Mike Korman spent 25 years in the Navy, including four combat deployments. Still, he admitted that he was scared. “They teach you in the military that you’re never supposed to be intimidated,” the Edina resident said. “But this really intimidates me.”
The source of his terror? His 7-year-old daughter Sophia’s hair. The notion of dealing with his daughter’s ’do was so daunting that when his wife was out of town recently, he didn’t even bother to try. He took Sophia to a hair salon and paid a stylist to do it.
Hopefully, he won’t have to resort to that again. Not after attending a recent “Real Dads Can Braid” class. Hosted by hair care expert Cozy Friedman, the hands-on workshop at Kids’ Hair salon in Edina was a spinoff of a popular class she offers in her New York City salon.
“We call it braiding, but it’s actually Hair 101,” Friedman said. “We cover detangling, ponytails and braiding.” There was even a graduate-level seminar in how to make a braided bun.
The eager-to-learn fathers ranged from the hair-averse like Korman (“this is the very first time he’s ever done anything” with Sophia’s hair, his wife, Caryn, confirmed), to Doug Allen of Rosemount, whose morning duties often include helping 7-year-old Ivy with her hair because his wife leaves for work early, to Eric Patenaude of Bloomington, who was there with 10-year-old Eva.
“I’ve got four girls, and she’s the oldest,” he explained. “This is an investment for me.”
The men all had one thing in common: a complete lack of confidence.
“I have no idea what I’m doing,” admitted Alp Sapmaz of Edina as he attempted to wrangle the hair of 3-year-old Audrey into a ponytail.
“One thing you’ve got going for you these days is that the look is very messy,” Friedman assured her students. “You’re right on trend.”
Although Friedman is relentlessly upbeat, she wasn’t promoting the illusion that one 45-minute class could turn novices into hairstyling savants. Her goal was to give them enough self-assurance — bolstered by a few “cheats” — that they would go home and practice.
“It’s all a learning experience,” she said. “It’s also a great bonding experience for dads and their daughters. Moms and their daughters have always had girl time together because of working on their hair. I want them to have fun at this.”
According to Friedman, founder of SoCozy hair-care products and author of “Cozy’s Complete Guide to Girls’ Hair,” there’s nothing in dads’ DNA that makes them incapable of fixing hair. And moms aren’t necessarily naturals at it. In fact, long before the inception of the “Real Dads Can Braid” class, the lessons were directed at mothers.
“We’ve been holding braiding classes for women for 10 years,” Friedman said.
The first one for men was held this spring, a response to requests from fathers who wanted in on the deal. They’re so popular that Friedman’s salon has had to turn away people.
The fact that men are asking for help shows how gender roles are changing, she said.
“Ten years ago, dads wouldn’t come into our shop except on Saturdays,” she said. “They’d bring their kids in, call the mother and then hand the phone to the stylist so the mother could explain what she wanted while the dad would go sit in the waiting area and read the paper.
“Now we see dads all the time, and they’re asking about their kids’ hair. It’s a huge cultural shift.”
Styling for dummies
Friedman is traveling around the country leading introductory dad hair-care workshops at salons that carry her products. The 13 Kids’ Hair outlets in Minnesota will take over the classes from here on, said Scott Burtness, the company’s chief operating officer.
“When we saw what a huge success these were in New York City, bringing them here was a no-brainer,” he said.
At the Edina workshop, Friedman kept her instruction at the most basic level, going so far as offering a step-by-step explanation of how to hold a ponytail: “Put your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other, with the hair going across your palm. Have your daughter tilt her head back; use gravity as your friend.”
In launching the classes, she faced a bit of a learning curve herself, she admitted.
“I didn’t realize that a lot of men don’t even know how to put an elastic [band] on a ponytail,” she said. So she explained that, too. “You’ve got to walk before you can run.”
There were seven fathers in the class, a limit set to make sure everyone got personal attention. With the shop’s stylists jumping in to offer tutoring when needed, the confused looks on men’s faces gradually disappeared.
“I’m actually having fun,” Patenaude said after executing a flipped ponytail in which the tail is pulled up through itself. “This isn’t that hard.”
Even Korman demonstrated a little hairstyling swagger. “I learned a lot of knots in the Navy,” he said. “These are just a different sort of knot.”
By the time they reached the evening’s final project — the braided bun, in which the hair is braided, then twisted into a bun at the back of the head — the men were ready for the challenge. Told that they would need bobby pins to secure the bun in place, they put several of them between their lips, where they’d be handy to grab, and set to work.
The results were surprising — not just for the dads, who had discovered a talent they didn’t know they had, but also for their daughters.
After putting the finishing touches on his rendition of a braided bun, Allen pulled out his cellphone, took a picture of his handiwork and passed the phone to Ivy to get her feedback. She was impressed.
“I want this for the first day of school,” she announced.