I’m on a mind emptying mission today so this blog is going to flow… no writers cramp today.
I’m going to talk about my entry into the hair world and how I have managed my career thus far and also help the next generation of hairdressers coming into the industry to understand what’s required if you want to be really successful. I probably could write a book on these subjects, however a blog will do for now!
It was an unusual start for me. My mother decided to pay for me to have my first proper haircut in a good salon, I was fortunate enough to get Bruce Sutherland himself to cut my hair that day and literally I went in for a cut and came out with a job! I was nearing the point of leaving school and indeed left without much to show for it. It could perhaps be said that school left me! I’ve always said I started learning the day I left school! I’m not comfortable in an institutional environment at all. I dislike uniforms, I really never want to look the same as anyone else to this day and conformity has never been my thing. A free spirit one may say and I will always be thankful to my mother and every one around me for allowing me to be that person.
From day one I knew hair was going to be my thing. It never felt like work then and it doesn’t feel like work now. They say if you do something you love you will never work another day in your life. Never a truer word said!
My first piece of advice to people embarking on a hairdressing career is ‘Serve your time’ I really worked hard, top money earner, top retailer. I knew what was expected of me and I did it with bells on. I was always first in and always last out, the things I learnt from my boss when everyone else had left and I stayed to observe was incredible. I was always full of questions, why’s and what fors.
I think it’s so important to establish yourself, far too many hairdressers do a short apprenticeship or a basic hairdressing qualification and think that’s it and go of into the hair world with little or no experience behind them. This situation can really drag our industry down, it’s like a race to the bottom and worse still anyone even if they’re not a qualified stylist can randomly open a salon…. shocking! So before I embarked on my next adventure I had made sure that I knew how to do all aspects of my industry and very importantly I knew how to build up a solid clientele and maintain it over a long period of time. In this industry without clients we have nothing. Some of those clients I still look after 40 odd years later!
In those days, things were very different. It all seemed harder then. I had the feeling that everything happened in London. I knew I had to go there. I don’t believe people have to do that now, you can become a world renowned stylist based anywhere, travel, internet and all the marketing possibilities of social media make that viable. I on the other hand, I had to sell the little I had and go to London on my own and had a Church of Scotland hostel as my home. (True story) I had to share a room with a stranger and embark on London life with Scottish vigour.
I absolutely knew where I wanted be. At the time Trevor Sorbie was British Hairdresser of the Year and that’s where I wanted to be.
Here is how I got my job…..)
Every day for a week I went and sat outside Trevor’s Covent Garden Salon and watched the staff and clients coming and going to see I felt I was a match. On the sixth day I watched Trevor go in and I made my move.. I walked in right behind him and politely asked if he would give me ten minutes of his time. His immediate response was no, but I will give you five minutes. I took my chance and in the allotted time told him my hairdressing experience and what I thought I had to offer. His reply was quite simply “prove it” so I did, I went straight out into Covent Garden and into the then famous ladies toilets and talked four ladies into coming to have their hair cut. Trevor checked my work and gave me a job!
It didn’t take me long to establish myself in London, it was the 80’s, clients were in abundance and being in the middle of Covent Garden gave an interesting client list from Wayne Sleep to Trevor Nunn and Boy George to Angie Best.
There is no doubt that was a turning point in my career. None of it was easy, I do believe that anything worth having is never easy. There are so many life skills, risks and what ifs or maybes involved. You need to be tough.
For young hairdressers now there are opportunities galore for easy access to some of the best education, inspiration and experiences. My second piece of advice to the hairdressers of the future is to embrace the industry and make yourself the best hairdresser you can be. There is simply no excuse not to be.
To this day, I am still taking risks, learning, putting myself out there, expanding my skill set, giving to others and giving back to this incredible world of hair and beauty.
I am fortunate enough to have literally travelled the world doing this job. In the last week I have done hair in Scotland, London, Dublin and Verona. One day I’m going to document all the places and experiences of hair I’ve had so far, it is immense and somewhat incredible ranging from doing hair on Concorde to tinting a prize bulls hair black for an agricultural show! I often pinch myself when I embark on the next opportunity, however that is for another day.
I do not wish to over glamorise the industry or my life or experiences. I’m actually a very humble hairdresser and my feet are firmly on the ground. This very morning was a 4.30am start and I’m on my way to Dublin, Tuesday to Saturday I’m salon based and Sunday I’m off to London to work. No days off for me then…..ha ha! This is how it really is….tough, scary, relentless, risky, tiring, all consuming, demanding and for those of us robust enough to take it, absolutely wonderful!
So to all you budding hairdressers out there, get yourself involved. Your opportunities are both crazy and wonderful. Looking back I can honestly say that for every time something has been challenging, uncomfortable and uneasy, I’ve come out of it a better and stronger person.
Bring on the next decade!!