Tito Frez is and has been a part of Stockholm celebrity world for more than thirty years. He runs his stylist salon in the premises on Karlavägen that has been a gentlemen’s salon for almost a hundred years. Specialties? Many, including the ability to style you faster than you can think.
Entering the stylist salon next to Karlaplan is a bit like taking a trip back in time, but still feel like you’re in the midst of modernity. In this barbershop, where Tito Frez has been working for four decades, the interior is classic retro from the 1920s. Here live artistry and individualism.
While I am thinking about the atmosphere in the room Tito greets me with the phrase »ask all your questions at once, that’ll save us time«. These words come from behind a screen, where he’s working with his customer’s hair.
It’s not the best opening phrase for an interview, so this reporter kept from asking anything until the customer has sent Tito an air-kiss and disappeared in the November darkness.
The salon is located in a building built in 1920, and for exactly the same time the premises have served as a barbershop. He took over in the 80s and quickly became the “celebrity hair stylist” as it was called in the gossip and ladies magazines at the time.
Tito, a genuine Stockholm guy with Chilean background, had looked at the premises during childhood already. As a young man he worked as a hair and makeup artist in Milan for a period of time when he found out that the barbershop on Karlavägen was about to be assigned to someone new. He went home and took over. The boyhood dream had come true.
– In this room, there has always been a hair salon, Tito says and show me the old gas taps that used to heat the curling irons.
He learned the profession from Roger Morgan at Hairport, one of the city’s greatest hair stylists during the 70s.
– I used to be his right hand, and that was when I learned the profession. Obviously the practical parts, but also how to socially interact with the customers. “Everyone” went to Hairport at the time, from royalties to celebrities and completely unknown people. Tito himself had blue hair and looked like Boy George.
– I didn’t exactly look like anyone else, so I was easily recognized.
Tito Frez never gets bored at work, he says. It probably has to do with his personality type, but also because he has created his own job with as many different pursuits as he currently wants to have.
He is not only a hair artist but also a film maker, with two channels on YouTube, where he releases new content two or three times a month. The channel is popular, according to Tito. The filming and photography are two expressions of his artistic talents, as is the interior of the hair salon. A dozen art works decorate the walls; some of them have been there since Tito moved into the premises in the 70s. There are also photos of hair models as well as reflectors which reveal that he shoots pictures of trendy new creations on the spot.
A number of facial reliefs purchased at various auctions are mixed with other illustrations. The sofas are comfortable and look like they’re from Bukowskis with leopard patterned seats.
At the hair table that separates the customer from wall mirrors, there is a statuette that looks like a Greek god watching, but “the hairstyle is modern for one of those, maybe from the 40s”, a few books, like a copy of WA Bolin’s catalogue for the 2014 autumn auction, and Nathan Shachar’s “The House of Stureplan”. And in the middle of it all, there is a glass vase with bright red tulips.
What about the hair, then? Doesn’t it eventually feels like routine and gets boring? No, not for Tito, the reason being he never creates the same hairstyle twice.
– For each time you visit me, your hairstyle will be a little bit different. It will be a new version of what your hair looked like when you entered the salon.
Doing makeovers are definitely one of Tito’s specialties. For that reason he became well-known in Sweden in the 80s, when he did makeovers of people in every issue of Veckorevyn, a weekly magazine for teenagers. These makeovers became one of Veckorevyn’s great successes, and young people from across the country contacted the magazine to be one of the lucky ones.
– I didn’t really have to push myself. I did a curly straight, and a straight curly, says Tito, with a small, but noticeable, smile.
But it can’t be that simple, I ask. You get twenty seconds to tell me how you would do a makeover of this reporter?
– I don’t need any twenty seconds. You just need to wash your hair less often, not more than once in every two weeks, it’s enough to give you a new, and better, hairstyle. Then the hair will be greasy and get structure.
Another easy way to create a new hairstyle is to start with how your hair looks and then simply comb it in a different way. That automatically creates a visual difference that others perceive as a new hairstyle.
Tito says that it just takes him a couple of seconds to see how a hair works, and therefore he also easily understands a new hairstyle that trends. He takes a look for a few seconds to see how the cutting has been done. He then makes his own version of the hairstyle.
– I create my own trends. It’s the difference between a hairdresser and a stylist. I don’t copy others.
A hairdresser does as he is told, while a stylist can decide how the hair should be cut and combed, he says.
– I set the rules here. The customer is never right, he says, half-serious, but with a small opening for a joke to be wrapped in the message.
Tito’s opinions are strong, clear and definitive. For example, he hates to cut bangs on women, since that’s something that doesn’t fit many women.
– You must have a “bang brow” to have bangs, but many women with bangs don’t have that kind of a brow. Men also don’t like women with bangs, since a girl with bangs is a signal of independence.
He draws parallels to Italy in his theory, because “Italians do not like redheads, blondes only”. He loves the blonde himself, and he doesn’t want to turn anyone black-haired.
– I keep Sweden blonde, I should get a diploma for that, he laughs.
There are several reasons to like the blonde, one being that blondes do not have to wear makeup like black-haired, and they also look healthier.
– A punk rocker can be dark, but a “city girl” should have lighter hair, the scale is wide and goes from blonde to gold to white, but white is pornographic and I don’t like that. I prefer the golden blonde.
At last, what are your sources of inspiration? For that question there is no time for consideration because Tito likes the classic:
– Anita Ekberg, Sophia Loren, and Bette Davies. Perhaps a mixture of the three. And Paul Newman, James Dean, and Clark Gable.
About Tito Frez
Name: Tito Frez.
Profession: Multi artist, stylist and one of the last “celebrity stylists”.
Motto: “I decide – not the customer”
3 quick questions to Tito
Curly or straight?
Straight. “I hate curly hair, it works on the playa, but in the city your hair should be well blow-dried and well-groomed”.
Blonde or dark?
Blonde. When he was young he had a hard time finding a hairdresser willing to bleach his black hair.
Haircut or shaved head for men?
It looks good with a shaved head if the head shape is right. The clothing style gives important signals, “you are calmer if you meet someone in a fur coat than with black boots”.