Meet Benjamin & Mark, the two barbers who are cutting hair in a modern way through inspiration from old school techniques. I stopped by Benjamin’s on Henderson Row to find out how Benjamin’s came to be!
HOW DID BENJAMIN’S BARBER SHOP COME ABOUT?
BENJAMIN: I started cutting hair at about 15. My dad had a pair of clippers and I fancied trying it out, so got a few of my mates around in the garage and I just fell in love with it from the first cut as cheesy as that sounds.
I started working at a salon doing ladies and gents hair, and from the word go I knew I wanted to cut guys hair because it was a bit more sculptured. At the salon, we had a few guys coming in and everyone used to be scared of cutting their hair probably for the reasons I liked cutting it. So the natural progression from that was to move into barbering and then in 2013 I opened Benjamin’s Barber Shop.
MARK: I’m from San Diego originally, I’ve been cutting hair professionally since 1999. An opportunity came up for me to work at the Waldorf in Dublin, which is the second oldest barber shop in Europe. If you’re a vintage barber dork – then you know about the Waldorf. So I went to work for them and we decided to open an American style place in Temple Bar, in Dublin. I did that for two years, but decided it was time for a change, so I moved to Manchester to work in a salon, which really wasn’t for me. Then through the grape vine I heard about Benjamin’s place, which was way more up my street so I moved to Edinburgh to work here in December 2014, Christmas just passed.
SO WHAT IS IT ABOUT A BARBERSHOP THAT IS DIFFERENT TO ANY OTHER HAIR SALON?
MARK: A place like Benjamin’s bridges the gap between the £5 barber and the £55 hair salon. It’s a happy medium. A barbershop is where a man can be a man. Like when a woman comes in you kind of change your demeanour a little bit but when it’s just the fellas it’s just the fellas, there’s banter, it’s kind of like a hang out for men to come to. They get here early for their appointment and stay late, it’s a good way to burn an hour and a half out of your day when the hair cut only takes 20 minutes.
SO YOU ARE GETTING THE LUXURY HAIR CUT WITH THE MORE AFFORDABLE PRICE?
BEN: Yes, with the masculine touch. It’s the whole experience as well.
DO YOU THINK THE SUCCESS OF BENJAMIN’S IS DOWN TO HOW SPECIALISED YOU ARE?
BEN: Yes definitely, I mean there have been a lot of suggestions on how I could do more with the shop, like sell clothes or coffee or have a bar but I just want it to be a men only barbershop. I’m a barber, I don’t have the same passion for all those other things, I’d rather have a good honest neighbourhood barber shop with no frills just doing a good honest job and doing good haircuts. Keeping my clients happy.
WHERE DID THE INSPIRATION COME FROM FOR THE INTERIORS OF THE SHOP?
BEN: I was always had a great interested in the older things, so the shops is just a personal reflection of me really it’s not trying to be anyone else or trying to be cool, this is all my stuff!
SO WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN THE OLD SCHOOL TECHNIQUES OF CUTTING HAIR?
BEN: I mean there is a craft involved in barbering. All the techniques we use have been passed down from other barbers so that alone shows inspiration from the older techniques, we’re not doing anything new. We’re putting our twist on things that have been done for decades. You build up your own ammunition of skills; some will be older techniques and some new.
DO YOU EVER USE THE OLDER TECHNIQUES HERE?
MARK: Well you need to think of volume, in the 30’s they wouldn’t have had the clippers we use now. You could compare it to cutting the grass with one of those mowers with no motor you know? Both will get the job done but with one you’re like oh it’s so old school and cool but I mean you’ll be there all day! So we want to be using all the newest most state of the art equipment while at the same time adding an old school feeling to the place with the music, the way you dress and the ambience. I mean it’s cool to know how to use them, because you show that you are respecting the old traditions.
YOU DO THE HOT TOWEL SHAVE HERE, WHAT IS THE APPEAL OF THAT?
MARK: This is more of a novelty. It’s relaxing; there is a facial involved but its very masculine. We get a lot of older guys who can’t shave themselves, or a guy getting married would bring his grooming party in for a wedding so it’s a really fun masculine, boys-only thing to do. It’s a treat; you’re getting pampered in a really masculine way.
FINALLY, WHAT TOOLS COULD YOU NOT LIVE WITHOUT?
BEN: Clippers, scissors and a comb. Take them anywhere and I could cut hair.