Best wearable pop art

Sacramento’s boldest hairstyles reveal influences from punk to Peter Pan

Illustration by Don Button

Jillian Oliver is constantly changing her hair. This is understandable—she’s a model—but her latest transformation both catches you off guard and takes your breath away: a bowl cut. No, not the Demi Moore-in-Ghost variety; more the Vidal Sassoon-for-Mary Quant sort.

Not many people could pass off owning a bowl, but on Oliver it brings focus and distinction to her pale, impish features and delicate bone structure. “I keep on top of my hair at all times. It’s the worst when I see a girl with the same cut as mine; I am instantly compelled to change it. Immediately,” she confesses.

Oliver’s bowl got me thinking about other Sacramentans with the same passion for standing out, ahem, one head above the rest, like an ever-changing work of public art. From the J Street water tower to Capitol Park to the river, pompadours, pixies, quiffs, hair salons and barber shops are like faux-hawks at a Jedi Braid show: everywhere. There are dozens of hair salons in the Midtown area alone.

I asked Oliver which master of the follicle helped her achieve such a good look, and she surprised me with her reply. “I cut it myself,” she said. (A friend helped her take care of the back.) And Oliver has no formal coiffure training—unless you count sculpture classes at Sacramento State.

Still, if you want your do to be a work of art, best leave it to an expert. Kat Brown, of Luxe Salon & Spa (2115 J Street, Suite 102), stands out. She has a loyal clientele and also styles hair for photo shoots and ads. You can see her work in Crossroads Trading Co.’s new magazine campaign and next month in the virtual pages of N.E.E.T. Magazine (

Brown sleeps, breathes and eats hair—so it’s not surprising that she has a knack for predicting hair trends. “This fall is about going bold, whether it is boldly long and loose or very short. Going big is in,” she said.

Using Brown as a guide, I took to the streets to find Sacramentans whose haircuts stopped me dead in my blond tracks.

Eileen McCarthy
Hairdo: The Demented Peter Pan
Favorite Sacramento stylists: Adam J. Federico and Caitlin Sweeney of AJF Salon (3016 J Street).

A hair stylist in training, Eileen McCarthy’s look is constantly evolving. “My current hairdo is best described as an oxblood, asymmetric, grown-out pixie, with extra length on top, fringe area and a mini-tail in the back,” she explained of her spin on the popular look, seen on Rihanna and others.

Her style before this? “Very short on one side [and] about shoulder length on the other, with long tendrils toward the back. Oh, and I was a white/platinum violety blond,” she said. “I’m starting to see more ladies walking around sporting [that style], so I’m OK with having moved on.”

Trendsetting is something McCarthy has grown used to—she pretty much singlehandedly spearheaded a small spandex-jumpsuit movement in Sacramento—and her fearlessness has been rewarded.

“I don’t really have one specific person that cuts [my hair] right now. I’ve been pretty fortunate in that, for a while, I’d been asked to be a hair model for a few different events, so I was having these amazing stylists do my hair for free,” she said.

McCarthy has always enjoyed experimenting with her hair. In college at the California Institute of the Arts, she was the girl you went to if you wanted an unconventional, experimental look.

And now, here in Sac, it’s the McCarthy era all over again, but in a good way: Disloyalty—to convention—is encouraged.

A triumvirate of cool coifs: Jillian Oliver, Matthew Vicini and Eileen McCarthy strike a pose at Deeda Salon, 1734 34th Street.

Photo By Shoka

Sergio Manuel Cranshaw
Hairdo: The Dandy Lion
Favorite local salon: Amethyst Boutique Salon (1124 18th Street).

Cranshaw has his luxurious corkscrews clipped however his stylist pleases; he can pull off any haircut with aplomb. His previous style was a Chelsea cut, in honor of his “wild days as a teenage ‘oi! boy.’”

The Chelsea-style cut was popularized by female punks in the ’70s and is a daring choice for a half-black gay man. “I had a completely buzzed head except for long bangs in the front and sides. My bangs were eyebrow length in the front, and tapered to jaw length on the sides, framing my face,” he explained.

“I thought it made a great statement: a colored gay boy with a girl skinhead cut.”

Matthew Vicini
Hairdo: Regulation ’40s Military
Favorite local salon: AJF (3016 J Street). “They really do European-style hair.”

Sommelier in training Vicini realized recently that the tousled “scene kid” cut he’d sported for so many years finally had played itself out. He needed something with a bit more “authority,” he said. He got what he wanted: a military cut.

Vicini’s new short do still complements his “uniform” of skinny pants and Toms shoes. The cut, a traditional throwback but still hip as the day is long, really does bring out the man from his boyish good looks.

Luxe’s Brown noted that the 1940s are a huge style inspiration this season. “If you are in the process of growing out your hair, I suggest trying something inspired by [this era],” she said, noting that women can “have a lot of fun with curls in the grow-out phase, which can help when it hits the awkward shoulder-brushing stage.”

Brown recommends that women, or even guys like Vicini when his hair grows out, “throw in some small curls and lightly brush through for a feminine, delicate look.”

“The long, wavy structure of ’40s hair is not only beautiful, but classy as well,” she said.

Photo By

Jillian Oliver
Hairdo: The ’60s Bowl
Favorite styling products: vegan hair-care goods from the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op

Brown loves Oliver’s take on the bowl. “When thinking about shorter cuts, think geometric and structured. Very precise, slimming pixie cuts and cropped bobs are the way to go for the more adventurous. The geometric bob can look classy, extreme, hipster or even grunge, depending on the product and the way you style it,” she explained.

Oliver thinks this new cut will help her stand out in the modeling world—without stealing attention away from the clothes. And her look is much more malleable than you’d expect: She could instantly transform from doll-like to statuesque, no problem. One moment, Coco Chanel, the next, Audrey Hepburn.

In the end, your head is your canvas. Let one of the many local stylists have their way with it—or be brave and go DIY. But always make it your own.