Move over Game of Thrones. There’s a new show to chat about around the water cooler. And for hairdressers it offers a special kind of inspiration, encouraging its participants to dive into the more fantastical and eccentric parts of their imagination.

Hair Wars Ep 1 – Judges Robert and Martyn look on as Evan creates his look for the ‘braids’ challenge on model Ronnie.

Extreme Hair Wars pits talented stylists against each other in a variety of bizarre challenges that will test their hairdressing skills to the very limit and in ways they could never have expected. With expert gravitas coming in the shape of the two judges, Martyn Holmes, creative director of Strangeways, and Robert Masciave, owner of Metropolis Hairdressing, it’s a show that combines technical excellence with outlandish creativity – which naturally makes for great entertainment.

“The whole series is about the other side of hairdressing,” Martyn explains to us. “The fantastical, artistic side of hairdressing that no one gets to see or play with.”

This isn’t a show about everyday salon life, the team wanted to create something aspirational, something that would inspire both creativity and conversation – a Bake Off for hair.

For Robert, Extreme Hair Wars is a chance to increase the number of hairdressers taking creative risks. “We think the whole industry is very creative but we still have work to do,” he says. “One aspect the show highlighted is that some were lacking in preparation and dedication behind the scenes. People tend to think it’s all about having the idea, but for me that’s only the beginning. There’s a process behind it for those ideas to materialise into fantastic hair and there’s still lots of work to be done.”

With some of the hairstyles featured on Extreme Hair Wars venturing into seriously weird and wacky territory, does Martyn expect to see many hairdressers doing them Monday to Friday?

Extreme Hair Wars Ep 5 – Anoushka’s finished look for challenge 1, ponytails.

“Maybe not in the salon,” he laughs. “But hopefully it sparks something inside them that makes them want to be creative. This is what brought me into hairdressing, using my hands, building with hair, playing with wefts, gluing things together almost like arts and crafts – that’s what drew me in.”

As well as bringing out the artistic flair of current hairdressers, both Robert and Martyn were at pains to stress how important it was to bring the next generation of hairdressers into the business. It’s the reason why 5Star, with its large 18-30 demographic was seen as the perfect station for Extreme Hair Wars.

Robert says: “Having hairdressing on TV is a good thing. It doesn’t have to be exactly the way the business is – it can show  the fun side of it, the artistic side of it, and that will help attract young people.”

“At the moment our industry is struggling to get newbies in,” agrees Martyn. “It’s hard to get apprentices and I’m hoping this show might inspire some to think that there’s a lot more to it than little old granny shops because that’s how they feel sometimes. I hope this inspires a new generation.”

With Martyn receiving praise regarding the show from hairdressers to builders, it’s clear it has mass appeal, but Robert admits they have had some negative feedback from hairdressers who feel it doesn’t offer a true representation of the craft – a slightly unfair criticism of a TV show perhaps…

“There were people complaining on social media that it isn’t portraying the industry accurately. This is not supposed to be a documentary about hairdressing! Feedback has been positive from younger people and the general public who see it as a fun show.”

While the show has proved popular, it’s still up in the air whether we’ll be seeing Martyn and Robert back for a second series. In the meantime both are concentrating their efforts on education. Martyn has been focusing his work on going into schools to work with the kids one-on-one and really inspire them. While Robert is continuing to teach avant garde haircutting and is set to launch a new pair of ergonomically designed scissors that will help people who suffer from back, shoulder, or wrist injuries.

Extreme Hair Wars Ep 6 – Alexander Tunrbull’s model in the Chameleon Hair skill challenge.