Martha's Hairstylist Shares the Secrets and Stories Behind Her Signature Look
Plus, see how her hairstyle has evolved over the years.
Close your eyes and picture Martha—what do you see? She likely has her sleeves rolled up, ready to show you the latest Good Thing, tack her horses, seed a lawn, or whip up one of her delicious confections. Whatever the scenario, there's likely one constant, and that's her buttery blonde bob. According to Parvin Klein, a master colorist at The Salon at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City and the creative responsible for Martha's color over the last 40 years, this style is our founder's signature. "I have had the honor and privilege of working with Martha since 1989. For the most part, she's kept with a bob," Parvin tells us, noting that Martha has always been open to some variations; she'll add bangs and layers to refreshen up the look from time to time.
Martha's shimmering color is yet another component of her signature hairstyle. "We always balayage her hair," explains Parvin. "It's always good to make slight changes to tone and the contrast of highlights to keep the look fresh, but it is always elegant, classic Martha! When I meet a new client they often ask for 'Martha's color.'"
If you could scan through a photo album of Martha's career, this signature look holds up: She sported a bob when launching her catering business at Turkey Hill, for the majority of her time on the air throughout the '90s and early 2000s, and even now, as she works from home creating all kinds of content at Bedford Farm ("Recently we added cool tones to her hair," says Parvin of Martha's most current change). But if you look closely—and even go back a few decades, starting with Martha's college days at Barnard—you'll notice that she has experimented with a few different styles, from shorter, cropped looks and shoulder-grazing lobs to fully grown-out lengths. In the recent past, her most iconic looks can be attributed to several stylists, including Eugene Toye of Rita Hazan, Anthony Sorensen, and John Barrett of The John Barrett Salon. Ahead, we take a look back to track Martha's hair evolution from her teenage years to the present day—and admire the fact that she's looked incredible at every phase.
Curly Cropped Bob
During her time at Barnard College—she graduated in 1962 with a degree in European and architectural history—Martha wore her hair in a curly cropped bob, a style of the decade that included a soft bang and ear-length ends.
Around the same time, Martha landed several modeling campaigns—she worked for quite a few brands, including Breck, Clairol, and Lifebuoy Soap. Here, her hair is styled into a sleeker rendition of her natural curly look, with major volume at the crown, a deep side part, and flicked ends.
Towards the end of university and in the first few years of her post-grad life, Martha let—or should we say grew—her hair down. This is arguably the longest we have ever seen Martha go. Her sleek center part and loose face-framing layers were a mainstay of '60s style; during this time, Martha worked on Wall Street, the only woman on her trading floor.
Before leaving her job on Wall Street at the age of 31 in the early '70s, Martha went short again. Her part shifted to the left; she opted for short, wispy bangs and layers, creating a soft, voluminous look.
By the time she launched her catering business at Turkey Hill, her first residence in Westport, Connecticut, her signature bob—the true Martha look—began to take shape. Here, our founder is posed in the property's library, taking a break from hostessing.
The Martha Look
When Martha wrote and published her first book—Entertaining hit shelves in 1982—she became America's most beloved hostess. The style she would keep for the majority of the rest of her career was displayed front and center on the cover. We love the rich, blonde-auburn color here, which pairs prettily with soft waves.
By the time 1990 arrived, Martha was on a different type of cover: It was the beginning of our founder's career in magazines. The year prior, in 1989, Martha began seeing Parvin Klein, a colorist at The Salon at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City, who would go on to handle her color—taking her to different ends of the blonde spectrum and back again—indefinitely; Parvin also witnessed her style evolution firsthand and remembers the early days of working with her fondly. "One of my first personal memories that I shared with her was that I learned how to cook by watching her on television," Parvin shares. "I think what impressed me the most was her ability to trust my expertise to give her what would look the best. It's always a collaboration with myself and my clients—together, we create the best look for them."
Martha's color—a warm gold—held fast for the next decade or so, though her length varied slightly, notes Parvin, who says she regularly opted for layers and bangs to energize her style. Though she never sported a true pixie cut, she opted for short, shaggy layers in the early '90s (this photo was taken in the fall of 1993).
Towards the end of the millennium, Martha went blonder with the help of Parvin; she'd maintain a version of this color (and this banged bob) throughout the next few years. "As with her color, there are always slight variations to her style, but overall it has stayed the same," says Parvin. "She has always had beautiful hair and she is known for her timeless, classic beauty."
You can see the continuity of Martha's hairstyles here—this golden, blown-straight bob speaks to the more textured styles she wore throughout the majority of the '90s and early 2000s. Here, in 2015, the look was similar, just sleeker.
This brings us to the looks we most commonly see our founder sporting today. According to Parvin, Martha now prefers a cooler blonde—and bob variations—which she achieves with balayage.
Lots of Layers
Luckily, Martha's present-day signature hairstyle, which involves voluminous layers and bangs (this shot was taken at the end of 2020; John Barrett of The John Barrett Salon handled the cut) is easy to maintain, says Parvin. "Martha's look is totally manageable for anyone who is looking for a similar color and style," she says. "The first step is to find a team you trust and put yourself in the hands of the experts."