The architecture of hair at Roof Hair Salon Bangkok

Te Wiput Jaruthamakorn, founder of this secret salon in Sukhumvit, shares how his background in architecture effects his haircut designs.

Nowadays, anything secret is much hyped, from secret bars to hidden places. Roof Hair Salon might also be considered something secret due to its location hidden in an attic of a building in Sukhumvit 26, but its fame is so far from secret. This hair salon run by Te Wiput Jaruthamakorn is actually frequented by architects and designers. But why? I sit and talked with the founder to find out.

Jakub: We heard that you actually have a background in architecture. What made you interested in it?
Te: “I was a student in Thai society. Since I was a kid, we really didn’t know what we wanted to be. But we believed that if we have good education, if we could go to the university, you can have a future. And that was in my mind. And then I always know that I love drawing. I know that I love art, but I was in the science department of the education. So my family and people around me had the idea of me going to the university, not the art field. That’s why I studied architecture.

When I was in the university, I didn’t know about architecture that much. Of course I knew that we were going to build something, like buildings, houses, residences. But more than that, like construction or social not really came into my mind. But I was enjoyed studying it.”

But after graduation you shifted immediately to hairstyling? Did you have professional experiences? What made you decide you wanted to make a change?
“One important thing when I was in the university there are a lot of activities. Not just only studying, making models and drawing, but we could have other kinds of activities or works. One thing I really enjoyed is cutting hair for friends. In the university we had a lot of time speeding together with friends. And that was how I started my career as a hairdresser. It just happened.

At first I started cutting my own hair, because when you go to a salon, I didn’t like it and I didn’t want to spend money that much for what I didn’t like. Then it came to friends, family and people around me. What I studied, which was industrial design, helped too, because it was not just about buildings, I see the overall concept of design. 

When it comes to hair I treat hair as a product, with the material, with the process of how you interact with the hair. And I feel there is a connection between it and the design I studied in the university. So why couldn’t I take it seriously? It’s another kind of material. It’s hair. And work with people and I kind of like working with people more than working in the office than the computer. That’s how it started and that was 9 years ago.”

The education of architecture has effects on your thinking?
“Yes, a lot. When people go to a hair salon, they might have an image of what they like. I’m quite sure that most salons would follow the customers’ needs. But for me I think if you have a design method may be you can blend it together what the customers need and the designs. If you know the problem you can add something. It could be minor change but if could affect a lot when the customer interact and live with the hairstyle we make.”

I might put a bit deeper into architecture since I’m practicing architecture and teaching at the Interior Design Department of Chulalongkorn University. When I design, I would say that architecture is a creative field. But the creativity is often 5-10% So much of what you do is based on relational decision. How is it in hairstyling. Is it pure creativity or something relative?
“I think it depends on the salon and branding. For Roof Hair, if you go to see in our instagram or Facebook pages of the hairstyles we made, you can see that they are very simple. Sometimes it looks normal, not that fashion, not big hair or fancy hair. I think when it comes to that it’s also linked with design method of thinking.”

You don’t need to create a fancy hair or building but deep inside of that thing which make our customers feel happy and satisfied come from the design method.”

Not from a flashy design?
“Sometimes flashy design would help too. If the customer come with disappointment. They expect something new. This would be one of the solutions to approach the customers’ problems.”

In architecture there are also many limitations. Sometimes you get stuck. You have functional requirements or structural requirements. A lot of strains. Is it so in hairstyling?
“Definitely. Because we work with people. You see that in our society, if people cannot have freedom or the society expect people to be, that would come in hairstyle too. For example, you are an office man and you need to follow the regulations or the policies of the company. So the hair would affect you for sure. So how can we push the hair beyond that? It could be more into the details or could be more into how you participate with your hair, how do you do your hair everyday. I think that something that design would help.

If we compare nowadays with ten years before, I think people would have more freedom to express with the hair but that’s it. If there’s a boundary or limitation that expect people to be. Like kids shouldn’t dye your hair, or if you work in the government, you have to have this kind of hair. That would affect.”

In your opinion, people are taking advantage of freedoms and your clients they are ready to try new things?
“As I said that ten years ago, people wouldn’t have a courage to dye hair when working in serious fields. But now they might start with a tiny piece of vivid hair hidden inside. So during work they can put it down and no one sees it. But when they go out they can tie hair and put it between the ears and the colors come out.” 

Can you describe your process? If you have a new client and the client is really open. They don’t know what they want.
“I think this depends on how stylists work because each stylist has their own way of talking and how to capture what the customers need. For me, the first thing is I have to let my client sit properly and make them feel relaxed. And then start with a conversation. Sometimes they would start with something not really related to hair but with friends, love or life. That I can capture as a source for design and approach with the hairstyle.” 

The relation between client and hairdresser is very important. It depends on the client a lot. How do you describe your regular clients? They always go for the same thing? 
“For me, I treat my clients, especially regular customers as friends. Sometimes we have the instagrams of the customers and friends. Sometimes I monitored my hairstyle if it’s better from the last time. So when they keep coming, I can improve. But more than that, emotionally, we understand more what the client is. How they live their lives.”

You already mentioned that the hairstyle can affect our perception, the way others see us. What do you think about this. Should people have fashionable haircut, low maintenance or it depends.
“This is a good question. I never thought being a hairdresser is a trendsetter. Like if we do this, you have to follow this. The most important thing for the client is believing in yourself. If this is the time for you to change, then yes, just change. But how it would change we will help you do it.”

Speaking of instagram, another social media which plays a large part in creative fields, in architecture. Many clients follow instagram that look appeal to them. They focus on image. Over the past ten years, did you see some evolution that spike change?
“I see it in two folds. One positive side is the new generation of kids they have a lot of sources of creativity. When it comes to hair you see a lot of good-looking people and hair, activities. When it comes to hair it means that we have lots of variations of hair to make. Like look back 10 years ago if you want to see a hairstyle you have to look in the magazine. In a negative way, it supports the idea of capitalism. You need to be that or have this and that.”

Some of it could be superficiality, right? Like in architecture some of the facade, like too much focus or standing out.
“It can be overwhelming. If you make a building, you make it instagrammable. But in reality, you need to see the context as well,  also the function. Not just the facade. May be it’s good for a building but not good for the surrounding.”

If you trust yourself, if you believe in yourself the social media, like instagram, it could not affect you. It might be some source of creativity for you but you don’t have to be like that. 

Speaking of the generation, you said that the new generation. Are there some trends among millennials or boomers or not really?
“Some may see that generations is the problem. it’s the conflict for this world. But when it comes to hair, for me, the good hair is ageless. It’s not just a fashion thing but something you live with it. More like the style than fashion. So people in any age would prefer to look good. They would prefer to be confident, to be themselves. When it comes to hair I don’t think there’s a boundary with age.” 

Are there different approaches? I’m talking about students or young professionals that have to wear uniforms. Is there some kind of trends depending on age?
“For people older than me, I would be more concerned of what they prefer. The most  important question is what are you doing? That would affect a lot. If I need to change them, I really need to consider that they will happy with this. Make sure and sometimes we need to show the image of what would be like. Sometimes I draw, sometimes I made a sketch. When it comes to younger people, I can put more creativity and I can guide them what I would like to do more than the older people. More bold approaches”

You also sketch, right? You said at the beginning that you like to sketch. You still do it now?
“When I was a kid I really love any kind of drawing. Doodling and manga. But now I have to say I hardly sketch. When I need to do it would be things related with work. Like I’m going to build something like a furniture, I’ll sketch. When I cut hair, I’ll sketch.” 

The interior here, you do it yourself, do you still have some interest left in architecture?
“Yeah, I think like swimming once you learn to swim you’ll never forget how to do it. I think the design works the same way. But I may not be familiar with AUTOCAT and illustration, normally I just do the hand-sketch, mostly.”

How would you say what makes Roof Hair Salon stand out? What’s special thing about you and your approach?
“I think we are humble and we listen to the customers. And we are not aggressive. in the way like you need to do this! This is better for you. You need to trust me. Also not aggressive in terms of hairstyle. We say that we could be your friend. Come to friend, have a haircut with friend and friend will always listen to you. That might not sound so outstanding, right?

We just opened just one year. But we think that the events or activities weill bring people together. That’s the point of the beginning of the relationship. So we would hold the events that make our customers and staff feel comfortable and when they come, they enjoy, there will be a relationship created in the community.” 

Roof Hair Salon is located at 61/37, 4th Floor, Sukhumvit 26 (above Baan Baan by Baker Gonna Bake). For reservation, you can contact Roof Hair Salon at roofhairsalon@gmail.com or tel 095-526-3351.
Facebook: Roof Hair Salon
Instagram: roofhairsalon

Photos: Awika Buawattana
Video: Palakorn Ratchanipon

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