Sam Bradshaw runs Atypical, the stylish men’s grooming salon that’s shaken up the strip lighting and white lino aesthetic of the traditional local barbershop.
He’s been accumulating quirky items for years – in this case knackered sewing machines and retro Tomytronic games – in preparation for a unique vision for his first premises.
I’m pioneering the world’s first ‘barlon’ in Kentish Town. That’s my fusion of the best bits of a barber shop and a salon. We’re Atypical – not conforming with the norm.
I started cutting hair when I was 11, growing up on the Caledonian Road. My brother had an unfortunate misunderstanding with a barber which my sister had attempted to correct, but they both ended up getting even more frustrated. I’d sat at the barber’s shop a few times with my dad, just watching, and felt confident I could do it. After about two hours, my brother was finally happy. And I was hooked.
If you’re creative, you use whatever tools fall into your hands. If that’s clippers and scissors, so be it. I’ve never said my goal was to do this job; I just enjoy expressing myself in this form. But I also like using charcoal, getting my fingers dirty and working with wood. My dad is a carpenter and I used to sit watching him, just as I sat watching at the barber’s. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was learning to be creative, observing different crafts.
Styling hair isn’t just about sitting in a salon. You find yourself in all kinds of situations. Once I was asked to give the editor of The Sun a mohawk; another time I went on the road with All Saints. I also worked with New Kids on The Block and Backstreet Boys on their 25th anniversary tour.
I like a bit of order. Barbers aren’t normally based on appointments, but mine is. In traditional ones, people can spend their whole Saturday sitting waiting for a cut. You’d have thought after all these years they’d want a better system.
This space is like my baby: it keeps telling me what it needs. I’d worked in this shop before, when I was teaching a friend how to do particular cuts, so when I got a call saying it was available, I already knew it would be perfect for my idea for a male grooming lounge. Now it’s up and running, I’ll be offering more services soon and get apprenticeships going. It all proved very good timing, as I’m seeing things along this stretch of Kentish Town all falling into place nicely.
Men have become really in tune with their personal style. They come in looking for all kinds of services now – eyebrows, necks, threading – rather than just asking for a trim. When an icon like David Beckham goes and gets his nails done or wears an Alice band, suddenly it’s OK for guys to think it’s cool. He stuck on a sarong which is essentially a dress, but when he does it, it paints a different picture. We’ve really come a long way: it’s not too long ago there wasn’t even such a thing as men’s shampoo.