At one point during our conversation, Mira Chai Hyde, the 64-year-old hairstylist responsible for some of the most famous male locks in Hollywood, lets slip that she can read minds. “The one thing Vidal Sassoon said to me in the very beginning of my study was to look at their shoes,” she explains, less name-dropping and more merely confirming that she’s lived the best kind of star-crossed life. “Their shoes will tell you everything you need to know about their personality.”
As if on cue, she analyzes my boots, taking note of the scratches and the style. “You’re fashionable,” Hyde says. “So you’d want something that looked fashionable, but you’re not over-the-top fashionable. You’re not going to want a mullet.” Next, she tells me that I probably hate it when the barber cuts my hair too short on the sides. “You’re not going to want a skin fade,” she continues. She guesses that I’d ask for something that looks a bit disheveled and not too clean around the ears instead — every bit of which is correct.
We’re in the single-car garage of her white stucco West Hollywood home, where she spends most of her days cutting the hair of some of her famous clientele. It’s a list that once included David Bowie and Muhammad Ali and currently features Brad Pitt, Pedro Pascal and Simu Liu. Basically, if you’ve ever shown a photo of a male celebrity and asked your barber to give you their haircut, there’s a good chance you’re asking them for their best Hyde interpretation.
Above us, rows of white and orange lights line the ceiling. “I got this lighting through a very nice friend of mine named Joe, who works on the set of Grace and Frankie,” Mira says. “He does Jane Fonda’s lighting.” In front of me is a battered mid-century dresser and vanity mirror surrounded by artifacts from Hyde’s 34-year career. To my right, a sprawling 7-foot-tall painting of a naked woman lying on a beach is watching over me. “It’s from these 1930s painters from Malibu,” Hyde explains.
Hyde was born in the Philippines. At 14, she made the decision to come to the U.S. so she could continue her education. “If that meant going into a foster care home, then I’d do it,” she tells me. Four different foster homes later, she graduated from high school in 1976. She moved to San Francisco and got a job as a secretary. Then, she relocated again — this time to New Haven, Connecticut, where she started dating a musician who she credits in a very small way for spurring her career as a hairstylist. “He said to me, ‘You’re not that important,’” she recalls. “‘You’re just a secretary.’”
It was around this time that Hyde began cutting and bleaching hair for a bunch of young punks in the New Haven music scene. A few years later, aided by her father’s friend, Uncle Frank, who also helped her get to the U.S., Hyde moved to London and started a nine-month diploma course with Vidal Sassoon a week after her 30th birthday. Next, it was onto barber school where Hyde sharpened her skills cutting men’s hair. “They couldn’t just be any guys,” she says. “They had to have specific types of hair because we had to do façons that day, or a crop so we had to find specific hair types.”
Hyde’s first time on set was working on a Sassoon Wash and Go commercial. “There were two guys, and I had to make sure there was continuity,” she tells me. “So I’d have to take Polaroids and make sure that the hair looked exactly the same.” In 1991, she did hair and makeup for FHM. “They kept asking me back, and I started getting tear sheets, which is after the magazine was published, your work was considered a tear sheet,” she explains. “And so, with those tear sheets, I went around and I got an agent.”
In 1995, fashion designer Alexander McQueen, who Hyde says was still “very much an underground sensation,” moved into the loft below her in Hoxton Square. “We befriended each other, and he asked me to do his next show, which was ‘The Hunger,’” Mira says. When McQueen’s loft filled up with so many clothes he could barely use his kitchen, he moved into Hyde’s. “We lived together, and we became fast friends until eventually, Givenchy came knocking and the rest is history,” she says.
In 2005, Hyde moved back to the U.S. to help her sister take care of her aging mom. And although she was well-connected in the London fashion scene, having worked with Mario Testino, Paul Smith, John Galliano, and of course, McQueen, in the U.S. Hyde had zero clientele. “Somehow Don Henley’s daughter found me online,” she says. A week later, she went on tour with The Eagles for the next three years. Little by little, a Vanity Fair cover here and a TV commercial there, Hyde’s client roster began to grow.
She credits David Beckham, another famous head of hair that she’s cut, for changing the way men think about their vanity: “When Beckham started getting groomed and looking really great and not being ashamed to say he had face masks, he changed the way men felt about masculinity and that it was okay to want to do all of this.”
Her signature hairstyle, though she has many, is what she calls the “uncut cut.” She describes it as a longer square shape cut — “longer on top, not as long on the sides and back, but not short either.” She tends to think that hairstyle suits most men’s faces. “It’s very easy,” she tells me. “It doesn’t look like they just had a haircut.” Sometimes though, she admits, it’s fun to go really short on someone. Or as she puts it, “Fucked-up short — like just cutting it very randomly, so it looks like they did it themselves.” She calls this the “I don’t give a fuck haircut.”
For the last few years, Hyde has been in the process of perfecting her own line of hair products. House of Skuff is named after her bull terrier who made the 6,000-mile journey from London to L.A. with her, and who died in 2011. “Lee McQueen was her godfather, and Skuff was Hoxton Square’s mascot,” she says. “Long live Skuff.”
Before I leave, I take one last look around Hyde’s garage. I spot a photo of a model wearing a McQueen dress made entirely out of horse hair. Hyde tells me it’s from the 1990s and that she used her scissors to sculpt the layers for it.
“I’m a bit of a hidden gem,” Hyde says, which is about as much bragging about her influence as she’ll ever do. “I have to say, I’m not quite used to the attention sometimes. I’m kind of like, ‘Oh wow, people know who I am.’ It’s so strange, and it’s a little uncomfortable at the same time. Because you never think you deserve anything.”