Bringing the Drama

After dazzling the world with his exuberant flair, award-winning hair stylist Jag Moussa finds a home amid Victoria’s alt culture. 

Bringing the Drama - YAM Mar/Apr 2024

By David Lennam  |  Photos by Jeffrey Bosdet

Few things announce one’s arrival on the scene like a national award.

But it’s not like Jag Moussa needed to be named B.C.’s Hairstylist of the Year to make his mark in Victoria. By the time he opened his JagHed Couture Salon & Studio in Waddington Alley last year, the 43-year-old had already established himself in town — and was known not just for his photo-spread-ready haircuts, his sartorial daring, his line of sold-in-Hollywood couture wigs, the headpiece he created for Paris Hilton or the costumes he’s designed for local celebrities like the drag queen Jimbo.

Moussa announced his arrival more discreetly by taking a deep dive into the city’s alt culture — the arts, the fashion and all that sparkles just below the surface — and finding himself to be someone everyone wants to be around.

“Victoria, firstly, it’s absolutely gorgeous here,” he says. “I love the architecture. I love being by the water. I love being on an island. The arts scene here is underground, which is cool. And I walk tall here. I always knew I’d find my home when I walked tall.”

The son of two hairdressers, Moussa may have been born into the profession, but only really discovered it after first dabbling in design and advertising. He recalls packing up his red Mazda RX-7 two days after writing his last high school final and bailing on small-town Alberta for Edmonton, Toronto, Banff, Calgary and London, U.K. Then, three years ago, he landed in Victoria and two years after that opened his salon, a trajectory that comprises 20 years of hairstyling, even though it wasn’t a profession he gave much thought to as a young man.

“The energy came from opening up my own shop. That was the big ‘TSN Turning Point’ for me,” he says. “In terms of feeling in control to do what you do as a hairstylist and be working for people when you’ve got so much experience — just go work for yourself, free yourself.”

JagHed Couture is The Full Monty Moussa, if you will.

“This shop is my full expression here. When I created it, I wanted it to feel like a fashion living room. I wanted people to feel very comfortable and very at home, but I still wanted to make a strong statement with the design.”

On the Competition Stage

Last fall in Toronto, Salon magazine named Moussa the 2024 British Columbia Hairstylist of the Year at its annual Contessa Awards, the largest and most prestigious professional beauty competition in Canada. It’s not the first time his scissor-and-foil work has been noticed. He won the same award as Alberta’s top stylist in 2017.

For Moussa, who describes himself as “a cut and colour specialist in salon and an avant-garde artist with wigs and imagery,” competition isn’t as much a side gig as it’s been a 15-year commitment.

Moussa even represented Canada at the 2014 OMC World Hair Championships. (“Nothing will blow your mind like being on the world stage beside China and Germany and other countries and you’re Canada and they start a stopwatch and they’re like, ‘Go!’ and we’re all battling.”)

In fact, Moussa’s been winning awards since 2008, when he was doing hair in Banff.

That’s where his friend and client Maureen Kelly-Matyczuk first met him. Now living in Victoria, at the time she was, like Moussa, working in the Alberta mountain town. She immediately recognized what a warm-hearted soul he is, someone who’ll always acknowledge passersby from behind the chair at JagHed.

Moussa has a way of making people feel seen because he sees people, explains Kelly-Matyczuk. Further, he has this desire to be part of something. Part of the community. And he feels he’s found it here.

“He’s very compassionate and incredibly passionate about his art and community. He’s collaborative and strives to honour and recognize other artists,” she adds. “It’s the first time in a very long time he feels at home.”

On Another Stage

In 2021, Moussa was tipped off that the folks at Atomic Vaudeville, Victoria’s hip, long-running comedy cabaret, were looking for some help doing performer hair on a film side project, The Batshits. On director Britt Small’s suggestion, Moussa auditioned for the cabaret and has now been a mainstay performer on the last four episodes, inventing his own outrageously garbed clown character.

“I am so grateful for Atomic Vaudeville,” he says. “They brought out more of me than I knew. I knew it was inside of me, a lot of expression that needed to come out through that avenue, but I was kinda scared to do it.”

For Small, Moussa displayed the heart of a true artist and one generously committed to the role of bringing people together, which, she says, makes him a great addition to the city.

“He’s into it for community and for just what art can really be for. And his style —” Small starts laughing — “he’ll show up here and I’ll just go, ‘What the hell are you wearing?’ Victoria needs more of that energy. It makes it feel like a bigger city and just a bit more cultured.”

“[Jag is] very compassionate and incredibly passionate about his art and community. He’s collaborative and strives to honour and recognize other artists.”

Bringing the Drama - YAM Mar/Apr 2024

6 Important Questions for Jag Moussa

How often do you change your own hairstyle?
Not very much anymore. I used to change it almost every three weeks. I like this hair. I don’t want to change it. It’s quite carefree. You wake up looking good.

What’s the secret to a good hairstyle?
I think you can feel it in [the client’s] energy. You’ll know it’s a good hairstyle when the client feels lighter. Nothing feels quite as good as getting your hair cut  — if you like your haircut. And I really believe that a really good hairstyle just makes people look in your eyes.

Any advice for getting into the industry?
Do things that scare you in the industry. Don’t back down.

Is there a haircut or style you refuse to do?
[Laughs.] Wow. [Long pause.] Nope, not really.

Is there an explanation for the enduring popularity of the mullet?
I like them because they’re three haircuts in one. And kind of fun to cut.

What informs your style?
Just feeling. How it feels on your body, you know. I just like buying cool things, then all of a suddenyou look at your closet and you can pretty much put anything together. It all works in tandem.