INTRODUCING MR SOUTHERN
We are excited to introduce our newest member to Hidden Heights Creative Studio. Heres a little introduction from the man himself and his journey from an apprentice to a Mens hair stylist.
Hi, my name is Chris Southern and I wanted to introduce myself. It started in my early 20’s, I was made redundant from a job in a call centre. Before then, I had left school, it was a steady stream of failed courses and college drop outs which lead on to dead end jobs, giving me just enough money in my pocket .I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, or what I wanted to achieve, but I was young and had plenty of time to figure it out, right?
So, from my redundancy I got lucky with a tidy little sum of money, which allowed me to go travelling around Australia for a year. This was an incredible adventure, and it really broadened my mind, my way of thinking. Well you know how it goes, your stereotypical travelling story of finding yourself haha. On this adventure I found it was the people I met that moulded my way of thinking. Every experience was a great one but most of all it was the people I came across that influenced me. These people were mainly at or had just finished university and were experiencing a 1 year break before they started their careers. This actually had a negative affect to a certain extent and it made me feel ashamed to not have any direction or drive in my life. From that moment on I used that feeling as my driving force and for that I am thankful for my time in Australia.
This was the moment I decided I wanted a trade, something visual, artistic that I could take anywhere in the world. Dare, a young Yorkshire lad say it, but I wanted to be a hairdresser. So I did some research and found a course that was a 6 month course, NVQ level 2 at the end of it with a reputable company called Saks in Darlington. Dedicated, I moved to Darlington for 6 long months. The course was great, really nice people, I learnt the basics, I enjoyed it, however at that point I didn’t know if it was my calling.
After my time at Saks I ventured back to Leeds, I wasn’t really sure what was next or where I was going but I love to throw myself in the deep end. I started to hand out CV’s in Leeds and Manchester, feeling a bit lost for the duration of this period as well as deflated as I didn’t think I would find anything. It was a while that I was in Leeds handing out CV’s until one day I saw Vidal Sassoon. Now obviously I was aware of the company, and there prestige, so I wasn’t going to go in at first, I thought “as if, keep dreaming mate”, but something pushed me to do it, it was pretty scary, the staff looking effortlessly cool, crafting perfect haircuts, what was I doing in here. I handed in my CV and amazingly I got offered an opportunity which involved moving to Newcastle and work in brand new salon they were about to open. I had always had the mindset of a traveller, especially after a year in Oz it made me stronger. I could never wait to experience different cities as a youngster so off I went. I jumped at the chance, albeit feeling very much out of my league and certainly out my depth. They had stylists coming up from London, people who had worked for years with Sassoon making the move however I knew this would be perfect for me, to be wrapped around such experience. I was so excited.
The opportunity they gave me was a 6 month contract as an assistant, Once the 6 months were up, I faced the most difficult test which would make or break my chance of becoming a Sassoon Stylist. Needless to say this was the hardest thing I’d have ever done, if you weren’t cutting you were model hunting, especially in a new city, earning an assistants wage, it was exhausting but also the most rewarding and inspiring journey, it was here I fell in love with hair.
I spent the next 5 years at Sassoon, working my way up to a level 2 stylist and future creative. After these incredible years the most difficult decision in my career came. After much deliberation I decided to leave as I just wasn’t getting the same enjoyment out of it. Part of my decision was based on the fact I had built up a steady stream of male clients and was really enjoying that side of the industry, and I wanted to explore it further. Hairdresser to barber, was this now my focus?
One day I was walking around Newcastle town centre when I saw this cool barbershop. It was great, I walked through the downstairs vintage shop and followed the steps that led into the barbers, I opened the door to a man’s paradise, don’t get me wrong it was very different to what I was used to, but the smells and the décor, the banter, It gave me a huge buzz. After a while I got to know the owner whom eventually offered me a job, so while working my notice, I continuously went after work to observe and soak up as much as possible from my new surroundings. Remember, I had never used a razor, a pair of clippers were never allowed at Sassoon’s, I had to learn all of these new things and techniques, so once again found myself in a zone I was completely uncomfortable with. I loved it though and immersed myself in it everyday, when I wasn’t working I would be eating, sleeping and breathing barbering. I became obsessed, it was a fantastic introduction to the industry.
I woke up one day and that spontaneous side combined with my drive for knowledge lead me onto my next move and before I knew it I was moving to London. I spent 2 years at Murdock’s London in Covent Garden. I learnt a whole new dimension to the industry here, customer service was paramount, it wasn’t just about cutting hair it was creating an experience for the customer, I started shaving here, cutting beards even the occasional manicure. I left a much more well-rounded barber and loved every minute.
After living in London for 2 years an opportunity came up to move to Brighton, working with a company called AONO. This experience I felt would benefit me and I wasn’t wrong. This shop was at the forefront at that time of everything cool that was happening in the industry, they had created a huge buzz, they were cutting at tattoo conventions, music festivals etc, my head was turned. I spent one year working here, getting some amazing opportunities to cut hair in the shop with some very talented barbers but also at festivals in the UK and overseas.
I left Brighton and I went back to London, and to be honest I was feeling a bit lost at this point. I had gained so many amazing experiences, met so many amazing people and made incredible friends, but something was still missing. We’ve all felt it right? I would tend to think back to my time at Sassoon, I would miss the environment, the creative output, the energy. Again asking my self more questions…. Was the barbershop the right place for me?
The answer was yes, but I figured I was missing the right connection with a boss, the right vision, the right environment to produce work in that I can look back on and be proud. Doesn’t mean their vision was wrong I just didn’t quite know what it was I was looking for at the time. I worked in few barbershops after this, I won’t name all the barbershops after AONO, they were great shops with great barbers and great people, but my heart just wasn’t in it.
I needed a change, this might sound drastic but I moved to Spain. My traveller came out in me, I wanted a Change of lifestyle, change of pace. I needed to take stock and rethink where I was going with my career. Once I started work in Spain I started to enjoy cutting hair again and loved what I was creating, no more one in one out without time to reflect, this was where I found time to look at my work and enjoy the process from start to finish.
My journey in hair has been incredible but now the time is right to return home, I missed the buzz of the hair scene in the UK. Another question this time arose…. How easy will it be to find the right place?
I know myself better now so I know what I’m looking for and I know how important it is for myself to find that right environment as it would continue my journey with the vision I have. I was researching business models that were places to cut hair but not necessarily barbershops, more like studios, places like Morris motley and Ky Wilson and believe it or not ultimately my soon to be boss Mr Sam Wall at Hidden heights studio.
Sam in Newcastle, has been putting out some truly amazing images in magazines and via social media. I could see he was working out of this creative space that was just different, they did hair, beauty, makeup and also had an amazing photographer in the studio, one would say “a creative’s dream”. I just had to reach out. I did just that, I got in touch with Sam directly and during this conversation it was explained that he was looking to expand his brand, he said he was looking for the right person to come on board. So after a few skype meetings passed and many phone calls were had, we both agreed the timing was right, the planets aligned and I am excited to say I will be starting work on Monday February 5th, the power of social media, hey. Just goes to show anything is possible and I cant wait to get amongst the Hidden Heights Crew!
Chris Southern - Mr Sam Wall Team Member at Hidden Heights Creative Studio