There’s a new hair salon that quietly opened recently, upstairs on the corner of Bryant and Elmwood, and the repat owner has a long and illustrious past, beginning with the dawn of the unisex salon. Many of you won’t remember a time when hairdressers and barbers kept their clientele quite to themselves, but it wasn’t so long ago really. It’s not a common topic, certainly not as big as the advent and evolution of cell phones, personal computers, and a switch from leaded fuel to electric cars, but at the time, in the early 70’s, it was a large part of social change. If you’re a millennial, ask your parents.
Joe Lovullo, formerly of Visage, is making a slow but sure move back to Buffalo as his mother ages and needs him more and more, and we will all be the happy recipients of his attention to his hometown and all that he knows and loves here. Other than his mother, that includes his two lifetime loves, doing hair and training and riding racehorses. He is a well-documented master at both.
From the time he went from barbering school, to the shirt and tie world of the Sax 5th Avenue salon, Joe has always understood the need for innovation and evolution in hair styling. A look back at any Throw Back Thursday photo on Facebook tells a story of change, not just in age, but also in design. Beyond the big collars and wide ties, the hair, both in its abundance and style, tells us how much we’ve changed. That change is also something Joe has worked toward and promoted among those working for and with him.
Back in 1972, Joe was operating a salon on Elmwood next to Goodbar, Haircuts, Etc. He was just coming out of a hippie phase in which all of his friends and many of his clients were well groomed and just left of mainstream-minded. He remembers a professional development trip to London to study under Vidal Sassoon, who was relatively unknown to a greater audience at the time. Joe recounts a turning point, when he met young Paul McGregor, a change-maker in the industry and the man to whom the shag haircut was first attributed. McGregor walked into the salon, larger than life and artfully thin, dressed in black clogs, tight black bellbottoms, and wearing a black sweater, the asymmetric zipper starting at his hip, snaking around to the opposite shoulder, and ending under his rather large golden-brown afro dusted with flour – for texture. Style took on a whole new meaning for the Buffalo boy who grew up in the projects on the lower West Side.
When Joe returned home from London, he embraced the new direction of his craft and the need for constant change that would put Buffalonians in step with the leaders in fashion. He felt he owed this to his clientele, and beside that, it was exciting. Hair was cut wet, layered, dried with a hand held blow-dryer. He was in high gear and bent on doing things differently. He immediately insisted that the stylists in his salon stop doing shag haircuts and step-up their style game. Ever since, Joe has brought cutting-edge style to his work.
He also was busted on three separate occasions for cutting women’s hair in a salon that was operated by a barber, which is the license Joe held at the time. It took the work of a few female lawyer/clients to undo that archaic log jam and make it possible, through a cry of discrimination, to gain women’s rightful access to unisex salons, which would soon pop up everywhere.
Joe spent the next few decades in town operating the first of several full service salons, and over time, he migrated to New York where so many stylists he had trained were doing well. Note to up-and-coming stylists out there: The Who’s Who list of Joe’s mentors and now famous trainees will blow your mind. Anyone ready to launch in a big way might want to put in a bid to work alongside Joe, whose experience and connections he will pass along. He’s always been a soft touch for a willing and apt young talent.
Joe loves New York, and fashion-forward New Yorkers love Joe, but as he’s called back, he’s happy to be home too. Here in Buffalo, there are those who remember Joe’s talent, those who have heard of him, and those who really should meet him for a New York City cut, minus the airfare. And if you find him in a talkative mood, you may also get one hell of a priceless history lesson.
LoVullo for Hair
425 Elmwood Avenue (Upper)