Sam McKnight on how to get the three biggest hair trends of 2024

The legendary hairdresser got to work on Madeleine Spencer to create three timeless looks

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Madeleine Spencer12 February 2024

Sam McKnight doesn’t follow trends; he makes them. Actually, allow me to rephrase that - trends is too transitory a word, implies a hint of TikTok, a shade of season-long, deciduous relevance. Sam McKnight has never done that, you see. Here is a man who created the tousled, voluminous supermodel thing back in the 1980s that we still all lust after now. He is the root of that Kate Moss-y artfully-dishevelled, distinctly London look we all want for our hair when wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Those in the know consider him the king of enhancing natural texture, making hair suit the individual, rather than slavishly overworking it. So, yes, Sam absolutely does set the tone for what’s happening in hair, but that tone sticks, becomes part of the canon, ends up being the photo you’re as likely to take to your hairdresser as inspiration twenty years on from him creating it as you are when it hits the press.

Let’s have a quick whistle stop tour of Sam’s career to date. Born in 1955 in Scotland, Sam moved to London in the ‘70s, where his formidable talent propelled him up the ladder, and he started working on magazine shoots, amassing celebrity clients along the way. Again, I need to add nuance here because the words celebrity clients paired perhaps doesn’t do Sam justice. We’re talking Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Princess Diana (he lopped her hair off, creating that iconic look for the 1990 Vogue shoot - google it, you’ll instantly recognise the image). Unsurprisingly, he was appointed an MBE in 2023, and continues to be the voice in hairdressing that has the most resonance - especially to people on the streets who interpret his looks.

That brings me to this, Sam’s predictions for styles to know about in 2024. You will notice they’re all classics, updated. Of course they are; that is what people really want, isn’t it? It’s certainly what I’m after. While easing my hair into these three styles, I asked Sam about the tension between trends and wearability and he told me this: “Rather than follow a trend for trend’s sake, take from it what would work for you long term. Is it about discovering a new way to blow dry? A new product that will enable you to get instant, foolproof results? Take what you want from a trend and make it yours.” Amen.

Madeleine Spencer

Look one: luxe cool girl

The key here is the polish. You want your hair to look healthy and glossy, with smooth ends, but also lived in, with natural movement characterising the style overall. Sam most recently did this look for the Moncler show (where Kate Moss, the original luxe cool girl, wore it paired with a black ski suit and looked ludicrously chic), but has also done similar on Cindy Crawford, Jodie Comer, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas - so you’ll be in very good company if you take this for a spin.

Here’s how you do it:

1) Mist heat protecting spray onto each section before tonging vertically, only holding it for a second for a light wave, alternating the direction of each section so you wrap away and then towards your face.

2) Comb through with a wide-toothed comb, mist with a texturising spray, and finish with a lightweight oil for sheen.

Madeleine Spencer

Look two: polished supermodel

This is a play on the big blow dries from the ‘80s and ‘90s, adding oomph and lustre while keeping it all a big more natural, a bit less laboured than those original big ‘dos. Thankfully, it’s also a lot easier to mimic and you won’t murder your muscles holding the hairbrush and dryer up for extended periods of time. 

Instead, do this:

1) If hair is smooth, add Velcros to the whole head for volume, misting with a little hairspray beforehand for hold. If frizzy, smooth the top layer with a round brush and hairdryer. Leave the Velcros in for a while, even a day, if you want heatless volume, or to speed matters up, invest in a inexpensive hood dryer, which you attach to the hairdryer and thereby engulfs your head in warmth. 

2) Take out the rollers one at a time in the same direction you applied them in to avoid tangles, then brush through.

3) Apply a couple of drops of oil to smooth and add gloss.

Madeleine Spencer

Look three: the perfect ponytail

My perfect ponytail might not be the same as yours - and Sam champions that. The idea is to find a placement that works for your face, whether high or low. You can of course also customise the hair finish - from bouncy and wavy like mine to more undone.

This is the step-by-step:

1) Take day two hair, working with however the lengths are naturally falling.

2) To get the right position, look in the mirror, and try different heights. High can feel romantic or powerful, middle sporty, and low chic and demure. Experiment. 

3) Before you secure the hair, pull out anything you’d like as a face frame, and then tie hair up.

4) To cover the hairband you can take a ribbon of hair, wrap it around the band, then pin in place.

5) Mist with hairspray to hold and then add a little oil to smooth lengths. 

Sam McKnight’s three must-have products

Love Me Do

Hair by Sam McKnight

The ultimate lightweight oil, this blend of argan, camelia, and sunglower oil never makes hair look greasy but rather confers a little gloss to frazzled ends.

Buy now£32, Cult Beauty

Cool Girl

Hair by Sam McKnight

Want to add swish and a bit of body? This is the one. Mist liberally and ruffle, or make like Kate Moss, who once said Sam had made this spray to create her perfect hair, and tip your hair upside down, spray it into lengths, and flick your hair back into place.

Buy now£27, Cult Beauty

Modern Hairspray

Hair by Sam McKnight

This hairspray holds hair in place, sure — but it does it some hair looks soft, doesn’t crunch. While it’s at it, it also protects from heat damage.

Buy now£24, Cult Beauty