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Sam McKnight's Enduring Legacy

Published September 28, 2023
Published September 28, 2023
Hair by Sam McKnight x Selfridges

Selfridges recently hosted an exhibition of hairstylist Sam McKnight’s most well-known styles, from looks for fashion runways like Chanel, Vivienne Westwood, and Fendi (not to mention Lady Gaga’s showstopping turn on the Mugler runway) to magazine photo shoots with Karlie Kloss for W Magazine. Eight wigs from his archive were on display—encompassing gravity-defying rose-gold locks and lengthy ponytails incorporating cuts of tweed and silk—as part of the retailer’s The Fashion Edit.

“Selfridges saw my wig archive in the studio whilst we were on a Zoom call and it planted the idea, the wig display is one of the first things people comment on in our studio, and it's brilliant to open it up to let everyone see them. It feels amazing to have such a prominent display in the best department store in the world," McKnight commented to press.

His work had previously been on display at the Hair by Sam McKnight exhibition in Somerset House in 2016, which also marked the release of the publication by the same title celebrating his 40 years in the industry. Images included Madonna’s bleach-blonde locks on the Bedtime Stories album cover and Princess Diana’s array of hairstyles (McKnight was her hairstylist for seven years before her untimely death in 1997).

The show sought to contextualize hair not just as an aesthetic but as a wider cultural signifier, with the exhibition's intro text quoting The New York Times who called McKnight “one of the most important image makers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries." McKnight’s incredible range, which spans classic femme fatale looks to androgynous avant-garde creations, and his tireless work ethic sees him create memorable moments in pop culture, fashion, and beauty time and time again.

Outside of the exhibitions, McKnight is continuing to craft eye-catching hairstyles for the runway, alongside the Hair by Sam McKnight range, founded in 2017, which received investment from Manzanita Capital in 2022. The same year of receiving a capital influx, McKnight expanded his range of four hair-styling products—including bestseller the Cool Girl Barely There Texture Mist, scented with a signature creation by Perfumer H containing a frankincense, water lily, and juniper wood blend made as an ode to McKnight’s garden in the rain—to a haircare range encompassing shampoos, conditioners, and masks. Featuring not only autobiographical elements such as a nod to his passion for gardening, but also advertising campaigns featuring women of all ages, as well as a chic yet cool aesthetic, Hair by Sam McKnight continues to attract a growing audience. McKnight may be the mind behind intensely theatrical hair looks, but his product line offers an accessible entry point for those wanting to feel their follicular best, no matter what their skill level.

“I like to make women look and feel beautiful. That’s my role: to empower women through hair,” McKnight states. “In the world of fashion, shows and shoots, it’s important we continue to create and challenge ourselves to do something new, different, and unexpected each time; that we don’t lose our sense of wonder to reality.” Whether on the runway or off of it, McKnight is continuing to offer that hit of inspiration for all, whether they are supermodels backstage or everyday women picking a product off of the shelf.


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