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Wear and Hair

Jewelry, belt buckles and all things hair are celebrated at the salon Ohio.

March 08, 2002|MARIA ELENA FERNANDEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ruby, the Afro-puff mannequin, sits in the front window underneath a 1940s perm machine that makes her look more tortured than beautiful. Above her is the torso of another mannequin, wrapped in necklaces, and the pelvis of another decorated in belts, both serving as lamps. Surrounding her are vintage hipster clothes, spectacular stones in a jewelry display and a line of jeweled belt buckles that Hollywood is hot for.

Beyond Ruby's world, lining the walls of the next room--a beauty salon--are dozens of photographs, movie posters and album covers celebrating all things hair. There are hair dryers from throughout the 20th century, as well as plenty of classic beauty products: remember Lustre Creme, Aqua Net and Sun-In? What about the first Toni home perm and a brand of brushes called Prophylactic?

It's a funky mix of unique jewelry designs and a kitschy homage to hair, put together by Jeff Hafler, a well-known Westside stylist, and his partner, Mikal Winn. Hafler's hair collectibles--about 1,000 pieces he's found at yard sales, flea markets, thrift shops, antique stores and on the Web--are all on display at Ohio, the nearly year-old West Hollywood salon and storefront the two co-own on Santa Monica Boulevard. The slogan of the shop, which was named after their home state, is "Custom Wear and Hair."

"People are always surprised at what this place is because you don't know from reading the sign," says Winn, 31. "Oh, my gosh, it's so colorful in here. It's an upscale Ohio flea market, the Hollywood version of an Ohio flea market."

Winn's one-of-a-kind jewelry and belt buckles are hot sellers around the nation and in Japan, and are becoming the rage in Hollywood. His tin, copper, steel and silver creations are on display at the front of the store with a collection of vintage clothing that, lately, has been attracting costumers from big movie studios. Winn's imagination, so far, has remained hairless, but he could easily be inspired to follow the salon's tress motif if a client really wanted it.

"I could see maybe a consignment piece where I would put a piece of a child's hair underneath a glass in a belt buckle for a parent," Winn said. "That's something that's very easy to do. For the moment, I'm just concentrating on my jewelry. But hair is our business, so the more hair the better."

Hafler, who previously styled hair at Rudy's and the Standard, says he can re-create any hairstyle of the 20th century. He's been amassing his hair collection since 1991, when a friend in beauty school gave him his first antique hair dryer as a gift. A year and 20 pieces later, Hafler began dreaming of displaying his treasures in a "down-home beauty parlor" in the style of "Steel Magnolias'"movie-set salon Truvy's. His collection now includes a rusty kerosene curling iron from 1889, a 1940s styling gun called Pin Whiz that was used to shoot bobby pins into pin curls, and the 1960s' "C Bak" viewer, a pair of eyeglasses attached to a mirror that women used to style the backs of their beehives. For laughs, there is an Eva Gabor wig and hair spray.

"I've always liked history," said Hafler, 29. "So I turned my love of history into this collection. The pieces were an interesting conversation piece. Once I had 20 or 30, I got serious about opening a beauty parlor museum. I wanted it to be a place where you could come in and have a good time while you're getting styled and pampered. Everywhere you look, there's something to see."

Winn, for one, is glad Hafler's relics now have a home. There was a time when all of Hafler's memorabilia filled their two-bedroom house, his two 1950s perm machines flanking the bed.

"Jeff had always talked about having his own salon, and I needed an outlet for my stuff," he said. "Everything in here was in our house. It was a little overwhelming."

But Winn should not be one to talk. He has a collection of his own, stored in a special place. Ohio's restroom walls are covered in Sinead O'Connor photographs and clippings. He calls it the Sinead museum he never has time to complete, and he hopes the singer will someday stop in and autograph the toilet.

"She's gorgeous. I like what she stands for," he said. "I think it's cute. The bathroom is where you come and relax and have some time to look around. It's like she's watching you. This is the only thing in this place that's just mine."

Hafler, who says he's become easy to shop for "because people always bring me hair stuff and I just love it," has decorated and furnished the beauty parlor entirely in collectibles. A manicurist table dates to the 1930s. The shampoo chairs are from the 1940s, and the green styling chairs are from the '60s.

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