Hello my name is Ian Marc and I am a Hairdresser - Part 2

This is a continuation of a series titled:

Hello My name is Ian Marc and I am a hairstylist. part 2


By 1980 I was becoming restless living in Toronto. I had been there about 6 years and I wanted something more, something new, something exciting.  In 1975 a movie called Shampoo was released with Warren Beaty & Julie Christie, it was a cute movie about a Hairdresser (Warren Beaty) who drove a motorcycle, blowdryer and brushes in hand going to clients's homes, did their hair and other things I won’t talk about here. The premise was simple, he was a handsome hairstylist and in demand. His skills as a stylist maybe debated, but his extras for his female clients are what made him popular. Although I was offended our beauty industry was depicted that way, I was infatuated with the idea of travelling around on a motorcycle. Have scissors will travel so to speak. The movie Shampoo, released during the 1970s spoke volumes about the impact our industry was having culturally and the growth it was experiencing globally. Salons were popping up everywhere, haircutting was more important now than almost any other time in history. Especially after the ‘hippie’ age of the 1960s, men and women were cutting their hair into easy, sassy styles and it was about to get even bigger; the disco age was next with hair being big, really big!  Being in this exciting period felt good, I began to realize this industry wasn’t just a trade, but a movement and I wanted to be apart of it.

Like Warren Beaty in the movie Shampoo, I ‘too’ was a hairdresser with a motorcycle!  I started thinking about how cool would it be if I shipped my bike to London England, where I could travel, do hair and continue furthering my education. During the summer of 1980 I met three German girls who were travelling through out the United States and parts of Canada, free spirited always happy they helped solidify my decision to travel Their invitation to visit them in Berlin and encouragement was enough to entice the endless possibilities. The plan was in motion, leave Toronto early autumn, ride my bike to Halifax, spend the winter preparing and in the spring of 1981 crate my 1973 Honda 750 and ship it off to London England. Not having much more in place other than the desire and some initial plans of what to do when I arrived, I was flying by the seat of my pants so to speak! It may have seemed a bit crazy, but that was me, willing to take on the world with little thought or consequence.

I was all set, move to Halifax in October, work in a salon until late spring early summer of 1981 save whatever I could and away I’d go!  You know they saying, “The best laid plans, do not always work out.”  

I arrived in Halifax late October, without a job, but confident I could fine work. I had enough experience as a hairstylist I could apply at any salon in Halifax. My sites were set on a salon that had an established positive reputation. I was employed within the week.  As the spring came and plans were being made, I discovered my motorcycle was not going to make the journey, there was a small crack in the frame and it needed many additional repairs I could not afford. Disappointingly I sold my bike, and started thinking about other options. Do I continue to go to Europe and backpack or do I consider other countries?

My thoughts turned to Australia because everyone spoke English.  I was only 28 and still a little intimidated, but hungry to do something. I begun reading about Australia, and what I needed to know about making such a long journey to the other side of the world. I came across a requirement in order to get through customs, it was called a  Vagrancy Law. In legal terminology, vagrancy refers to the “Offence of persons who are without visible means of support or domicile while able to work.” This meant, I had to prove I had the funds available to sustain me while I was travelling Australia. Either being naive or just plain honest, I was to intimidated to go. Most likely because I knew I did not have sufficient funds to travel anywhere far. I had time to think about what I wanted next, so I decided to focus on my career in Halifax. Work was good, I was building a clientele rapidly, I was very involved with everything hair in Halifax, fashion shows, competitions, photography work. My new experiences in Halifax were fantastic, I was liking my life I was happy!


July 1981 I was teaching at a local modelling agency and in the class was a beautiful girl named Jacqueline. She was taking classes interested in modelling. My job was to teach about hair and how to care for it. I didn’t really take notice of her, as I was focused on the class and doing the job I was hired to do. A couple of events our paths had crossed and I began to take notice. Jacquie was asked to be on the cover of a Halifax magazine and a fashion spread inside. I was asked to do the hair for the cover. It was then we started dating, and soon I was deeply in love. I  talked about travelling and my wanting more education to discover new adventures. She was encouraging and supportive. I wanted her to be with me every step of the way. I didn’t know it then, but she would become my wife and still is 33 years later.

One day while at work I was reading an issue of a Canadian beauty trade magazine, there was an ad looking to develop a Canadian Design team for a major manufacturer. This intrigued me so I applied. The first step was to attend a week long training session in Toronto. I would invest in the training and be evaluated. If I made the cut they would bring me back to Toronto for further training assess my skills to see if I could make the first Canadian design team. I did, and not only did I make the design team called Zotos Creative Designers, I was invited to be one of the first platform artists in Canada for this manufacturer. We were to be a compliment to the Zotos Creative design Group in the USA. During the 1980s  perming was the largest trend all over the world! I was fortunate to be apart of this esteemed group representing Canada. I was finally making something of myself, and I was contributing. I was giving back. I was on top of the world and it felt so good.

1983, Jacquie & I did travel to Europe and stayed for 4 1/2 months. I cut hair wherever I could, on beaches, campgrounds, in hotel rooms, and people who me met in their homes, anything to subsidize our trip. During our travels I was invited to some education at trade shows with Zotos in Sweden and London. All my dreams were coming true and the best of it was, teaching others, sharing my knowledge and having earned respect from my peers.

In the fall of 1983 after we returned from Europe I asked Jacquie to marry me, she accepted and I came to the realization, I had achieved everything I dreamed about. Life was about to get better.

My image as a top hairstylist locally and within Canada was growing, My hairstyles were published nationally and internationally. Writing articles, teaching locally, nationally and internationally were some of the exciting times. I was on television and  radio, in local newspapers and most Canadian Fashion magazines. In 1984, I was approached to be a partner in a new salon opening in a prestigious mall downtown Halifax. It had never entered my mind about becoming a salon owner, nor did it appeal to me. However, I was curious and I wanted to meet the person opening this high end salon. He painted a wonderful picture of what the salon was designed to do and how I could help. I was courted on the fact I could continue to make a difference challenge myself more.  Several meetings later I wanted a chance to think more about the offer and having integrity was very important to me. I went to my current employer told him up front what was being proposed to me and asked him his advice. I told him I did not want to leave, I was happy where I was. I asked how can I grow with his salon and help. We already had the best salon in Halifax and I was an important part of the salon at that time. I was happy, I didn’t want to leave. His reply after that conversation “I have nothing more to offer” My decision was made, I had no choice but to move on and explore this new opportunity. The new partnership lasted two years. The salon was successful, growing and was submerged into trying to build this business. I felt used, and I needed to severe the relationship. I invested every ounce of me, and my return was zero!

In October of 1986, Jacquie and I decided to open our own salon. We called it Ian Marc’s Hairstyling, it was located on Dresden Row Halifax, Nova Scotia. The name was inspired by my father once telling me,”if I ever decided to own my own salon name it after myself.” I asked him why? His reply, “Because you will fight for it!”  I had no idea at that time how wise his words would be. We opened with 5 staff, it was then I realized the difference between being a hairstylist and a responsible salon owner who had staff looking for guidance and mentorship. This was a whole new set of responsibilities and I wasn’t used to it.  Being a leader and a mentor on a daily basis, the responsibilities that came with it, was overwhelming and I wasn’t mentally prepared. I was accustomed to being front and centre, doing things asked of me being given the direction without the worry of details. The new responsibility I had just acquired was beginning to take its toll. I wasn’t used to the pressure.  We just had our first baby girl, and my wife was home taking care of our family. I was working day and night and missed much of those early years being a father and a husband. I was learning responsibility, accountability and dependability . Failure was not an option. I have a strong work ethic and many people continued to believe in me, this was a significant driver in my perseverance.   

By 1988, Ian Marc’s Hairstyling was more than $35,000.00 in salon debt. Our second daughter was just born and we just expanded remodelled our salon. I was handed a letter from our landlord informing me the house we occupied was about to be torn down. There was no prevision in the lease protecting me and the salon from the investment I put into the salon. We were given 30 days to move. With business loans and no location to go to or what to do next, I was beginning to panic. It took a couple of weeks but I did come across a new spot to set up our salon, on Brunswick Street. There was no time to waste, I had to build a salon within two weeks or we would not be able to look after clients. It took another $30,000.00 and inducements from our landlord, but we were able to meet the deadline. The loans were mounting but I was determined!

1990 a new tax was about to be introduced, called the Harmonized Sales Tax, all services were about to be hit with this new tax, and this meant customers had to become used to paying a higher price for the same service. We were not in a position to raise prices with this new tax and customers trying to understand the changes. There was a recession looming, and it hit hard. On top of this new reality, I lost all but one staff to other salons, and now the good times were about to end!

Stay tuned for Blog 3


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