One of the most iconic hairstylists and salon owners operating within Manhattan’s elite luxury salon culture, John Barrett, passed away at age 66 at NYU Langone Hospital on August 9.
“John lit up any room that he walked into with his charm, wit, and candor. His superhuman talent was his ability to make anyone who sat in his chair feel like the most beautiful person in the world,” according to an announcement made by his salon on Instagram.
The cause of death was blood cancer, according to his close friend and health proxy, Julianne Jaffe, owner of JJ Marco Jewelry in Manhattan. John’s friend William Norwich shared in a memo to CEW that John was fifth in a family of 10, growing up in a “modest household” in Limerick, Ireland. John moved to London in the mid Seventies and became a hairdressing apprentice. In the late Eighties he moved to LA where he quickly cultivated a celebrity clientele. He ultimately moved to New York City in the early Nineties.
The John Barrett Salon entered the New York City salon scape in 1996 occupying the penthouse of Bergdorf Goodman for nearly 20 years. John left the legendary spot in 2019 to open a larger eponymous salon on the mezzanine floor of the tower at 432 Park Avenue. He also briefly had a salon on Bond Street.
For nearly three decades John and his team of loyal stylists, colorists, and aestheticians polished and coiffed New York’s elite, as well as socialites, royalty, celebrities, and beauty editors alike.
As news of his death spread, tributes flooded social media. “He was a wonderful, upstanding, genuine human being,” says celebrity hair colorist and salon owner Sharon Dorram, who began working with John in the Nineties at Frédéric Fekkai. “I was doing color and he was doing cuts. And he built this huge clientele. I have always been told that [success is based in] part on talent and in part on who you are. People like Jackie O felt comfortable with him; like they could talk to him. He was an avid theater goer and a very cultured person,” says Sharon.
“John’s death is a huge loss for the entire beauty community,” says Amy Synnott, Chief Content Officer at CEW. “I have known him since I was a young beauty editor at Glamour magazine in the late Nineties and he has always been a bright sparkly presence on the beauty scene. After the pandemic, he was the first person to do my hair after that long, scary stretch of Covid and I will never forget what a bonding experience that was. He had a wicked sense of humor and could light up the room with his personality.”
While many salons struggle to make ends meet, John consistently succeeded in this highly competitive industry. In 2015, CEW Beauty News reported that his salon generated $2,700 per square foot, tallied 70,000 visits annually, and appealed to the top 5% of the Bergdorf Goodman demographic. At the time, John was planning an expansion that would bring John Barrett salons across the US. His salon, he noted, was the only one in the world at the time to sell the Tom Ford line of beauty products, and it accounted for 8.6% of global brand sales for luxe hair care line, Shu Uemura. John was known for delivering the ultimate in customer service, spending on average between 45 minutes and three hours with one guest.
Celebrity fashion manicurist and entrepreneur Deborah Lippmann shared a mutual love of the arts with John. The two attended the final performance of “Dear Evan Hansen” featuring Ben Splatt. “It was extraordinary. We laughed. We cried. We held each other’s hands as friends should. Very sadly I didn’t know that John was ill. I’ll treasure that memory forever,” Deborah says.
Edward Tricomi, co-founder of Warren Tricomi Salons, was a peer of John’s for decades. “He was one of the great hairdressers of our time, a true leader in the industry. He was one of the sweetest people I knew, always willing to share his time and efforts on any project I had going on, especially for charity. I think that kind of generosity says a lot about a person.”
John also helped launch the careers of dozens of stylists. Hairstylist and fashion/beauty contributor for The Early Show, David Evangelista, met John at Frédéric Fekkai in the early Nineties, when David was just starting out. When John opened his flagship years later, he hired David as a lead stylist. “He championed me to be the best and always stay true to my art. I am very lucky to have known and worked with him,” David says.
Like many of his vendors, Rodger Azadganian, who founded AZ Craft Luxury Haircare, one of the many luxury hair care lines sold at John’s salon, was devastated by his passing. “His salon is a testament to his taste and style. He lived the life that every hairdresser dreams of and set the standard as a salon owner for others to follow.”
Says CEW’s Amy Synnott, “As his team noted in their warm tribute to him on Instagram, John lived by the phrase, ‘It’s not just about the hair, it’s about the care.’ And no doubt, somewhere, up in heaven, Jackie O and Princess Di, are lining up for his first appointments.”
Services to honor John will be held Monday, August 14, at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel located at 1076 Madison Avenue. The service will commence at 2 p.m. sharp and last for 45 minutes.