Salons & Barbers
Hairdressers are commonly seen to provide one
service, of cutting hair alone. However, there is a whole
network of hairdressers and barbers across London,
that despite area code contain the same sense of
community and spirit, like an open house to regulars.
Afro-Caribbean hairdressers have always struck me as
being a vibrant and colourful part of London’s streets,
but a place I have only seen from the outside. I have
tried to capture what makes these independent
businesses so much more personal than high street
salons; where religion, black icons, family and
familiarity take precedence.
Historically beauty parlours and barber shops
started up as locations where people could talk about
their community, as well as get their hair done. The
barbershop was one of the few places where African
American men interacted regardless of class, or
education. I wanted to show how these places are
unique and still representative of old tradition.
Thursday evening at PJs barbers, Brixton. The bright
red brick interior is lit up to the outside..
A laidback afternoon in Willesden Green. Two men eat
their late lunch and chat to with the barber, whilst a
small boy has his hair cut. Worn red leather seats and
mock wooden walls give this barbers a personal feel.
A large black and white photograph of Mohammed
Ali hangs over them, reflecting in the mirror. Around
the room, more posters and photographs cover the
walls - a calendar of Barack Obama sits next to a
poster of the Jamaican Reggae boys. The manager
beckons me to the back office and suggests that I
take a photograph there.
Here a large dusty mirror is surrounded by carefully
constructed layers of bank notes from around the
world and above it personal photographs and pictures
of hairstyles cover the wall space. He looks directly
back at me through the mirror and I take a photo.
This barbers has been here for forty years he says.
MR C Barbers
Saturday afternoon... a group of men wait on a sofa to
get their hair cut in this busy barber shop. Two men sit
underneath a large purple pop art print of a seductive
woman. One man ducks shyly as he realises I'm taking
a photo. Framed football photographs hang on the wall
and a match plays loudly on the tv.
Further along the wall hangs a poster of Nelson
Mandela that reads; ‘There is no easy path to freedom
anywhere, and many of us will have to walk through the
valley of the shadow of death again and again before
we reach the mountaintop of our desires'.
Over on the other side of the salon, next to another
large purple painting of a woman lying down, a list of
The Ten Commandments is tucked underneath a mirror
as if waiting to be pulled out for reference.
The Ten Commandments
I am the Lord your God
You shall have no other gods before me
You shall not make yourself an idol
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
Honor your father and mother
You shall not murder
You shall not commit adultery
You shall not steal
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour
You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife
You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour
‘Our deepest fear’, Nelson Mandela
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we
are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask
ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous Actually, who are you not to
be You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so
that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us,
it’s in everyone.
And as we let our light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
A small barbers in Hackney. The two barbers looked
similar and were very built up. This was emphasised by
the t-shirt one was wearing reading ‘Muscleworks’, the
name of a local gym.
A quiet saturday afternoon in Chaquilles barbers in
Hackney. This barbers contrasts to the bustling ones
around the corner, inside there are no customers
waiting to be seen.
The mirrors are littered with signs, expressing beliefs
and sayings amongst the mobile top up adverts, so
much so that no customer would be able to see their
reflection. It appears more of a home than a barbers.
The owner looks at me quizzically and lets me take a
photo of him sitting in the back room amongst a
collage of photos.
GOLDEN TOUCH Hair Salon
Wednesday afternoon in Willesden. I had seen this
salon from across the road because of the
luminous orange exterior. It was empty apart from a
couple of staff. The manager was very friendly and
asked me to wait until he put on his ‘Golden Touch’
jacket before I took a photo.
Then he promptly took it off again, onto the chair, and
started chatting to the hairdresser as she combed her
hair in the mirror. I couldn’t help but notice the minibar
in the corner with a bottle of Jack Daniels, which
seemed to capture the spirit of the place.
A busy saturday afternoon in Yuppies Barbers,
Hackney. A small boy is having his head shaved in the
corner of the room, whilst he plays a computer game.
Over in the other corner a group of men talk
animatedly. They ask why I am taking photos and one
man pretends to be the manager, saying it will be one
pound per person. There are framed photos on the wall
of famous black icons such as Barack Obama
and African paintings.
One barber goes to check his appearance before I take
a picture, he proceeds to carry on shaving a customer,
whose head has been outlined in white showing the
edges. Behind him is a personal collage of celebrities
from magazines and papers stuck onto the wall.
Thursday night before the Easter Weekend. Stella’s
on Coldharbour Lane was packed with people getting
their hair done for the bank holiday weekend.
JIMMY’S Hair Salon
Streatham High Street
A hairdresser, nail salon and cosmetic store all
congregate under one roof. I slip through the door,
almost unnoticed amongst the mid afternoon crowd of
people, stumbling across towels, wigs, mannequins.
A couple of hairdressers chat, whilst one applies hair
relaxer to the customer’s hair. The other, dressed in a
purple velour tracksuit, fiddles with her purple bangles!
and plays with a plastic wrap around her arm.
There is a steady hum of concentration amidst the
groups of people. The atmosphere is relaxed and
homely – a pile of towels rest on an old hifi and KFC
cups rest on the sides amongst the hair products.
A customer holds the hair product, whilst the
hairdresser applies to it her hair. Hairdressers drape
hair extensions over their shoulders as they work, and
a woman sits with a hair net on waiting for a wig to be
attached. Sitting below the till in the corner a little boy
wearing a Nike ‘Be Fast or Be Last t-shirt’ listens to his
ipod and waits patiently for his mother.
Interestingly this salon has an Indian manager, who
stands by the counter in front of an array of hair
straighteners, acrylic nail sets and fake eyelash sets.
The black beauty market is such a profitable
industry that other nationalities are now getting
involved in the business.
Towards the back, a sign points downstairs to Jimmy’s
cosmetics, which is strangely deserted in contrast
to the busy salon. Upstairs a row of women wait
underneath hair driers and there is a large group of
women and children waiting to be seen.
PHILLY & SON HAIR PRO
The owner tells me it’s fine to take photos. Stepping out from behind the till, he goes out for a
cigarette leaving me in an almost empty room. Everything is pink and the television is on from
the across the room, but there are no customers. Then I see the back of someone’s head
resting on a chair, someone is asleep in the salon.
A group of women and children have their hair done.
They hold the hairpieces as they are prepared to be
attached. The woman that owns the shop, Adorrah,
does not want her photo taken as she explains she’s
not looking presentable, and that is the most important
thing. Adorrah owns a cosmetic store over the road
and instructs me to follow her to the shop. Here she
shows me the product she has made.
To attach wefted hair to the natural hair with a latex or
surgical type adhesive
To weave strands of hair together. On the scalp braiding;
is used to form a base or track to sew on a commercial
weft. This is the cornrow technique. Off the scalp
braiding: is used for traditional braiding styles and
various methods adding extensions such as Warlocks
Term for loose commercial hair, mainly used for strand
bonding and braiding. This hair is used for creating wefts
or for services like fusion
Cornrows are flat braids or tracks that lay very close to
the scalp. Cornrows can be used to create many
different styles and cal also have hair extensions added
The process of attaching small pieces of human hair
with a special adhesive and a thermal gun. This is a hair
to hair process, no tracks are required. This method
allows for free movement of hair extensions
Hair weft clips
To attach hair wefts by clips. Clips are placed in the hair
and snapped close. Wefts are held securely in place
A chemical straightening treatment commonly used
to relax hair. The active ingredient is sodium hydroxide,
there are many No Lye products also available
Micro Linking Technique
The process of attaching hair wefts without braids. The
links are sewn to the wefted hair. The user’s natural
hair is pulled through and locked secure. This system is
highly recommended for natural hair that is too fine or
soft to hold other weave techniques
A chemical process by which the hair is permanently
straightened. New-growth areas have to be maintained
via “touch-ups” to continue the straightened pattern
BAMYAN TRU STYLES
Streatham High Street
A weekday afternoon on Streatham High Street.
The manager was reluctant at first to let me take
pictures, but then they relaxed and started posing for
photographs. It was full of just women and children and
a very laidback atmosphere as if they were at home.
Streatham High Street
Two women look at their refection in the mirror.
One hands her baby to the hairdresser, as she
doesn’t want her to be photographed. The hair salon
is overwhelmingly yellow and green, and there are
wigs and extensions discarded on the sides. In the
background, bald mannequins reflect in the mirror.
There are a few of these hair stores around London,
but I was amazed at what I found there when I went in.
Corridors of hair products and at the back, spread
across the walls, rows of mannequins all sporting
different style wigs.
Right at the end of the line of mannequins, I could spot
an old man peering out, who appeared to be
camouflaged by the dolls heads.