The Man Behind Kate Moss’s Cool Girl Hair Shares The Style Secrets

Hairstylist to the stars Sam McKnight has worked with everyone who’s anyone. Here’s his guide to your best-ever hair.

Sam mcknight

by Verity Clark |
Updated on

Princess Diana, Kate Moss, Jodie Comer. A dream dinner party trio yes, but they also have something, or rather someone, in common. Sam McKnight. ‘Turlington reminded me the other day that I met her in 1984,’ reflects McKnight from his London studio. He is of course referring to model Christy Turlington. As a hairstylist, he has racked up more than 40 years in the industry and you’d be hard-pressed to name a supermodel who’s hair he hasn’t coiffed. He is responsible for some of the most iconic hairstyles of our time.

Sam Mcknight
Sam with Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Mary Greenwell

Princess Diana’s signature cropped cut? The result of her asking him what he’d do to her ’80s volume if ‘he could do anything’. Kate Moss’s mussed waves? The duo have worked together since the ’90s. Jodie Comer even entrusted him to cut her fringe, at his kitchen table no less. So what would the maestro tell women about hair today?

‘It shouldn’t look like you’ve just run out of the salon,’ he insists. ‘When I started working in 1980, hair was still very “done”. My generation reversed that and gave a different perspective on hair.’ Namely, ‘uncomplicated’ styling for the cool girl hair he is now synonymous with.

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Princess Diana ©Getty

Learning his trade at Molton Brown, staff were discouraged from using heat tools. ‘Everything had to be dried naturally.’ And so effortless hair became his trademark. ‘I’m big on time-saving,’ he says of why he’s also introduced Hair by Sam McKnight, a range of styling products for everyone to access a slice of his genius at home.

‘Back in the day, you’d have to blow-dry hair with mousse to get volume, excessively backcomb and use a ton of pins,’ he says when I ask how to recreateMoss’s classic messy updo. Now all it takes is the right product. Think multitasking oils, lightweight balms and sprays that add texture or volume and, crucially, can be brushed out. ‘Cool girl hair isn’t a style, it’s just great hair.’

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Sam McKnight with Kate Moss

Shop: Sam McKnight's Cool Girl Hair Cheat Sheet

Don’t overdo it

‘It’s all about not trying too hard. You want to make sure the hair doesn’t take over. The key is not to do too much. A little Happy Endings Nourishing Balm, £22, through the ends to de-fluff and a few spritzes of Cool Girl Texture Mist, £27, to add some messy volume. If it looks overdone, muss it up a bit.’

Be fearless

‘People get so terrified about changing their hair or having a new cut, but your hair grows! Try a few different cuts. When people say, “What if I don’t like it?” I just say, “Well, what if you do?” A fringe will have grown out in a few months and, if you really hate it, in the interim you can style it out with curtain bangs.’

McKnight's iconic look bottled in a can. This texture mist will help to create the look of effortless, undone hair in a few spritzes.

Wash hair regularly

‘You wouldn’t go for a week without washing your face, so why would you do that to your hair? There’s a movement at the moment with people washing their hair less, saying you shouldn’t wash your hair every day. Why? Shampoo and conditioner don’t damage hair. The scalp needs cleansing, hair gets a bit smelly. We’re not in the Stone Age! Hygienically and for the scalp benefits, regular cleansing is crucial.

Revive lifeless locks

‘When hair is dry, tip your head upside down, spritz with a texturising spray and flip it back for instant volume. If you want hair to look shiny or glossy, add a little balm or oil.’ Try Sam McKnight Love Me Do Nourishing Oil, £32.

Use dry shampoo correctly

‘Don’t rub it in. It’s a powder that soaks up the oil, so you’re just rubbing that oily powder into your scalp and hair. Spray it on and blow it off with the cold air from a dryer. Not warm air, that will melt it again.’

Enriched with ultra nourishers like argan, camelia and sunflower seed oils, this will smooth down hair for a glossy finish and protect against heat damage.

Define your face with a topknot

‘On bad hair days, scrape hair up into a tight bun, leaving the ends out, and stick a great pin through it. The trick is to pull hair up rather than back and down – it lifts the face.’

Add volume with the right cut

‘How to get volume is the question I get asked the most. The answer is in the cut. The longer the hair, the less volume you will have. Equally, if your hair is one length it will be tricky to achieve fullness. You need layers. Get a few layers cut and you’ll immediately notice more oomph.’ Products that add volume can help too, try: Sam McKnight Volumizing Root Lift Spray, £26.

Get a salon-worthy blow-dry at home

Velcro rollers are the best thing ever for faking a blow-dry, they’re less harsh on hair than heat tools, too. You don’t even need to put them all over. When hair is dry, pop four rollers at the crown of your head – that’s where you want the volume – add a little hairspray and leave them in for as long as you can.’

Shop: Sam McKnight's Backstage Essentials

For on-the-go refreshes: ‘Brilliant if you have fine or grease-prone hair. You just wipe these over and they mop up any oil without disrupting your style.’

For detangling knotty locks: ‘This Korean brush is my go-to. It’s got a strong bristle that gets through all hair types but is gentle. It’s great for blow-dries too.’

For instant volume: ‘This is amazing for faking a blow-dry.’

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