earning a black belt. Then, at 36, he decided that he wanted to learn how to play the guitar and began writing and recording his own music. He became so good at it that he started a band, which he called Bag One. “It was the name of a portfolio of illustrations that John Lennon had done,” says Kinigson, who secured Yoko Ono’s permission to use the name. “I found out she was coming into the studio where I was doing hair, and I asked to meet her.” By 1998, convinced that his true destiny was music, not hairdressing, Kinigson closed his salon to pursue music fulltime, becoming part of the anti-folk scene on the Lower East Side of New York. An amalgam of punk, rock and avant-garde styles, the genre could be described as the antithesis of the politically motivated folk music of the 1960s. Kinigson calls it “acoustic music that’s played aggressively.” Finally, as a songwriter, it made sense to move to Nashville where he met publishers who shopped his songs. He still gets royalty checks from The Voice for an instrumental he wrote called We Can’t Say Goodbye. “They played it when contestants walked on or off the stage,” he explains. Oh, and you might just hear one of his compositions, including Pot of Gold and Show Me the Way the next time you go to Petco.
Eight years ago Kinigson once again became a salon owner, opening a boutique salon called The David K Space in West Palm Beach, FL. He has since added an academy where he applies the lessons he learned leading transformational seminars in the 1970s to protocols for excellence in salons. “It’s been an ongoing study of the human condition,” says Kinigson, who continues to write and record music. Recently he released two new songs—I Don’t Love You and Hands Up, Don’t Shoot. His advice to his fellow hairdressers is simple: Strive for excellence and don’t settle for being mediocre. It’s advice that has served this Modern Original Person well for the past 40 years.