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Interview: Tricks of the Trade with Jennifer McGann, Director of Cosmetology at Tricoci University

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A licensed stylist with 15 years of experience, Tricoci University’s Director of Cosmetology Education Jennifer McGann has a wealth of insight on hair-styling and is go-to expert for advice on technique, fashion, hair health, and more. With more inventive and complicated hair styles and accessories popping up every day, Jennifer’s expertise is in more demand than ever. Today, Jennifer joins us to talk about about her career in fashion and the tips and tricks she’s learned along the way.

Jennifer McGann, Director of Cosmetology Education, Tricoci University

Jennifer McGann, Director of Cosmetology Education, Tricoci University

When and how did you get started in cosmetology?

I got started in ‘99 when I finally decided to go to beauty school. I have always loved playing with hair and makeup – I was constantly doing my friends’ hair at home when I was in high school, playing around with styles and even some, ahem, cutting!

What are your favorite hairstyles through history?

What a tough question! There are so many I love but if I had to choose I think what I’m drawn to the most are the styles of the ’20s and the ’60s. In the ’20s, women were starting to express themselves through fashion, makeup and hair so everything you look at from that era has such substance and style. There was a definitive feel of structure fused with glamour.

In the ’60s it was all about volume mixed with structure so those structured looks from previous eras started to morph into new styles fused with volume and sass. We saw a lot of flipped ends and backcombing.

What are your least favorite hairstyles and why?

I would have to say the ’80s. While that hair is so fun to re-create and play around with, there just wasn’t any rhyme or reason to the styles. I’m passionate about hair design and styling movement and direction so when I look back at some of those styles and ALL that hairspray, it isn’t what interests my creative palate.

What modern look do you think will be most ridiculed in the future?

I think the shaved sides look will get a lot of heat in the future. Back in the early ’90s, we shaved the nape of our hair below our occipital bone and boy was it THE thing to do. We look at that now and cringe so I have to wonder if we’ll feel the same with the shaved sides trend.

Have you worked with any big names?

I have. I had the opportunity to work with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith a couple years ago. Aerosmith was in Chicago for a show and his stylist got sick and through a friend I was able to jump on board and work with him. We prepped him for the show and also worked with him the next day to give him the full beauty treatment: manicure, pedicure, hair color and cut. If you notice, he wears that hair addition that he likes to have tiger striped with black and white so we were able to retouch that for him along with refreshing the rest of his hair color. He was an absolute gem to work with – really down to earth and very humble. I teach our students all the time you never know where an opportunity might arise so it’s important to always build industry relationships and network – never know when that opportunity will knock!

What hairstyles are trending at the moment, and what do you think is in the future of hair fashion?

Ombre color is definitely trending right now – all different types of ombre from simple to extreme. We’ve even seen that morph over the last few years from extreme dark base to extreme light ends and now we’re seeing a much more subtle version – and the use of the full color spectrum rather than just brunette and blonde.

How do you usually wear your own hair?

I’m pretty simple so I lean toward classic and feminine. I either wear my hair fairly sleek and straight or use a curling wand to add texture for the beachy waves look. With either texture I will also pull it back into a low, loose bun for some variety, otherwise I get bored!

What are the best foods for healthy hair?

Most foods that are good for your skin are good for your hair – foods rich in vitamins and antioxidants.

If you could give our readers only one hair style tip that most people neglect or that you think would make the biggest difference, what would it be?

Healthy hair is beautiful hair. Make the investment to see your professional regularly to maintain healthy hair.

Are there any movies or TV shows that you would like to give a shout-out to for hairstyling?

Mad Men, hands down. Their hair, makeup and fashion teams are amazing – they got it right.  I thoroughly enjoy seeing what’s next!

Where do you draw your inspiration?

Inspiration can come from anywhere; it’s really just about your passions and what your creative style is. I draw a lot from nature and also a lot from fashion. I get inspired by color and by clothing design. I think about what hair would look great with a certain outfit and what color or style would fit the face and the personal style.

How would you describe your style?

Pretty simple but trendy. I’m a big fan of skinny jeans because I think they look great on everyone with the right top for your body style.

What is a hair product you can’t live without? For work or personal use.

I cannot live without Pureology Miracle Filler and Redken Clear Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner.  Miracle Filler is a spray-on leave-in treatment for blondes or chemically treated hair. It keeps my hair shiny and healthy despite how blonde I am. Clear Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner are awesome everyday products that leave my hair thoroughly moisturized. I can’t stress the importance of using the right professional products. Remember, healthy hair is beautiful hair and the best way to maintain healthy hair is to use the right two or three products every day.

What stylists inspired you or who are your favorite stylists?

I’m always inspired by Sam Villa, Chris Baran and Kris Sorbie. Aside from their mad technical skills, they are all so passionate about education in our industry. To stay on top in this industry you have to continually educate yourself and they all share their educational tips and tricks constantly. I respect their philosophies.

What does your typical workday look like?

Can’t say I have a typical work day because no [two days are] ever the same (love that!). You might find me in one of our campuses working with our students or teachers on trends or theory education or you might find me in my office writing new and exciting trends or applications into our curriculum… and I’m also everywhere in between!

What advice would you give to stylists looking to break into the industry?

Network, network, network. Get connected – social media is HUGE right now and an absolute MUST.  Go to shows. Sign up for classes. Stay after the class, meet the facilitator. Volunteer at events. Ask questions. Don’t stop until you get where you want to go.

What practices are most damaging to hair?

Chemicals and heat can be really tough on the hair, so if you color your hair and blow-dry and/or flat iron, be sure you’re using the right products to put that moisture and protein back in!

What work have you done that you’re most proud of or enjoyed doing the most?

I’m most proud of the work I’ve done with Tricoci University. I’m so passionate about education and making our industry stronger one student at a time. I’ve poured my heart and soul into the Cosmetology education at Tricoci University and I’m proud of that. I’m proud of our students and their accomplishments.

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