23 Jun A hairdressers journey. Get to know Charles May, his 30+ year career and his outlook on life, right now.
Ever need a guiding light, helping you move in the right direction? Well many seek this guidance in their haircare provider, and if you’ve never received this level of humanism in a hairdresser, then you’ve missed out on a very special relationship that many hold dear and that only some hairdressers are capable of giving. Enter Charles May.
As a seasoned veteran of this sometimes underappreciated industry, Charles has seen his fair share of career successes in his 30+ years. From proteging with Martin Parsons, Orlando Pita, and John Sahag to of course, being an art director for countless fashion shows. Charles has aided in many charity events offering his glorious talents, and like many professionals at his level in the game, spent a large part of his career working in television.
Charles May, also known as Texas Hair Master (@texas_hairmaster) strikes a pose at work.
Anyone remember all those insanely fast makeover transformations on the Jerry Springer show? No camera tricks, no extended time, no editing, and no cuts to fit the show. You guessed it, Charles was the talent making those happen. And perhaps you’ve heard of a woman named Oprah? Well, Charles also worked at Harpo studios when Oprah Winfrey was everything on television. It amazes us to this day, that this caliber of talent still manages to maintain such an under-the-radar profile in San Antonio, but of course, you’ll be hard-pressed to not have evidence of world-class talent here with the *TEXAS FASHION AWARDS and Style Lush TV around.
We chased this on-the-go talent and finally managed to convince Charles to slow down and take some time with us. Below is his story, bobbing and weaving between a whirlwind of his emotions and giving insight into his ever-evolving career in Texas and now, San Antonio, where he calls home to live his Latino truth as an artist.
Charles May. Photo by Bobby Maloy
SLTV: It has been so long, Charles. Let’s just get into it. You have been in the hair game for over 30 years. From the elite Chicago scene to now being back home in Texas. At this point, your profession has evolved into much more than just hair care. Tell us, what is your personal Hair Philosophy now that you have come so far?
Hair by Charles May.
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SLTV: You are timelessly stylish Charles. Always have been. Always will be. In this modern-day and age, where casualness has become more and more accepted in the workplace, as a hairdresser, how are feeling about this? The image of a hairdresser, how they present themselves in the salon… Important? Not important?
CM: Oh It’s incredibly important! I’ve learned from very elite Chicago mentors that a hairdresser’s image is incredibly important. Basic rule, if you look good, you’re going to make people who walk in feel good. They will trust that if their hairdresser looks good, then their hair is going to look good. If the hairdresser doesn’t look interesting, creative, and presentable, why should my clients trust that I’m capable of making them look beautiful? You know? That is something I learned from my elite mentors in Chicago. For example, when I worked with them, we were not allowed to wear jeans; we weren’t allowed to wear bad shoes. We learned how to elevate and dare I say it, be more classy because that’s how much we respected our clientele.
Also, the way you speak to people. No bad words. No vulgarities. There is an emphasis on elegance. Elegance is very important to me. Don’t get me wrong… I’m a fun man, but let’s face it, for me, that does not belong in the salon or in front of your clients. I respect them too much to ever do that or to present an environment that is less than classy and uplifting. Always present yourself with respect. Respect yourself and respect your clients!
CM: Oh my gosh! I was bullied in the past Burgundy! I left San Antonio at 19 years old after I graduated from Burbank High School. You see, when I graduated from Burbank I was the first male student to graduate with my cosmetology license and if you know Burbank High School… whew… It was hard, you know? Back then… whoa… it was even harder. I was bullied. I was picked on. I was the “faggot going to cosmetology school”. I mean they used to shove me in the locker Burgundy! But I never let that stop me though. I didn’t care. I knew what I wanted. Don’t get me wrong, I knew what was coming for me daily, it was not pleasant, but I also knew what I wanted in life. I wanted to do hair and so I just kept going. I kept taking advantage of the opportunity Burbank High School gave me with that high school cosmetology program. I just knew that the world was much bigger than Burbank and so much bigger than those people who bullied me, so that was why I kept going with my eye on the big city! And so I left for the big city. I wanted to learn more and be around more enlightened people. To me that was a big city experience. And so, Chicago. San Antonio 35 years ago was very limited and so Chicago was the greatest experience I could’ve ever asked for. Today, I’m very happy and I know I left my mark.
SLTV: So you’ve shared your struggles with small-minded people in high school. Talk to us about your journey as a Latino artist. You recently mentioned discovering an even stronger bond with your Latino roots. Tell us more.
CM: Oh yes Burgundy. Thank you for asking. I have been doing this for so long, but in the midst of everything that has happened, what with COVID, all the hate from political leaders, I do feel a newfound love and deep pride for my Latino roots. I’ve always been proud, but now, I feel it even more deeply, for Latinos, and for all my Latino community and I love representing my culture in what I do. And in what I do well. And now, San Antonio is growing so much! The art scene, the city, so many special things to offer the world. People just don’t know because there aren’t enough people like you showing it off Burgundy. But you are, and I see it now. Even more. My heart for San Antonio is so perfectly aligned with my Latino roots. I’ve never felt more happy with who I am, and where I am now. I’m feeling it! I’m feeling it deeply and that is transcending into my work.
SLTV: Talk to me about that. What do you mean?
CM: Not to say that I’m over my Chicago history, but I’ve somewhat left that behind and I’m so in love with my home city now, and my Latino roots, and now, I can feel this emotion and love moving into my work. I’m feeling my clients and being able to offer myself to my clients on a whole new level. I’m finding myself doing the best work of my career and offering my clients the best version of my skills. I see them seeing themselves in a new light, a light that I created for them, and that is everything. To have that trust in me. To connect to them on a deeper level. That’s where I am. My newfound emotions… it goes into my work and so it goes into my clients. My heart is San Antonio, my heart is the Latino community, my heart is my clients. That’s where I’m at.
SLTV: What wisdom have you gained from such a long professional fashion journey?
CM: Well my impression about fashion is that it is very subjective, like art, it’s not for everyone, and not everyone will understand it. But you, yourself, you must understand the reasons for the design or colors used. I believe that fashion can be created at any budget and by anyone. It’s a creative way that people can express their inner feelings and emotions about life, with an outer garment or accessory or hair design, or hair coloring, and of course, by your clothing. For example, I love mixing all of my experiences of life, cultures and people, and the diversity of the human race. I have the experience and knowledge of influence, taking from pop culture, music culture, television, and movie culture. I love playing with the masculine and feminine attributes of clothing to make a statement.
STV: What is something you do now that you may not have done in the younger days of your career?
CM: As a Latino, I truly believe we do everything with passion, we do everything with heritage, purpose, and reason. I think being a hairdresser you have to look out for your client’s best interest and not always give them what they ask for. The best hairdressers will not always give you what you want. For example, sometimes, the hair needs a rest, I will be very honest and say “ok I know you want to be blonde but this is not working.” I focus on helping. You have to learn how to say “no” to your clients; look out for them. Saying things like, “I can do that. But I don’t want to do that. Do you know why ma’am? You’ve had this hairstyle for over 30 years. It’s ok to be a grandma, but you don’t have to look like a grandma.” But here’s the thing. They appreciate it! Then I make them new versions of themselves. They know I care and that I want them to be beautiful. They know that. And I do make them beautiful. That’s why our relationships are so special. I love what I do, and now, I’m perfectly comfortable with saying “no” if it’s the best thing for them.
SLTV: How often should women change their hair Charles?
CM: I can’t see women having the same hairstyle for over a year. And I mean that! Life is too short. Having the same thing over and over and over… oh my… that’s so boring to me! Just repetition. I don’t believe in these rules people make… “Oh I feel more comfortable with long hair because I’m a girl and it needs to be long.” or “My husband won’t let me cut it” or ” I can only pull off a bob” or “Let’s stay safe”… HELL NO.
I like to say, “Have you ever had something like this?”… these are the things I tell them. I have a very good eye for makeovers, obviously, what with the makeover shows I used to do for Jerry Springer. Those were like… 20 minutes tops. Now, I have people in my chair for so much longer so I can transform a woman into the most beautiful version of themselves, and I’m very confident about that.
Hair is changeable. It should be changeable! And it grows back. It’s hair! Healthy hair is constantly evolving and beautiful hair is possible at any age. Human beings change, so should their hair. I’m very good at that you know? I can transform my clients into who they are Right Now and they will be modern and beautiful.
Also, I just believe that your hair is your most valuable accessory! Purses come and go, but your hair, that is forever with you. Today, I have become very good at guiding my clients to do something more modern should they need that loving push, or to have more fun with free-spirited, creatives, like you Burgundy, those who let me do whatever I want to their hair. I’m just feeling it. I’ve found love Burgundy. I truly have, in my personal life, in my Latino roots, in my being, in my career and most of all in my clients.
SLTV: Over five years back in San Antonio Charles, and I see you as opening up your own salon one day. It just really seems appropriate to me. A human like you? Yea, you are a brand. YOU are a vibe! Will you Charles? Will you ever open up your own oasis of hairdresser bliss?
CM: Absolutely! Right now, I am offering services at a number of places, but I have a vision for my space. And you know what Burgundy, you’re right, it does seem appropriate. I already know where I want it to be and I already have a plan. I’m very excited about it. For now, people can follow me on Instagram at @texas_hairmaster to find my locations, but in the future, I will be creating an entire salon experience based off my career’s journey and everything I have learned, everything I have talked about today, and everything I have to offer at this stage in my life. A place of elegance and true city vibrancy. A place to call home. It will be beautiful, for my company culture and even more so for my clients.
FOLLOW THE INCOMPARABLE CHARLES MAY ON INSTAGRAM HERE! @Texas_Hairmaster
*The TEXAS FASHION AWARDS™ is formerly known as the San Antonio Fashion Awards
Featured Image by Bobby Maloy