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Legends of Hair

Originally published in the May/June issue of Omaha Magazine

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Legends of Hair are not just stylists or salon owners. The six Legends featured here are top-known in their field; not just in the Omaha area, but are also among the most celebrated in the nation. They are highly regarded experts and leaders in the community. It has been said, "you are never famous in your own backyard" however, these names are as instantly recognizable to Omahans as they are to the overall beauty industry.

They all share the true mark of the pinnacle of success, also seen in the fine and performing arts, fashion modeling and many other creative fields. That is, they are all known by one name. We are fortunate to have several right here in Omaha.

Photo of Lyal McCaig


To the hair styling professional community (as well as other Legends in this feature story), Lyal McCaig, owner of Capitol School of Hairstyling, is the über-legend. He is leaving a lasting mark on the cosmetology community, not only in Omaha, but also the world. His innovative teaching methodologies and practices have had a huge impact on the industry.

Lyal is a leader, an artist's artist, a teacher's teacher. His core philosophy has always been the integration of fashion, art and hair. Also ranking high in his career goals is his quest to raise young professionals' visibility through classes, stage productions and media interviews.

Lyal grew up in the Nebraska Sandhills (in tiny Paxton, Nebr., back then the population was about 350). His Aunt Blanche owned a tiny beauty salon in Paxton and, as is usually the case, (in both large cities and small) it was the local hotbed of gossip exchange. Lyal was fascinated with hair, even back then at the age of 10. "I would watch her work. She would let me take the hair trimmings in the back and play with them. I would color them! It was such a kick!"

Fashion and styles change; however, Lyal has an all-time favorite hairstyle: slicked back tight with a chignon at the nape of the neck. "This style is so beautiful -- it reveals the woman. When hair gets too frou-frou we have a woman in hiding."

McCaig's list of career honors and activities is lengthy and prestigious, too long to mention here. A few: National Styles Director, National Cosmetology Association; Trainer, U.S. Hairstyling Team; and the U.S. Representative in the Organisation Artistique Internationale de la Coiffure (OAI). OAI is based in Paris and establishes rules for international competition.

Says Lyal, "My professional path has been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined! I have had the opportunity to influence state laws, accreditation regulations and most of all, to be able to jumpstart the career of thousands of professionals. The satisfaction that comes with that cannot compare with anything."

Aunt Blanche would be tremendously proud. So are we.

On Lyal:

"Mr. McCaig is a treasure of Omaha; he has taught many successful people and has touched the lives of many. Lyal is so talented and has so many credits he so rightly deserves." - Heather Smalley

"One of the most revered artists in our field...the consummate professional...my talent lies in adaptability which I learned from Lyal McCaig!" - Rick Carey

"Lyal McCaig...taught me to be daring." - David Scott

Photo of Claude Smith


Claude Smith says everything has changed in the beauty business over the years. "When I started, you needed 60 clients to be busy all week. They came every week and sometimes twice. Most everyone sat under the dryer and pretty much had the same style. Now, the clients come every 4-6 weeks; so to stay busy, a client base of 300 is necessary. Each of these clients wants their own special look. You need a much larger box of magic."

Claude must have a pretty big box of magic as well as some tricks up his sleeve. He has a multitude of longtime clients including one who has been with him pretty much her entire lifetime. "The winner is 52 years. Her mother brought her to the beauty school and I was her stylist."

He has been a guest artist or otherwise involved in in over 400 educational events throughout the U.S. as a member of Intercoiffure America. "I was part of the World Conference in Japan and New York."

While the international recognition is an important part of his legacy, Claude's foremost priority is helping clients find their unique style: "Find a style that is easy and you feel comfortable wearing. I love it when clients bring photos. It helps me understand what they are thinking. I enjoy hair coloring and short haircuts. Dimensional hair coloring is [the hot, new] look, however I did an article on how to do this in Modern Beauty Salon magazine in the 1960's."

Is Claude closing up his box of magic any time soon? His clients will be happy with this answer: "With good health, I plan at least 15 more years. Why should a person stop doing something they enjoy just because of age?"

"It seems when a person always tries to do their best and are consistent over the years, a reputation begins to develop. So, if I am considered to be one of the top, I appreciate that. There are certainly many stylists I admire here [in this feature] and I feel honored to be included with them."

On Claude:

"We became good friends through professional associations. He is very competitive and so am I. We decided one time to compete against each other. I think he won. " - Lyal McCaig

"[He is a] former boss, who taught me how to be good with people, to have fun and not take myself so seriously!" - Rick Carey

Rick and David

Although each is celebrated individually, Rick Carey and David Scott are often referred to as one entity "RicknDavid." Together for 37 years, they are well known for their extensive volunteer work as much as for their styling excellence.

Rick and David are both greatful for John Mangiameli, owner of Creative Hair Design. Of Mangiameli, Rick says he "teaches me friendship and allows me to "spread my wings." David describes him as "my friend who believed in me and allowed me the freedom to be myself for 24 years at Creative Hair Design."

Says Lyal McCaig about Rick and David:

"They are incredibly creative, talented boys, much better than the yokels on television."

Photo of Rick Carey


Rick Carey is impossibly charming. His warmth is such that he makes people feel special, like they are the only person in the room.

His career is extraordinarily notable -- he was a one-namer from the very start. He was known as "Mr. Rick" at Kilpatrick's French Room. Then "after a brief stint as a "shampoo boy" (you don't hear that term anymore!) for Tom White at the Eiffel Salon, I enrolled at Capitol School of Hairstyling's original downtown location."

He then headed East and continued advanced education at Queen's Beauty Institute in Hempstead, Long Island and the Clairol Institute in Manhattan. Rick worked in New York City as an assistant to Bloomingdale's Style Director Paul Victor and then as a stylist at Best & Co. on Fifth Avenue.

Rick began a return to Omaha via Denver "where I lived with my 'Auntie Mame' who was also a Capitol graduate" - and worked there for about a year. Rick then worked in several salons including Mr. James, Mr. Jerry's, Claude's Regency and with John Mangiameli as Salon Director of Creative Hair Design.

His clients benefit from his innate sense of elegance. "The best style recommendation is for the INDIVIDUAL! In my opinion, this should be dictated by the quality & quantity of the hair and be suitable to the client's lifestyle and body type...adaptability. I've never been a big fan of trends but prefer pretty classic hair! MANY of my clients have been with me for 20-30 years...a few approaching the 40-year mark! I'm very humbled by their loyalty...they've become friends as well as clients. I'm a lucky guy!"

"BUT... of everything in my career, I'm proudest of having been selected the very first recipient of the Alvina Stehno Spirit Award for contribution to cosmetology and the community in 2003...coming from my peers and my alma mater has meant more than any other award ever!"

With success comes rewards. Rick says, "I've been tremendously lucky to have spend part of my year in Key West and in Paris, places we thought we'd move to...but I'm proud to call Omaha home!"

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