SHETLAND hairdresser Bjørn Larsen’s skill set was stretched when he was asked to help Shetland pony Socks become the celebrity of the advertising world.
Moonwalking in a 60 second commercial for mobile internet provider Three, the five year old Shetland pony has turned into an internet sensation topping the global ads charts with well over three million views since last Friday.
On Tuesday, hostilities between rival UK newspaper titles spilled over into the isles after The Sun secured exclusive access to pony owner Mari Williamson and trainer Elaine Tait, leaving the Daily Mail trailing behind.
Blissfully unaware of all the hype, Larson was serving customers at Sharp Image, in Scalloway.
A Shetland pony breeder for almost 20 years, Larsen only moved to the isles last year from his native Norway where he had been running his own stud near the town of Hamar.
The proud owner of 56 Shetland ponies, he became involved with the production team after award-winning ad director Dougal Wilson toured the isles for three weeks in summer last year to find the pony that fitted the bill.
Larson said: “The director wanted that pony, but Socks did not have long enough hair - that was the problem.”
Wilson wanted Socks to sport a “Rod Stewart-esque mane”, so Larson and his boss Marie Sharp worked flat out to deliver a hairdo fit for a rock star.
Larson also had to revert to an equestrian specialist who was able to supply an “intense medium brown” mane rather than “very light natural red blond”, as demanded by the production team.
“Horse hair is so strong, it wouldn’t initially bleach” Larson explained.
So after a night of experiments in the Scalloway hair studio, he and Sharp eventually managed to provide Socks with the required hair extensions.
“I was so nervous when I showed them to the team. It is like with people - if the hair is not perfect, the movie is not,” Larson said.
The 48 year old stylist spent the next week working hard on set on the dramatic cliffs of Foula and Eshaness where the TV advert was filmed last November.
“It was raining and so windy, the hair looked like a mess after a few hours, I had to redo his hair every so often. Socks liked to be groomed.
“But hair is hair. You have to create the style that suits regardless of whether you work with people, horses or dogs.”