Two-Faced Fashion

updated 04/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

SOME OF HAIRDRESSER COLIN WATKINS'S clients are two-faced, but that's fine with him. Employing scissors, electric clippers, permanent dyes and ultrafine paintbrushes, Watkins is right on the cutting edge of the London art scene—creating some of the world's best-known faces on the back of some of its least-known heads. "Like an artist, I only do it when I'm inspired," says Watkins, 38, who averages two portraits a week at Salon 2000, his shop in the London suburb of Shepperton. "I don't want to frighten my other clients away, because I do normal hair-dressing as well."

But it's Watkins's portraits that really turn heads. Watkins carved his first tonsorial bas-relief, a London football team's logo, into the coiffure of a willing model two years ago, after he got the idea while driving back from a game. Since then Watkins has put together a heady oeuvre, snipping likenesses of Elvis, Michael Jackson, Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Madonna and Arnold Schwarzenegger into the manes of trendier-than-thou Londoners. Some clients have a specific request; others let Watkins choose. "I visualize what design I would like to do on that shape head," he says. "It's a lot less painful than tattoos."

And less permanent. A celebrity visage, which costs $135 and takes up to four hours to complete, is washable but is usually shrouded in hair again a month later. That hasn't deterred a growing clientele convinced that two heads are cooler than one.

An exception, for the moment, is Watkins's wife, Kathleen, 41. So far he hasn't persuaded her to put on a new face. Still, she stays close to the action by helping manage the salon when she isn't caring for the Watkinses' 10-year-old son, Leon. As a boy himself, Watkins dreamed of celebrity—his mum put him up to it. "Mother said I'd be famous for inventing something someday," he says. "I was always artistic, making things and thinking up new ideas."

And now he's done it, to the delight of customers who enjoy double-takes when they pass. "Most people have to lake another look," says Angie Greenwood, a London stage manager who has worn several hair faces, one of which was to Di for. "They try to work out who it is. Americans just go wild. When I had Diana, a lady said to me, 'This is the closest I've ever been to royalty!' " Sometimes Greenwood gets the royal treatment herself. During a recent visit to Covent Garden, she says, "People were coming up to me, shaking my hand and saying, 'Absolutely brilliant—can I buy you a drink?' and I was, like, somebody famous."

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