Splitting Hairs

BY Kristen Schott | February 25, 2019 | Feature Features

With two eponymous salons under his masterful eyes, colorist Ian McCabe is painting the locks of the most stylish heads in town.

Ian McCabe was in high school when he first got a job at a salon. “I actually took two public buses after my high school bus to get there since I didn’t have a driver’s license yet,” says the 31-year-old Baltimore native. He often stayed up into the wee hours practicing working on mannequin heads—but it certainly paid off.

Late last year, he celebrated the opening of his second namesake studio in Union Market. His first, in the West End, turns five in June and is a prime cut for the stylish of DC (he counts female CEOs in industries such as architecture and dermatology, newswomen, and a few queens and princesses among his clients). He and his team specialize in dry cuts, straight-razor cutting, hair painting and balayage. McCabe personally likes to re-create natural hair color—or what he calls a “child’s hair at the beach” look. (Talk about painting a picture.)

Ask him how beauty has changed here over the past five years, and he’ll say one thing remains clear: “Women want to feel beautiful, and beautiful hair should be like the perfect little black dress: It goes with everything and is always in style.” What has transformed, he says, is DC’s footprint in the national beauty landscape, with a growing number of primping palaces and experts. “I’m thrilled that DC is making its mark,” notes McCabe. “People are starting to push boundaries.” He credits Instagram for expanding his industry—and opening the eyes of those seeking to stand out. “I have clients who have incredible style,” he says. “DC is definitely a melting pot.” His two salons are an example. “My Union Market location has a little more edge. The area is in transition and more raw. But our approach as far as hair goes is the same.”

And he remains humble, despite his success—he says his staff of stylists and colorists is the reason for it all. “Teamwork makes the dream work,” he notes. Another dream of his: to work with the Olsen twins. “I’ve always had this goal to do their hair; I grew up loving them, and we are the same age.” And what would he want to chat about while they’re in his chairs? “Everything. [But] I probably would be so nervous I couldn’t [talk].” Not to worry: His skills speak for themselves.

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