He never dreamt of being a hairdresser, his eye was always on the arts, and initially he didn’t see hair as “art”. As time progressed Robert Lobetta not only changed his mindset, but that of everyone around him as well. With the advent of creative hairdressing, Robert was the father of a new movement, giving birth to “Avant-Garde” as we know it today.
There is no doubt, Robert Lobetta is an artist, within the many mediums he chose to perfect — hair, photography, video, painting and mixed medium. When we look at hair objectively as an art medium, our varying perspectives has us asking ourselves the age old question: “What is Art?” What I learned from Robert was a new way to look at this medium, through his eyes, changing my view forever — and so it goes.
His story began in the London Suburb of Stoke Newington—his father was by trade, a dress maker. Robert would often visit his father's factory and watched him tediously cut long pieces of thick, thick fabrics day in and day out — smiling slightly as he remembers the giant pattern scissors he held, creating beautiful shapes from the formless fabrics— he held on to these visions, and what was once a foreshadowing is now a loving reminder of his childhood.
On an average spring day, Robert’s father had decided, without consulting him, that Robert should become a hairdresser. He may have only been 15, but he too needed to learn a craft. In his father’s eyes, this was a practical artistic avenue. Wanting nothing of the idea, Robert thought his father was joking about the whole bit. Come the next day, sure enough when the salon owner Mr. Lee arrived to pick up Robert sharply at 8 Am in the morning, he knew he had to go. With great trepidation, Robert hopped into Mr. Lee’s White Triumph Herald, and began a new chapter of his life.
Day after day, dreaming of calling in ill and never going back, Robert fought the idea of hairdressing as a career for quite some time - but a year later he was still going to the salon, day after day. It was time to give in. Moving from the East to the West End, Robert ended up on Regent Street in Mayfair, hoping the affluent hip crowd would strike more appreciation for hairdressing. It was there, while learning about "backcombing", he had "The Moment" - The very notion that breaking the so-called "rules” of hairstyling was accepted — his rebellious nature ate up this concept and he was in.
Two years later, still frustrated by not being able to leave it all behind and attend art school, Robert got the opportunity to interview for a position at Ricci’s (Ricci Burn’s Salon) on Kings Road in Kensington. Ricci, being the creative director of Vidal Sassoon, intrigued him. Robert, with his 6 models and great hesitance, completed the audition. When he finished, he felt as though he didn’t belong there — Ricci walked over and said “What you’ve done is absolute shit, but I think you could be really good - I want you to start Monday”. As the overwhelming feeling of trepidation began to wear away, Robert flourished in this highly creative environment; and soon Ricci became his mentor. Robert says, “Ricci taught me the understanding of faces, and fashion, and art and everything AROUND doing hair, it was an opening of greatness”.
Robert Lobetta's first haircut to appear in print.
Monday came, and in the very first week on the job, The Rolling Stones came in and before he knew it he was shaking Mick Jagger's hand — it was at this point, years after his humble beginning sweeping floors and shampooing that he thought “I can do hair”. Alongside acceptance, competition set in. The other hairdressers at Ricci would bring models into the salon two days a week to practice after-hours. With his perfectionist nature, Robert knew he needed to do more; so he was there night after night, practicing with a new model. Six months later, he finally felt that he was gaining traction. This hard work payed off when Ricci sent him on an editorial shoot, and after his first taste of print — hair became an addiction.