Some artists work with paint, others with wood, pottery and lettering pens. If this world is but a canvas, for stylists Johnny Ramirez and Anh Co Tran, that canvas is you. More specifically—your hair.
Their signature look has dominated Instagram feeds for the last several years, and that inspo pic you pinned to your #HairGoals board on Pinterest? Yeah, that was likely a Ramirez Tran creation. In fact, the “Lived-in” look is so notable, it’s recognized everywhere from L.A. to the furthest point from here (ICYWW: It’s Saint Paul, La Réunion, France—we Googled it).
So, when we were given an opportunity to interview these hair houdinis (which included a visit to their salon!), we fainted, then got ourselves together and dialed it in. Here’s a recap of our conversation where we dished on the popularity of their signature style, M&Ms and the power of merging forces.
We’re dying to know. How did this empire begin? Tell us about your beginnings and road to success.
Johnny Ramirez: It all started with my original hair muse—my daughter. I’ve always wanted to duplicate kids’ hair color. Back when my 12-year-old was about three, I’d look at her hair and pan it under water like gold. To get her to stay still, I’d put a bowl of M&Ms in the bath near her, so she’d let me play with her hair. I would study her hair color for hours and then one day, it just clicked.
From there, I developed the Lived-in color technique and started documenting the major transformations I was creating for my clients. I captured photos of every “before and after” and published them on my blog.
Back then, you couldn’t take a picture of someone and post it on the Internet—you’d get sued. But I didn’t give a crap. I’d go outside for the best lighting and out of the corner of my eye, I could see everyone looking at me through the window. Taking pictures was not cool and I was almost discouraged, but I continued doing it because pictures speak louder than words.
Eventually, word got out and I’d see other stylists outside taking pictures of their clients. They caught on to what I was doing and they started blogs of their own. At first, it bothered me that people were copying my approach and couldn’t get creative in their own way. But Anh’s the nice one, he said to me–look at how many people you’ve inspired. So we teamed up. We just merged. We flooded the Internet together with all of those beautiful pictures that you see online. That’s POWER.
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Tell us about your approach to hair and why you work so well together.
Anh Co Tran: We’re very different and yet, very similar. We’re both Geminis. Our relationship works on the basis of instinct—we always know what the other is thinking. We work so closely and travel together all of the time—it’s been like that for the past eight years. We see each other more than anyone else in our lives.
So yeah, we’ve got a good thing going. Even though he works with color and me with the cut and style, we have a similar aesthetic. That’s why the Lived-in look came so organically to us. We cut and color according to the way someone’s hair falls, so your hair still looks good even if you don’t style it.
Anh, what made you go from fashion designer to hair stylist? How do you bring these two elements together?
I remember this very clearly: My parents told me I should have two careers in case one didn’t work out. I studied fashion and truly loved it. I learned how to sketch, pattern, drape and make samples—there was so much involved.
But I also I had an interest in hair. I think these two elements go hand in hand because together, they make a complete look. Having knowledge in both areas allows me to do red carpet styling for my clients—it’s a balance between the hair, the dress and the makeup. There’s something modern about maintaining balance. Every fashion house has its own look and brand identity; that’s our approach with hair. We nailed the identity and kept pushing it until it was all over the Internet.
Do you give details about your “Lived-In” process? Is it something you talk about openly?
Johnny Ramirez: I do talk about it, but it’s hard to translate. It’s like cooking, you can give your friend the recipe, but somehow it’s not going to taste the same way.
I backcomb pieces to make them pop out. After backcombing the hair, I put bleach on the lengths and ends. But, it’s really all about blending. Others try to mimic with balayage and then they get lines of demarcation. I have clients who travel the world and when they get a blowout, the stylist will ask, “Does Johnny Ramirez do your hair?” It’s cool when people recognize the technique and it gets backtracked to us.
With Lived-in color, you can dress it up, you can dress it down. If it looks timeless, you can do whatever you want. If you look good, you feel confident.
What if someone wants to drastically change their hair color? You know, breakup hair.
Johnny Ramirez: I don’t recommend making a drastic color change after a breakup. I prefer to do my research and have clients send me baby pictures so I can see what their color looked like in its most natural state. This allows me to formulate something that will complement them.
I’ve gotten bad yelp reviews for turning people away, but I’d rather get a bad yelp review because I said no than a bad review because I ruined someone’s hair. It’s all about doing the homework first.
Again, my daughter’s hair color is my inspiration, because it naturally blends and flows. Everyone has a different eye color, different skin tone, different features—freckles, perhaps. I like to customize everyone’s hair according to what it looked like when they were children.
Tell us how your partnership with L’Oréal Professionnel came to be—and most importantly, what your favorite products are!
Johnny Ramirez: When L’Oréal Professionnel reached out to us, they told us they’d been watching us closely for years. Having a brand like them on our side proves that hard work really does pays off.
As for product, I always use the L'Oréal Professionnel SmartBond strengthening system. I mix it in with bleach and use it on all of my clients—it conditions the hair, leaving it super shiny.
I used to put my clients through hair color rehab, if they used box dyes and their color wouldn’t lift in the salon. I’d send them home and have them wash their hair once a week with dish soap—it’s like clarifying shampoo on steroids. But with SmartBond, I no longer have to send people away because it protects and strengthens their hair while allowing it to lift properly.
Anh Co Tran: L’Oréal Professionnel has always been at the forefront of technology. When there’s science and proof behind a product, it’s more purposeful. For styling, my personal favorite is L'Oréal Professionnel Next Day Hair. It makes hair malleable so I can style it easily. It has a grit to it that gives my clients that textured, next-day look they love. And it creates body and bounce because the powdery formula keeps hair fresh by absorbing oil.
We’re curious. What’s the significance behind the horses in the Ramirez Tran logo?
Anh Co Tran: We were in the process of coming up with a logo, and we kept coming back to Prince. He had that sign, a mere symbol, just like Apple. Sometimes you don’t even need a name, you see a logo and you know the brand. We came up with the two horses because well, there are two of us. And we love what horses stand for—they’re hardworking, strong and yet exceptionally beautiful. Over time, the logo has evolved and become a symbol for our clients and our values.
What’s one piece of advice you can offer our readers on how to create the Lived-in look at home?
Anh Co Tran: The best way to mimic Lived-in waves is by using a curling iron and the right hair products. For step-by-step tutorials on how to achieve these waves, watch my videos on Youtube and Instagram. Lastly, practice, practice, practice!
Are you feeling inspired by the “Lived-In” hair movement? For loads of inspo, check out Ramirez Tran on Instagram, and let the ‘screenshotting’ commence.