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Birchbox Man Q&A: Mr. Carmine

Benjamin Franklin once wrote, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." To that list we'd like to add—as the smooth-domed Ben knew all too well—hair loss. But while losing a few strands is inevitable, there are many things you can do to slow the process down, like switching to a densifying shampoo and leave-in conditioner that strengthen hair and promote new growth. Of course, if things get really dire, you can always turn to Carmine Pisacreta for a top-notch custom hairpiece. We spoke with Mr. Carmine about how to prevent hair loss, how the industry has changed over his half-century in business, and the (unsurprising) movie star every guy secretly wants to look like.

BB Man: How did you get started in the hair business?

Carmine: When I came to this country from Italy in 1958, I was a barber already. At that time, it was very important to know how to shave, because everybody used to come for a shave, because very few people knew how to use the straight razor. In 1959—I was about nineteen years old at that time—my boss learned how to do weaves with nylon attached to the piece. I fell in love with it because I was making these young guys happy. They used to tell me stories about when they went to go see their sister or their girlfriend or whatever, and they went, What happened to you? You look good! I felt wonderful. Plus, it was more money than cutting hair.

BB Man: How has the technology behind the hairpiece process evolved?

Carmine: Before it used to be wall-to-wall carpeting, now it's like an Oriental rug—it has changed completely. Before, it used to be heavy, it used to be a lot of hair, it used to be too much. A lot of people didn't want to do weaves because you used to dip the hairpieces in solution to clean them. It wasn't good for anybody. Then they changed the technology. Today everything is bonded. No more weaves either, because they hurt and they don't feel smooth. Today bonding is the best thing out there. A lot of pieces are made to look like skin with the hair put in one at a time. We dye the base and we dye the knots, so when you put it on people's heads, you don't see anything. A lot of people say, Today I look better than when I used to have my own hair! And it's true.

BB Man: What is the process of fitting and preparing a hairpiece?

Carmine: The first thing we do is we put Saran wrap around their head, draw the shape with a marker, and then we use plaster of Paris to make a hard mold. Then we send it to the company and describe what you want, you want skin, you want lace, you want French lace, you want the hair one at a time, you want two at a time. Density, weight, you want it straight, you want it curly, you want it wavy. They're all custom. Most of the time they bring a picture, I want to look like this guy, I want to look like that guy—naturally, it's a movie star.

BB Man: Who do people want to look like when they come in?

Carmine: A lot of people bring a picture of George Clooney, because they want it very short. Some other people, they bring young commentators, like on American Idol. They see these people, and they bring in pictures. Most of the time I tell them to leave it me.

BB Man: Where does the hair come from?

Carmine: Ninety-nine percent is human hair. Out of five, six hundred clients, maybe I have one or two that want to use synthetic hair. It comes from three places: India, Eastern Europe, and China.

BB Man: Have you ever worked on anyone famous?

Carmine: Yeah, in the beginning I did Chazz Palminteri. He came over here 30 years ago, he was nobody at that time. Then he became a movie star. He was a client of mine for ten years, he went back and forth to Hollywood, then I lost him because they started selling the pieces there.

BB Man: What makes Mr. Carmine's better than the competition?

Carmine: Custom service. I've had clients for 52 years, I take care of them. I still respect them like they want. You always respect the people, always. It's very, very, very important, and that's the reason I keep the clients for many years.

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