celebrating fur, australia’s most ambitious hair salon
Remembering 22 years of perms, posters, performances and positive messages with owner Frank Valvo.
When Frank Valvo opened FUR with his partner Nat Clutterbuck in 1996, it was as a vehicle to express himself artistically. A creative who thrives on collaboration and whose mind forms ideas at twice the average rate, Frank saw FUR as a way to help other hairdressers “find their own style in a space where they didn’t have to be a cookie cutter.” And over two decades, that’s just what they’ve done. As the go-to for Melbourne kids who crave cool, interesting hair, FUR is as much a community of like-minded thinkers as it is a salon or business. Beyond the bold makeovers and urban legends regarding the vast amount of bleach they use every day, FUR is like a second home to many creatives, attracted by the genuine heart and soul injected into the place by its owners.
Also a testament to this creative community is the incredible amount of cool merch FUR has created over the years. Working in collaboration with artists and close friends like Fergadelic, Shauna and Misha from P.A.M., Six Degrees architects, Esther Olsson, HTRK’s Jonnine Standish, Deanne Cheuk, James Eisen and many more, they’ve made everything from controversial staff uniforms to traffic-stopping totes and t-shirts, business cards, mugs, posters and even umbrellas. It’s not unusual to walk out of FUR with more than just a great haircut and it’s typically something that makes you think a little bit differently about the world.
Over their 20 years, FUR have made a colourful mark on the city. At their height they ran three sustainably-focussed salons before closing two to focus on their Fitzroy headquarters. Along the way they’ve thrown iconic parties raising money for mental health, allowed a group of young kids to take over their salon for two days for charity, had interpretive dancers roll around the floor during business hours, held second-hand fashion sales, art shows, filled their sinks with oysters and made beautiful mix tapes for anyone who cared to listen. Entertaining us—just beyond our comfort zone—has always been business as usual for these guys.
At times it’s an approach that has almost seen them shut down. For one of their more memorable window displays, Frank worked with an artist, sticking up 370 images from old porn magazines alongside messages like ‘Be Brave, Don’t Shave’ and ‘Go Sicilian, Not Brazilian’. As he explains, the sentiment was “actually very anti-porn” but the public, as well as a Jehovah’s Witness convention that had ambled by, apparently didn’t see it that way and after numerous complaints, the police demanded its removal.
As a self-declared provocateur who loves pushing creative limits, Frank isn’t thrilled with the trajectory of hairdressing. He explains, “barbers have been really bad for hair creativity. Sure, it’s cheaper but they do the same thing to everyone. No one has hair anymore. Like, have some hair, who gives a shit!” Alongside this is his desire to make hairdressing respectable as a craft again. With people cutting hair at home and barbers bringing down the price, and along with it the standard, Frank would like the industry to re-think its approach and help to bring some class back to hairdressing. To this end, he and his staff recently began wearing suits in the salon. He does what he can.
In terms of hair trends, right now FUR is focussed on “grungy, punky, extreme looks”—clever cuts that look like they could be done at home, but couldn’t have been done at home. In line with this, Frank is also on a mission to make crimped hair acceptable for men again. He’s not wrong when he reminds us that “it looked great on Robert Smith” and we have little doubt that if anyone can convince guys to grow and crimp their hair, it’s going to be the man behind FUR.
This article was originally published in i-D