Art Dyson, the iconic hairstylist who developed thermal blow-drying after leaving the military

Stephen Nartey April 20, 2023
ART DYSON on the set of 'My Nappy ROOTS, black hair documentary.' Photo credit: Nappywood LANX

He is described as an industry visionary because of the innovation he introduced in the hair care industry. Born in Harlem, Art Dyson grew up in Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, and had a remarkable career in the military. He spent 14 years serving in the army as a mechanic in the Air Force and subsequently, at Lockheed International in Ontario. In 1969, he decided to transition from the military into hair styling by enrolling in a beauty college in Ontario.

Despite facing skepticism from his peers and the hair care industry, Art was determined to make his mark. Perhaps, the less attention that was paid to hair-cutting styles and techniques for African American hair informed his innovative technique of thermal blow drying. He recalled how out of the 1,600 hours of classroom instruction, only one hour was focused on African American styles.

He developed his innovation while working for Seligman & Latz, which operated hair salons in department stores across the country. His innovative technique of thermal blow-drying, which involved using a nozzle attachment on a hairdryer to straighten hair, departed from the traditional practice of setting hair with curlers and using hood dryers.

Art’s pioneering approach transformed the way hair was styled and became a game-changer in the world of hair care, according to the Los Angeles Times. His journey to becoming a hairstylist was unconventional. He had always frowned on using chemical relaxers on the market because of the effects on hair and scalp.

In the 1960s, Art developed his breakthrough technique of thermal blow-drying. He realized that using a nozzle attachment on a hairdryer could not only dry hair faster, but also straighten it, eliminating the need for traditional curlers and hood dryers. This innovative approach paved the way for more efficient and versatile styling, especially for African American hair, which can be naturally curly or kinky.

Art’s thermal blow-drying technique quickly gained popularity among his clients, which made him popular for his ability to create smooth, straight hairstyles that were previously difficult to achieve without using harsh chemicals or excessive heat. His unique approach revolutionized the hair care industry and made him a trailblazer in the field of hairstyling.

Despite facing initial resistance from the hair care establishment, Art’s innovative technique eventually gained widespread recognition and became the standard practice in many salons. He trained and mentored other hairstylists in his thermal blow-drying technique, and his influence extended beyond the salon, when his technique was adopted in television and film productions, fashion shows, and other professional settings. He opened a salon in Seattle in 1985 in Los Angeles after resigning from the Soul Scissors program.

Art’s contributions to the hair care industry were recognized with numerous awards and accolades. He was known for his creative flair, exceptional talent, and dedication to his craft. His passion for hair styling, combined with his military discipline and determination, allowed him to break barriers and challenge the status quo.

Art Dyson’s legacy as a pioneering hairstylist continues to inspire and influence the hair care industry to this day. His innovative thermal blow-drying technique transformed the way hair is styled, providing greater flexibility and versatility in creating a wide range of hairstyles. His remarkable career journey serves as a testament to the power of creativity, determination, and innovation in pursuing one’s passion and making a lasting impact in any field.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: April 20, 2023


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