Be more... Sam McKnight

The Wild One
by Kathleen Baird-Murray
Next Previous

Real dilemmas, real solutions – from our real-life superheroes. This month, fashion’s favourite hairstylist Sam McKnight is careful what he wishes for, but makes time for Good Times.

Q

What one thing are you currently doing to make the planet greener?

A

I am making a conscious effort not to have single-use plastic bottles in the house. I have a water filter at home in my taps, and I have a Bobble water bottle which has a water filter on the top so I can take it everywhere I go and fill from the tap. I grow my own vegetables and flowers, so I have a very bee-friendly garden, and I bought a Soda Stream – that very 1970s thing – so I don’t need to buy bottles of sparkling water.

Q

Where does your soul most happily reside: city, countryside, or both?

A

Probably a bit of both. So long as I have an open space, I am fine. I have the best of both worlds as my house in London has a big garden.

Q

What career achievement are you most proud of?

A

To be honest, just to be still – at almost 64 years old – putting it out there and at the top of my game feels like a big achievement. You don’t look back in life until you’re a bit older, and now that I am looking back, to be still happy to be working at this level and at this pace is – without wishing to sound pompous – something that makes me feel proud.

Q

What personal achievement are you most proud of?

A

I’ve just lost a few pounds. It wasn’t that difficult, and I think I’ve managed to change my mindset about eating, which was a big achievement for me. I drastically reduced sugar and yeast from my diet but stayed realistic about it – yesterday morning there was a delicious pain au raisin on the table, and I thought, “I’d like that,” so I had it. You have to indulge a little bit.

1/4
Backstage at Chanel metiers d'art show, Dec 2018, with Luna Bijl and Vittoria Ceretti
2/4
Sam McKnight and Mary Greenwell
3/4
Sam McKnight and Vivienne Westwood
4/4
Snapping a pre-Instagram selfie with Linda Evangelista
Q

The DJ fails to show up. What’s your go-to track to get everyone dancing?

A

Probably Good Times by Chic. I don’t like rap music much but the “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang which has all those familiar Nile Rogers basslines is also good.

Q

Who is the hero or heroine you’d be tongue-tied to find yourself sitting next to at a dinner?

A

I would have said David Bowie if he was still alive. As for someone now, well, you don’t know how tongue-tied you’ll be until you sit next to someone, do you? I can get tongue-tied sitting next to people who are quiet and don’t say much. I am trying to teach myself not to overcompensate by talking too much.

Q

The message to your younger self?

A

Keep your mouth shut and listen – sometimes.

Q

Which world conflict would you like to see resolved first and how would you do it?

A

Any religious conflict – they’re the bloodiest. We live in strange times and I couldn’t even begin to think how politicians might solve these. But those conflicts where innocent people are starving, dying, being tortured… they’re all usually about religion.

Q

You’re on a raft adrift in the ocean and the sharks are circling. Who is your companion to get you to shore safely - and who would you feed to the sharks?

A

Michelle Obama would get me to shore. I wouldn’t chuck anyone to the sharks, unless they were threatening my life, but I might push Donald Trump out on a banana leaf.

Q

What do you look for in a deputy?

A

Calm. Organisational skills. The things I don’t have myself, basically.

Q

What’s the key requirement for a lifetime partner of the romantic kind?

A

I have no idea as I have never had one. How would I know?

Q

What’s the retirement plan?

A

I’m not sure I’ll ever completely retire. But in my quieter years I look forward to throwing myself into a garden project by the sea.

Sam's garden
Q

What’s your favourite lazy-at-home dish to cook?

A

Steamed or grilled vegetables. I add lactose-free butter or rapeseed or olive oil, some lemon, whatever I have to hand.

Q

What do you wish you had said to someone who has departed this earth?

A

I never had a thought like that in my life. I don’t really understand regrets – unless it’s something you’ve done that’s super bad and you can apologise, what’s the point?

Q

The last time you prayed, who did you pray to and were your prayers answered?

A

I don't pray.

Q

Who do you currently have a crush on?

A

Isn’t that something for teenagers?

Shooting in Sam's Insta-garden with Jackie Nickerson for Allure
Q

What would your Tinder profile say?

A

I will never go on Tinder.

Q

What superhero power would you most like to have and why?

A

Nothing comes for free, so I would say be careful what you wish for. And I’ve never wished for something that I don’t have that someone else has – I am happy with my lot.

Q

Where do you get your therapy from?

A

I tend to surround myself with nice people who are honest, simple and easy to be around, in work and in my personal life. I don’t like playing mind games.

Warhol at the Whitney NYC
Q

Your book at bedtime?

A

At the moment, I am finishing Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones. I go through lots and lots of books.

Q

Your epitaph?

A

“He had a good innings”.

Q

What did you learn from the toughest time in your life?

A

Nothing is permanent. Most things are transient. The only constant is change. So what’s happening now isn’t going to be there in six months and you have to let things move on.

Iconic Kate Moss Vogue cover and poster for Hair by Sam McKnight exhibition at Somerset House in 2016
Q

And from the happiest?

A

Some days are great, some days aren’t – you’re learning all the time.

Q

You’re blowing out the candles on the birthday cake. What one thing do you wish for?

A

Good health.