Surfing-Obsessed Hairstylist James Pecis Reveals the Secret to Beachy Waves

The hairstylist opens up about his latest charitable collaboration.

Hairstylist and Oribe Global Ambassador James Pecis is a regular at fashion week, but in his spare time he’s an avid surfer. For his most recent project, Pecis combined both his profession and his passion with the book Noodled, which juxtaposes images of hair with those of the sea. The book, a collaboration with creative director Kimberley Norcott, fashion photographer Paul Wetherell, and ocean photographer Ben Bugden which is available for pre-order, is as romantic as it is powerful–all of its proceeds will go to marine conservationist group Mission Blue. “With the current events that are happening right now…everyone is asking themselves like well, what can I do, what’s my role? And it can be on many different levels, but everyone can offer something,” Pecis explains, “Everyone has talents.” Here, the hairstylist explains the project, and why he loves beachy, messy hair.

How did this project come together? The idea came from Kimberley Norcott. We were on a surf trip and we decided that the project that we were talking about connecting elements of nature with beauty in humans, we realized we can narrow it down to just working with water to make it more specific. And then when we were kind of brainstorming about it. We thought, “both of us have jobs, we both do other things, why don’t we do this as a project and then all the proceeds can go to a charity?”

That’s awesome. The reason why we came around to Mission Blue was a documentary from Sylvia Earle, who’s the founder of Mission Blue. She’s a diver and oceanographer, and she set up this charity. One of the things that she always says is, “everyone has talent, everyone has something they can offer. Find out how you can apply your talents for something better.” And that’s why this is a perfect match, especially with the current events that are happening right…everyone is asking themselves like well, what can I do, what’s my role? And it can be on many different levels, but everyone can offer something. Everyone has talents.

Once you had the charity, how did you settle on the concept of pairing hairstyles with photographs of the ocean? There [are similarities in] way things move in nature and the way that hair has movement–it forms the curve and bend, and water’s the same way.

The way this worked was there’s two photographers involved, one of which was a guy from Australia and he shoots images of water. So he sent to me like 150 images of his archives and then I printed them all out on papers and I kind of just kept going through them leading up to the shoot.

In my head I started getting familiar with these different ideas, and it was important to not just do a bunch of hair styles that emulated like a tube shot, you know? So it got me thinking and then I started with my referencing. I have an archive, I went back and I start putting together ideas of things that I see connections between water and hair, and then I use that as just kind of I guess like a print to get through the day.

For the hair shoots, we had each kid coming at different times. When they sat down what I do is I look at them and figure out how to cut their hair, how are we going to style it, and then kind of try to hit some of the things that I was planning to connect with water. Then we shoot everything. And then because hair is a natural substance, it’s very organic so most of the time you end up getting things that were not even expected. So when we finish all those pictures, I printed those out and then I just covered a wall, and I paired the hair images with the appropriate water pictures.

You have a fair amount of portraits of men with really awesome hair styles in the book. How did you approach casting? The casting director we had worked with was quite amazing and we ended up shooting him because we were looking for a particular type of young, interesting kids. And we thought that we could possibly find a little bit more kind of interesting characters in London, which I think it worked out pretty well. These kids were so sweet, they were brilliantly awesome, and they were really into the project. For a lot of them, it was their first time ever being on set, and a lot of parents showed up. Kind of funny.

All of the kids have different types of hair, and it seems to be a mix of wet and dry. The interesting thing about hair is that even straight hair, it’s looking for ways to move and whether it’s being pushed around by wind or a comb or product, it findings its way into really beautiful shapes. And water’s the same way. Water’s looking for leaks, it’s looking for a way to move around. And really wasn’t trying to make a statement with wet hair versus dry hair and that conflict, it was just more about shapes. And one thing you’ll notice throughout the book is it’s very diverse in the types of textures that you see.

And with all of these you do definitely feel that texture variation. Short of jumping in the ocean, what do you like to use to get that beach-y texture for the hair? You mean if you couldn’t jump in the ocean?

Yes. If you couldn’t. I think like the dry texture spray, like Oribe’s probably. It has a nicer, softer version of a texture than being like more the traditional salt sprays, a little bit gentler. I don’t know if everyone feels this way, I love how my hair works in the ocean.

Me, too. I wish I could bottle that. Are there any natural ingredients that you really love when it comes to hair care or styling specifically? Natural. Well, I like the texture in hair. I mean, I just did a product for Oribe which is called Swept Up…Yeah, so there’s that. But as far as natural, I love playing around with random things. I like putting lemon in the hair. I like… Lemon.

For texture or to highlight it in the sun, or what? Well, what it does is the citric acid in it, it kind of in a way opens up the cuticle and can be slightly damaging, and what that does is it causes the hair to lighten up. But when hair gets slightly damaged, sometimes the texture can also be useful to people. So that’s nice. When I work on beaches I’m happy to actually keep a bucket of salt water with me, and even if you just need to kind of put some on your hand and then scrunch it in the hair, sometimes it’s a nice way to break it down.

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Kevin Tachman

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Ben Blaufuss Photography

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Getty Images

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