Current Issue #486

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Drawn to the City:
Adam Hadley Darrie, the hairdresser

Leo Greenfield
Adam Hadley Darrie

Adam Hadley Darrie approaches hairdressing like a master painter, transforming his clients’ locks into tresses of neon yellow, deep mauve or fiery pink, brilliant enough to rival the palette of any abstract artist.

His rainbow application of colour defies traditional ideas of hairdressing and fits perfectly with the digital age of fashion, youth culture and the visibility of the queer movement. He describes his approach to style with humour and warmth saying, “Think of all your 90s childhood dreams – Lisa Frank and day-glo – and then try and make it classy.”

Together with partner Paul Engelhardt, Darrie owns and runs Archie & Co, a business that encompasses hairdressing, homewares and coffee culture on Carrington Street. Darrie and Engelhardt opened their business in 2015 and today work with a team of 12 stylists.

Born in Adelaide, Darrie grew up travelling the world thanks to his parents’ employment with Australian embassies overseas. Listing New Delhi, Washington DC and San Diego as previous homes, Darrie says, “My parents were with DFAT, and living in so many different places gave me a strong sense of self and image. I think this really shows through in my work.”

Attending high school in the United States meant Darrie didn’t wear a school uniform, so he took to experimenting with personal style as a response to the freedom he had. Changing his look and regularly transforming his hair with dye led him to consider a career in hairdressing.

At 17 he took on another great city, moving to London to train with the Vidal Sassoon Academy. Living in the London neighbourhood of Kentish Town while studying, Darrie was exposed to the eclectic fashion sense of the UK, especially the punk attitudes of the Camden Markets of the early 2000s.

In 2003, Darrie returned to Adelaide; he had completed his training and worked in London before living again in the USA. Returning to Adelaide was meant to be temporary to give him a chance to be closer to his family. But he was employed by Toni & Guy and stayed on, making Adelaide his permanent base.

Archie & Co harnesses the power of social media to show off their salon work, sharing videos and photos that demonstrate the complete process of a client’s transformation. “I feel like it’s the way of the future,” says Darrie. “Clients want a business that has personality and a face and reflects who they are.”

Communication is vital when building rapport with clients, and for Darrie it’s also about understanding someone’s taste and knowing how to talk to them about it. “I always think that taste comes above talent. You can always get better at something but if you and your client’s taste levels don’t match up it’s hard to give them what they truly want. Skills will come with time,” says Darrie.

Experimental colouring is the area of hairdressing where Darrie really feels he can express himself. “Traditional hair colouring is quite scientific, but with the new colours it is more about mixing in a similar way an artist mixes their colour palette,” says Darrie. It is hard for him to narrow down a favourite colour but he says “yellow is exciting, it is in your face and not very common, a little bit ugly-cool”.

When it comes to understanding trends in the hair world, Darrie says, “I follow my instincts. And I draw a lot of inspiration from the punk movement and Japanese and Russian street style. The youth too have a lot more freedom, particularly queer people, and I hope it keeps developing.” Darrie sees the online world as a vital tool allowing youth to reach outside their own sphere and create and develop community. When it comes to fashion now, Darrie says, “It’s as if seasons don’t apply. Fashion trends are emerging at the same time around the world.”

COVID-19 affected all hair salons, with shutdowns around the nation. “After being in this field for 21 years, I haven’t really had a holiday to just be still at home,” says Darrie. “ My body loved it. I didn’t have back pain and it forced me to pause and reflect on my career. Everyone in the entire world was in the same boat; [the pandemic] took the selfishness out of it. At first it was really stressful, but I felt massive relief when we decided to shut for a month.

“Now that we are back it feels normal again, and it’s really great to be back with my team at work.”

Leo Greenfield

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Leo Greenfield is freelance illustrator. His work can be found at leogreenfield.com.

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