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Salons & Barbers

in London

Amanda Houchen




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.


PJs Barbers


Thursday evening at PJs barbers, Brixton. The bright

red brick interior is lit up to the outside..



Willesden Green

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.



Willesden Green

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.




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

Bulk hair

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



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.


PAKS Store

Dalston Market

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.


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