Beauty News: Brian O’Connor’s Tennessee Horse Farm

“It’s just like having a client, but they’re a lot more fidgety and a lot bigger,” Brian O’Connor said with a laugh.

The hairstylist is referring to grooming horses — specifically Gypsy Cobs, the breed found at the 17-acre farm he owns with his husband, Kolten Frenzl, just outside of Nashville. They board, ride and train 16 horses; four of them are their own.

“They’re a 1,500-pound animal,” he went on. “And the last thing that I need them to do is step on my hand. So, in that sense, it’s a lot messier. I always end up drenched when I’m cleaning them. By the end of it, I need a good, full bathe and grooming myself.”

Brian O’Connor

Robby Klein/WWD

When O’Connor isn’t busy on tour with Hayley Williams of Paramore — or growing the hair color brand they cofounded, Good Dye Young, and running his salon, Fruits Hair Lab, in Nashville — he’s with his horses. “I became obsessed with them because of my fascination with hair,” he said of Gypsy Cobs, known for their long, thick mane and tails. “From their kneecaps down, they have hair that grows almost like a bell-bottom that’s called feather. I would find myself sitting and grooming a horse for, like, an hour. They’re just so beautiful.”

Working with horses gives O’Connor a moment to pause: “You get into your rhythm and the meticulousness of doing it,” he said. “That’s the time that I get to go through and organize things in my head, whether it’s Good Dye Young, the salon, stuff that I’m going through personally or thinking about looks that I want to do for Hayley. I just let myself fall into the rhythm of what I’m doing and then my mind focuses on the things that I need to take time to organize through.”

But it’s also deeper.

Brian O’Connor photographed for WWD on August 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Brian O’Connor

Robby Klein/WWD

“It’s been therapeutic,” O’Connor continued. “It’s very cathartic, the rhythm of it. And horses are just something. They’re so intuitive, and they really know how to test you. It’s almost as if they’re a therapist….There’s just this intuition or bond or unspoken thing. And if you’re having a bad day, man, they can sense it, and they will push you until you almost want a break and snap.”

He recounted an experience riding a well-trained horse during a particularly tough time. “She was perfectly broken in and was a great ride. I was having a really bad emotional day, and she almost threw me off. I remember immediately jumping off and sobbing uncontrollably. It had nothing to do with the horse. It was just so much other emotion that I had been holding on to or frustration.”

O’Connor was about six years old the first time he rode a horse. He was at his aunt’s in Mississippi, who raised her own. He would visit her often. “I remember just thinking how big and powerful they seemed,” he said.

He was 16 when he moved to Nashville, where his grandparents lived, and where he’s made a life and name for himself in beauty. Frenzl is who drew him back to horses.  

“We fell in love with the land and area,” O’Connor said of their property, where a house and three barns sit on top of a hill. A river flows nearby, Duck River — the most biologically diverse in North America.

“We’ve been doing evening rides down to the river, and for the first time ever the other day I got in the river on a horse and could feel them actually swimming in the water with me on their back,” O’Connor added. “It was the most insane, beautiful, peaceful experience I’ve ever had.”

What’s next?

Brian O’Connor photographed for WWD on August 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Brian O’Connor

Robby Klein/WWD

“I want to grow it,” he said of the farm, which currently has a full-time employee — a known horse trainer who relocated from England. “I’m a dreamer, and sometimes that gets me in trouble. Or it gets me in the position of having three businesses on top of a touring career. I would love to be able to purchase more land around us.”

Expansion is also on deck for Good Dye Young, with a strong consumer base of Gen Z women driving double-digit growth on its direct channel. “I’d love to grow out a pro side,” he said of the brand, which is also sold at Ulta Beauty and Target. “We’re excited about expanding and creating a more educational experience for salon professionals. I also hope to create an entire professional permanent hair color line that’s exclusive to salons.”

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