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The Barbershop Duet

7 September 2015
The Barbershop Duet
Men’s hairdressing no longer resembles the 5 minute lop with the scissors and a quick razor round the edges: it’s now big business, with quiffs, beards and a new readiness to indulge in a masculine pampering session, changing the requests men make to their trusty barbers. We meet two of Leeds’ finest establishments to chat business and beards.

Barbershop - Article 1Photography provided by Tracey Welch

Lord’s Barbering

Byron, the owner and lead barber at Lord’s, has a long-standing career in hairdressing. From his start-out as a Saturday boy at thirteen -‘mum wanted a bit of cheap labour’ he jokes- and so he fell into something he now loves. Travelling across Europe, he ended up in Crete and decided to move on from ladies hairdressing, to practice a more masculine pursuit. Although he jokes that the ladies’ nattering was a driving factor, Byron calls his practice ‘the closest a guy can get to going to the pub without a hangover’. I mention the recent news on hairdressers amongst other occupations being encouraged to offer health advice, as part of their roles as confidantes; something he tells something we’ve been doing (unofficially) in the industry for such a long time. The culture of barbering certainly seems to encourage a more open and relaxed approach to male grooming. As is increasingly the thing in barbershops, a beer or two - or something a little stronger - is offered with your cut or shave. Byron adds that ‘someone finished a bottle of vodka yesterday’ but assures me that his cut and shave lasted a good hour and a half.

We discuss the marmite nature of the infamous beard, an impressively dense one of which is sported by Byron, a convincingly dapper advertisement for his services, but nevertheless a look apparently hated by his girlfriend. He tells me he’s undertaking a commitment to the ‘yeard’ a year-long beard, which has been cultivated since November. ‘Once the neck disappears, it’s official’. Far from being a fad trend, these beards are stubborn; 40% of Bryon’s clientele has one. The explosion in the industry means that regardless of the look (pompadours and quiffs are currently very popular with Byron), there is now an appropriate outlet for male grooming.

I notice that during one of Byron’s treatments, there is something going on with a hot cloth which I’m told is part of the beard trim; an oil or sometimes a conditioning agent is used on the beard, which the hot towel then activates as well as steaming the face, which opens up the pores, allowing even the most macho of men a little pampering. ‘You then close it all down with the cut throat razor and cold cloth to shrink the pores again’ et voila!

‘My plan for the future is to have a salon with 5 or 6 stations with a separate space to facilitate that sort of man-scaping: massage, that sort of thing. Because for men, often the only option for those kinds of treatments are in unisex salons where, surrounded by a lot of ladies could potentially be a bit awkward for a guy.’ ‘Do you want a glass of Prosecco?’ ‘No, not really.’ (he chuckles).

Lord’s Barbering started its life as Byron doing promotional and pop up barbering in nearby The Traditional Shaving Co, purveyors of the finest gentleman’s shaving accessories and toiletries. He quickly became a permanent fixture, until of course his business outgrew his station and Byron’s sights were set on his own space. Luckily enough, he didn’t have to go far when a retail space two units up in The Grand Arcade was available and the rest is history. Since then of course, the arcade has expanded massively with nearly all retail spaces becoming occupied, making the spot hot property.

Lord’s is littered with man-cave miscellany; superman wall mounts nod back to the shop’s heritage as a comic book store, Jack Daniels and Jagermeister bottles are re-purposed as spritz bottles and, Byron hopes to install a Millennium Falcon to hang from the ceiling to complete the look.

Barbershop - Article 2Photography provided by Tracey Welch

Remedy

I catch Simon, the owner of Remedy in a few quiet moments at the Barbershop, which is usually filled with the sound of buzzing razors. The male hairdresser’s is a bit of a stalwart on New Briggate, having been established there since 2006. Simon says their longstanding success as an independent is massively encouraging, owing their continued presence to a ‘scrappiness’, which he chuckles about. Having been resident in Leeds for so long, they have witnessed the shift in the barbering industry first hand and for the better. ‘It means that we now get the recognition that the industry deserves, with its long history behind it.’ He is perhaps not referring to a time where barbers were charged with the task of hacking off legs, or we joke, pulling out teeth, but as a legacy from the days of cut-throat razors, the male grooming industry is once again an art form.

With this growth comes, of course, plenty of competition but this doesn’t seem to deter either the loyal or of course, endless new customers that come through Remedy’s doors. Their services have evolved over time, adapting to the trends that dictate what men want out of their barbering, but also causing hairdressers such as Remedy to step up their game in terms of services. Their venture into producing and selling their own beard oil started 15 months ago, with Simon attributing the social media involvement as changing the business entirely. No longer are bushy beards for the unkempt: the ‘Big beard gang’ is now looking for quality products to tame the fuzz. Original oils like sandalwood and bay really tapped into the demand for masculine cosmetic products with the range now expanding into four different oils. The idea is that they contain a great fragrance, tame and treat unruly beards, whilst also moisturising the skin underneath, something men may have been previously more reluctant to do. Now, Simon tells me, bearded men really take pride in their facial hair.

Remedy has expanded their business in other ways too. They host various alternative corporate events such as Christmas do’s. ‘The gents come in for pre-drinks in the shop, have a slice of pizza (provided by neighbours Sela Bar), a shave or a haircut- and then they leave feeling great’, or business meet and greets, making the encounter a lot more relaxed. Their pre-wedding services create lovely photographs of the bridegroom and the wedding party, as well as ensuring everyone is looking well groomed.

Best of the Rest:

Barber Barber - Home to some seriously dapper gents, this uber stylish and eccentrically vintage style salon offers gentleman’s barbering for both ‘scoundrels and gentlemen’ alike.

King Koby’s Chop Shop - The cheeky chaps in The Corn Exchange will make you gents feel right at home with a beer and a natter. For the latest edgy cuts or maybe just a timeless classic, King Koby’s will sort you out.

Joe’s Barbers - The newest addition to the bunch, Joe’s is located on Burley Road and channels an American Diner vibe. Continuing with the retro feel as well as your free drink, you can occupy your thoughts with a game or two on the PlayStation.

By
Emma is a Freelance Writer for Leeds Living. She has a degree in English literature from the University of Leeds and specialises in writing cultural editorials.