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The Dallas Blond Lives On

Stylist James DeFrange says he didn't realize how ahead of the curve we were until he went to work for a hair color company in Italy.
Stylist James DeFrange
Receiving the perfect chili bowl haircut is what started DeFrange's styling career. Elizabeth Lavin

“One thing that’s interesting about Dallas is it’s the only city that’s known for any type of hairstyle,” says James DeFrange, owner and hairdresser at Pura Vida Salon. “If you think about New York, there’s not a particular color or style that comes to mind. But Texas—and Dallas in particular—you have the Dallas blonds. And so there’s a pretty good reputation here for hairdressers who know how to lift hair properly and tone hair properly. I’ve been here for 20-something years, so I didn’t realize it until I got on the circuit and started working for a hair color company in Italy. We did a bunch of traveling around the United States. I used to do education, so I’d work with these other salons, and you see how far Dallas was ahead as far as their lightening and products that we’re using, and how we’re using them. I guess you get good at the things that your customers are always asking for, right?”

It’s true: in Dallas, you can’t throw a 40-ounce pink Stanley in the air without a blond catching it before it hits the ground. The Dallas Blond is everywhere. It’s even a mediocre beer. But is big hair still part of our identity, or is finding big hair these days as common as people who understand the reference to the iconic Dallas ’70s TV show?

“I think it’s always going to be around to some extent,” DeFrange says. “But I appreciate that no matter what I’m doing, whether it’s on a shoot or at a wedding or what, big hair comes up. It’s either like, ‘Hey, man, don’t make it big Texas hair.’ Or, ‘Hey, can you really give me some volume?’ ”

Some might take issue with the idea that big hair is even a choice in Dallas, where we average 70 percent humidity daily. Look at any vanity in town, and you’ll see at least three defrizzing potions. How can we even get slow-motion hair-toss hair in an environment so unfriendly to it?

DeFrange says good hair is more than the stylist who cuts it. “Products are a huge part of delivering good hair service. When you go to a hairdresser and pay them all this money for a haircut, it’s not complete until they’re telling you what shampoo and conditioner and styling products you should be using with that haircut and how to maintain it. It’s like working out all the time but never addressing your diet. The two work together.” 

DeFrange’s advice for the people of Dallas: “I would say stop buying your products from Amazon or grocery stores. What your hairdresser is using, they’re using it for a reason. The product companies that are trying to cut out the hairdresser are going to do things that are going to make you buy their products, not things that are the best for your hair. A perfect example is putting those polyurethanes in their products that coat your hair. It’s because what you the consumer want is soft, shiny hair. But you’re not going to have any volume. You won’t have any curl and malleability to the hair.”

Even though DeFrange has an encyclopedic knowledge of hair lore and knows exactly what old trends he hates, from The Rachel to “really heavy ombres, where it was a dark black root with a really hard line and [inaudible dry heave] blond ends,” there was a time when even he fell prey to the bad haircut beast.

Noted: “When you give somebody else the ability to give a good haircut, you’re paying so much forward.”

“When I was 11 and 12, around that age, I wanted just a good old chili bowl, man. And nobody would ever get it right. And it was this whole negative experience for me, going to hair salons in a small town, and my hair would always be jacked up for a couple of weeks, and then I’d fight my mom to go get another one.” But then, one day, the manager showed up. “We went to this place called MasterCuts; it was just this little hole in the wall. But the manager was there, and I told her what I wanted. She sat me down and went through the whole haircut. And I remember her specifically saying, ‘Don’t pull down on this; he’s got a cowlick. You need to put it in his natural fall and cut it that way.’ And I was 12. I have vivid memories of thinking, ‘Yeah, they always do that! Oh, my gosh, yes.’ ” And he finally walked out the door with the perfect chili bowl haircut of his dreams. All hail the manager at MasterCuts. 

“That has somehow operated in the background of my career and being in a teaching salon. Because I do feel like when you give somebody else the ability to give a good haircut, you’re paying so much forward. It’s not just you giving it to that hairdresser; you’re also giving it to all their future clients. And I remember I used to get terrible haircuts until that one experience with her. I was 12. Four years later, I got my license.”


This story originally appeared in the March issue of D Magazine. Write to [email protected].


Alice Laussade

Alice Laussade

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