Starting his career in New York at Bumble and bumble, John Ruggiero has an impressive background as a editorial and fashion week stylist working with some of the top photographers, designers, and publications in the industry. With an impressive celebrity clientele including Kate Beckinsale, Drew Barrymore, Amber Heard and Mireille Enos, to name a few, John has become one of the leaders in the industry. We were lucky enough to get in contact with John and pick his brain about making it in the hair world. See what he had to say below.
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How did you get your start in the industry?
Strangely enough I started doing hair for friends of mine who were club kids, ravers and drag queens. I was a raver/club kid in the mid 90’s and one of my friends suggested, “Hey you should do hair for runway shows and fashion magazines.” I thought to myself, that’s a job? Ok! Once I figured out that it was indeed a job, I started paying attention to hairdresser’s names in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and noticed the name Bumble and bumble next to their credits. Long story short, I walked into the Bumble salon on East 56th Street in Manhattan, where I started at the bottom sweeping floors and getting coffee. I moved up the ranks over the course of a few years before landing my big break as Ward’s first assistant.
What was one of your biggest career challenges and how did you overcome it?
After being Ward’s assistant for two years, I started to assist other hairdressers I admired such as Danilo, Jimmy Paul, and Laurent Phillippon. By far, my biggest challenge was going from working for these giants to making a name for myself. It didn’t happen overnight. It was more about the craft and the work than about being famous or well known.
Who are some role models who have inspired you?
There’s so many. As far as who first inspired me, that would have to be Madonna hands down. Her ever-changing looks and style throughout my childhood and into my adult life really influenced me. As a young kid I was in awe at how hair and makeup could change an appearance. By following Madonna, I was introduced to fashion, beauty, artists, photographers and Jean Paul Gaultier, who also became a huge inspiration. As far as hairstylists go, Orlando Pita. He’s my hair God! There’s an effortlessness and finesse to his hair that is unmistakable. Even if it’s over the top and avant-garde, it still feels easy and organic. I can’t explain it, it’s just magic. He’s the hairdresser I followed in my early career and jut idolized. I’m also inspired by Guido, Luigi and of course, the master, Julian D’ys. I see these men as artists that use hair as a medium. And obviously the men that I trained under are a big inspiration, especially Ward. Ward is fearless and doesn’t care what’s trendy or cool. He creates looks from his gut and his heart. These men all start the trends.
Do you have a signature look or style that you are known for?
I never want to typecast myself and be known for only ‘big sexy hair’ or ‘wigs and over the top looks.’ Some days its natural Sports Illustrated waves and the next it’s afro wigs for the cover of Bazaar. Then it can be a retro Marilyn/Dietrich look for Guess or Italian Vogue.
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Which hair products or tools are always in your kit?
I’m a creature of habit with products. I love Bumble and Bumble. I’ve been with them for over fifteen years and they continue to be top of the game. I use their Thickening Spray for almost every style, and the ‘Does it All’ spray is a close second. I of course use other products depending on the job or situation, but those are my staples. In terms of tools, I’m a big fan of T3. Their blowdryers and flat irons are my favorite. Although, I have to admit my latest favorite tool these days that I never leave home without is my Makita hand held leaf blower! It has changed my life. It’s how to get that perfect wind look that you see in all magazines! I am obsessed!
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
To be more grateful!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received? What advice would you give to new stylists?
I was given a lot of good advice by a lot of great people, but what drove me the hardest was being told early on that being an editorial hairdresser was too hard and only a few people can make a living doing it (which is true) and that I’d never pull it off. I took that and turned it into a ‘I’ll show you.’ I learned very early on that you need to know your craft and that taste is just as important as the execution itself. What I’d tell new stylist is very similar. Be good and never stop learning. Don’t only look at inspiration from fashion magazines or red carpets but more importantly find it in art, old films, the streets and photographers that paved the way. Know your references.
What is the next chapter for you?
Honestly, I don’t know. I try to live in the right now and right now is pretty good. Again I don’t want to limit myself, the sky’s the limit.
How would you describe your beauty and hair philosophy?
My beauty philosophy is this: Take chances and get outside of your comfort zone while remaining true to yourself. Taking a chance is different for each individual. For some it can be shaving your head and bleaching it platinum blonde. For others it can be just slicking your hair back or simply parting it differently. Or even cutting a fringe. Whatever it is, I’m all about changing it up every once in a while. I think it’s good for the soul.
Be sure to follow @jrugg8 on Instagram for more #manespiration.