So what’s it like being a one-handed hairdresser?

Tufnell Park boy Ashley Thomson was determined that nothing would prevent him from fulfilling his dream

Ashley Thomson: "No one can actually teach me how to be a hairdresser because they don’t have one hand, No one can actually teach me how to be a hairdresser because they don’t have one hand."

Ashley Thomson: “No one can actually teach me how to be a hairdresser because they don’t have one hand.”

I‘m 27 and absolutely love working with hair, having been passionate about it forever. In fact, one of my earliest memories is being at primary school aged six, French plaiting all the girls’ locks in the playground.

I was born with one hand, but never let it get to me; there was no need as my friends and family are both supportive and proud.

How did my obsession start? Well, as a kid, my nan bought me a Vidal Sassoon hairdressing book from a car boot sale. I studied the step by step stages of cutting and styling, and my friends would come round and I’d experiment on their hair giving them all types of layers and fringes.

My first foray into cutting was at the ripe old age of thirteen. My best friend Rachel had long hair, so I chopped it all off to her shoulders; I didn’t even use hairdressing scissors, just an old pair from my mum’s kitchen. After that, I’d get up early and go to her house before school and do her hair.

Plait detail by Ashley.

Plait detail by Ashley.

As a teenager I’d ask friends if they wanted highlights or a new hair cut. I’d even mix up the colours in the boxes not knowing what would come out; a bit risky but never – thankfully – a disaster.

Always wanting to work in the industry, my situation meant I was unable to train as a hairdresser and complete all the units required for an NVQ, so I studied Graphic Design at Southampton university instead. But when I finished the course I knew it still wasn’t really the career I wanted.

Moving to Tufnell Park two years ago to take a job in fashion, still the need to be a hairdresser niggled, so I contacted the awarding body VTCT, who recommended the TLT Academy in London. Some great news came through the door a couple of days after that: I had been sponsored and was to start at the Academy in February, training in level 2 and 3 hair colouring.

I’ve learnt so much since being at TLT and my confidence has grown hugely. My teacher, Kylie Turner, is understanding and has great patience. I also recently trained with celebrity extensionist Shane O’Sullivan, who does the likes of Katie Price, Amy Childs, and shows like TOWIE and Hollyoaks.

College 1 loOf course no one can actually teach me how to be a hairdresser because they don’t have one hand, but they can show me how it’s meant to be done. I watch what they do and figure out a way to do it, simple as that really. I get a bit nervous when being taught a new technique, although sometimes I even surprise myself: recently shown how to do extensions (there’s quite a few fiddly bits to hold and pull the hair through) I thought I wasn’t going to be able to succeed – but after a couple of goes I had it.

When people ask how I plait and cornrow hair, I just say I can’t really explain and end up using a friend’s hair to show them. The technique is similar to how a person with two hands would work, but I do it with one and an elbow. I use my elbow a lot in hairdressing and without that part of my arm it probably wouldn’t be possible to do what I do.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to overcome is finding new clients. It’s been a gradual process but I now have a small and regular customer base and I carry out styling, colouring and extension service from my flat. People have preconceptions about what I can and can’t do – understandable as I’ve never meet a one-handed hairdresser either.

My friends still take it in turns to sit in the hair chair before a night out, having their hair curled or a quick fringe trim. In fact, I think I’d be offended if they didn’t.

And you know what? Now, right here in 2013, is just the right time for me: I think if you have a strong passion and big dreams you can make anything happen. I just want to show the industry that I’m here – and ready to create some fabulous hair.

If you would like to make an appointment with Ashley contact him via twitter @ashlee_hm or email:

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10 Responses to So what’s it like being a one-handed hairdresser?

  1. clair Monday 1 July 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    Next time an apprentice complains I will remind them to watch this/a true inspiration, thankyou for sharing

  2. Amanda Tuesday 2 July 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    Inspirational! One query – in the text it says “I was born without a left hand’ but in both the photo and the video clip he has no right hand….?

    • Bluehook Wednesday 3 July 2013 at 2:31 pm #

      Can’t see any mention of ‘left’ in the text, maybe it’s been updated. Anyway, I’d certainly book Ashley if I lived anywhere nearby, I’ve got a right arm just like Ashley’s so it would be a real treat to have my hair done by him – would make a great picture too. Pity I live so far away.

  3. daisiefairy Tuesday 9 July 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    If I lived where he works he could do my hair anytime. Ive been a stylist for 15 years and he is truely an inspiration to me!

  4. Gail Mueller Wednesday 10 July 2013 at 12:32 am #

    I guess what the moral of the story is is, if you want something bad enough, nothing is going to stand in your way. You keep going there young man, never ever give up your dream or shouldn’t no one.

  5. mjhair Wednesday 24 July 2013 at 3:32 am #

    I am completely amazed at how great his work is. As an educator I’d be honored to have him as both a student and a teacher! You have inspired me and I have been doing hair over 22 years! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Derry Moody Friday 26 July 2013 at 9:23 am #

    True inspiration ! – how a passion for something can drive you to reach your dreams ! AMAZING !

  7. misscoulthard Tuesday 3 December 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    Absolutely amazed by you, I think you are an incredible inspiration to all people! I hope that you get recognised in the industry and I’m sure we will see you collecting an award one day!

  8. StaceyC Saturday 5 April 2014 at 6:57 pm #

    Ashley, you are Inspiring & motivating to say the least… you hold the kind of passion this industry needs. When you have a love for what you do & can put it into action like this, nothing could stop you! How awesome are you!!! As a stylist in the industry 20+ years & a salon/spa owner for 10 years, this passion is hard to come by! I know your career will take off. Having a confidence in your work & a knowledge about your skills will take you anywhere you want to go! Never sell yourself short! Thank you for sharing a bit of your journey with us.

  9. Hair Transplant clinic in Delhi Tuesday 17 June 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    Hi Ashley,

    I really appreciate the kind of work you are doing. i would like to give you a grand salute. You are an inspiring personality for all the youngsters out here they should learn from you. thanks a lot for sharing this post. Would like to see some more new hair styles done you.

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