The name alone—Hairbrained—is genius for a website created for people who think about hair 24/7 and the beauty professionals for whom hair is a magnificent obsession. “We have about 400,000 followers now,” says Gerard Scarpaci, who with Randy Taylor, co-founded the website that created a community of hairdressers where none existed. Let’s face it, before they were posting photos of mermaid hair or braids or well-manicured facial hair on Instagram, hairdressers were uploading their photos to hairbrained.me.
Scarpaci met Taylor in 2006, when he was already talking about building a new social network for hairdressers.
“I didn’t even know what that was,” says Scarpaci, who admits that he was barely using email at the time.
Taylor, on the other hand, had been a photographer so he was familiar with what Scarpaci calls the “tech stuff,” and he was hell-bent on building a platform that would help stylists all over the world “share, connect and grow together.”
Scarpaci, who had taught full-time for over a decade before moving back to New York to open his own salon, and was passionate about education. In 2005 he was tapped by another manufacturer to teach at their brand-new advanced academy in Manhattan where Taylor began taking classes. The way Scarpaci remembers it, Taylor “showed up for everything. After a while, the two became friends and began to talk about things they could do together. “Randy’s idea was to let me do online what I was already doing in the classroom, but for thousands of people at a time.”
Taylor began experimenting by pre-building a network on myspace.com. “It was the only platform that was wide open, so we started asking hairdressers to follow each other and comment on each other’s photos,” says Scarpaci, “but it was super messy.” So Taylor asked his nephew, a computer programmer, to help build his own social network. By 2008, after tinkering with the technology for more than a year, they were ready to launch. Scarpaci admits that they struggled to find a name that worked. Style List, a play on the word stylist, was owned by Vogue.
Hairbrained came to Taylor in a dream. “He literally woke up and wrote it down,” says Scarpaci. “My job was to spread the word by calling all of my friends at every company I’d ever worked for.” It took a year to get 1,000 people to use the platform. Now they reach over a million people per week.
So what’s next? “We want to bring hairdressers together in the real world now,” says Scarpaci, who began hosting live events, or Teach-Ins, with Taylor at trade shows a couple of years ago. Earlier this year Scarpaci hosted the first in Tokyo.
As for the future of our industry, Scarpaci believes that the rise of the independent hairdresser has shaken up and disrupted the status quo. “Hairdressers are learning from each other and forgoing strictly brand-centric education,” he says. “They’re searching for diversity and authenticity.”
It’s no surprise then that Scarpaci believes that it’s more important than ever to be an individual, to develop your own approach, as a Modern Original stylist once you’ve mastered the fundamentals. “Hone your eye and taste level,” he says. “Truly personal style is so important.” The payoff? No one will be able to duplicate the kind of work you do.
To explore the network, visit hairbrained.me.