This week on Iles Formula Hair Talk we feature Mike Martinez from Salon Benjamin in NYC. Read what he has to say about hairdressing today and the great advice he has to offer. To see more of Mike’s refined and brilliant work check out his Instagram: @mike____martinez (4 underscores) and Website: mikesmartinez.com
IF: Tell us what you think is the biggest challenge in hairdressing today?
For me lately it this question of how do we evolve past Instagram and the typical ‘Instagram hair’. How do we stop it from homogenizing and com-modifying our work.
Don’t get me wrong Instagram has become an incredible tool for visibility and has done wonders for some people’s careers. But are we letting it become a crutch for us to stop pushing ourselves and our clients? How many adjectives and hyperbole can we keep using to describe sub-par work? So I guess our job is to figure out how to rise above with our work without falling in stride with the status quo.
IF: What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?
I think travel is a big perk and something that can also be overwhelming at times. But I do really enjoy being on the road. On the flip side, I’m based in New York and it’s such a dense and layered place and I have such wonderful clients so when I’m home just hearing their stories is a joy for me.
IF: Why did you choose the path of hairdressing and was it easy to fall into this work?
My Aunt Mary is a hairdresser and has been my entire life. Most importantly (and with all the woman in my family) she is someone who has an incredible gift to connect with people. I think subconsciously that was always a big inspiration for me. I also have this attraction to the autonomy that hairdressers have.
IF: If you had not made the decision to be a hairdresser what would you have been?
That’s a good question, and I’m not really certain I have a good answer for that. I do spend much of my free time traveling the backroads interviewing people from the fringes for an ongoing documentary project. So probably something along those lines.
IF: What is your greatest strength?
Having a sense of urgency and being resourceful.
IF: Your favorite hairdressing tools?
How does the saying go.. “a poor craftsman blames his tools.” Well, I guess the opposite is true as well. The most important tool is the one in your hand. However, I do love how a straight razor can transform a haircut.
IF: Tell us about your relationship with Iles Formula. How you discovered us and which formula is your favorite?
After 12 years of working in NYC, I just jumped ship and started working at the new and fist Salon Benjamin location in NYC. Iles has been a staple at Benjamin and I dove right in and started using the products. Personally, I really dig the serum, it’s lightweight, incredibly nourishing and fortifying for the hair but most importantly it’s a wonderful styling product that serves as a base coat to layer with other products. Can’t say enough good things about it.
IF: What was the most challenging job you ever made?
I work with a non Profit called Fearless Beauty and we spearheaded the first ever vocational program for incarcerated women on Riker’s Island. The work itself wasn’t challenging per-se… and we soon realized that it wasn’t so much about hair as it was about restoring dignity for these women. Logistically it was a great challenge to be able to not only get the tools but also run an effective program while still complying with all the rules and regulations of prison on an island.
IF: What was your worst hair moment and why…. privately or on set/stage or in the salon?
Well, just last week I was styling a clients hair and there was a loose razor in my clip bag. I slammed my hand in there and well you know what happens next. Thankfully a good client was able to stitch me up for free. It’s now probably the strangest thing I’ve bartered haircuts for.
IF: If you could style anyone’s hair, who would it be and why?
Alice Coltrane for sure. The music she made post-John’s death and the spirit she captured with those songs will forever resonate with me. And c’mon have you seen how beautiful her hair was?
IF: Where do you pull hair inspiration from?
Everywhere I can. I read as much as I have the time to and music and film are both such a part of my ethos.
Inspiration is such a personal thing but it can also be ever so fleeting. No one can tell you what to be inspired or how to be inspired but I think it is also just as important to acknowledge the things (both good and bad) that influence and drive your creativity.
IF: Your advice to young hairdressers starting out?
Assist everyone you can and absorb as much information as you can. Do your research find references outside of hair and fashion. Find the places where those references come from. It’s a tired trope but an important one, don’t be afraid to make mistakes sometimes the greatest ingenuity is born out of our failures.
Thank you Mike Martinez for sharing with us. We loved your interview and all your responses.