Eiji Yamane is living the American dream while giving New Yorkers precision “hair sculptures”
The owner of Eiji Salon, who has enviably long tresses himself, moved to America from Fukuoka, Japan when he just 24 and began working under master stylist John Sahag, where he first studied dry cutting. “I still think there is no one better than him, and I still strive everyday to be as good as he was,” Eiji says of his late mentor, who cut A-listers hair such as Jennifer Aniston, Sarah Jessica Parker and Brad Pitt before his death in 2005.
After studying under Sahag, Eiji decided to open his own salon in 1995 on Madison Avenue, which specializes primarily in dry cutting. “With a wet cut, there are certain ways of cutting that applies to all styles. But with the dry cut, you have to look at it as if you are building a house from bottom up, each strand at a time. That’s why I call it ‘hair sculpture’,” Eiji explains. “Each style and person requires a unique cut depending on the way the hair flows, the thickness of hair, and even by season and health condition of the person at that very moment. So even if the same customer comes in all the time, each time it’s different, and each time we have to put our best foot forward.”
His attention to detail is why cuts take an hour and 30 minutes per client cut to ensure every strand is perfectly snipped. “We devote our time to each customer, meaning we see fewer customers per day, but you’ll see it in the result,” he says of their philosophy. Before he begins cutting, Eiji gets inspiration from the texture of each client’s individual tresses. “When I touch it, I start seeing what kind of hairstyle would be suitable for them at that particular moment, considering how the person dries their hair and those kinds of conditions. You may think I’m crazy, but when you touch people’s hair all the time, you start understanding that a person’s hair is directly connected to their soul, and I can understand a lot about them just by touching their hair,” he shares.
Although he’s worked on celebrities from Yoko One to Brooke Shields, one of his biggest professional accomplishments is being able to teach the very same techniques he mastered back in his native Japan. “I’m proud of all the photo shoots, fashion shows and hair shows but I’m mostly proud of all the students I teach all over Japan,” he explains. “I have about 200 students and growing. I started teaching in Japan about 16 years ago and go back about 5 times a year to teach. The respect they have for me is priceless.”