New contemporary barbershop brings world-class talent to Newcastle
A new contemporary barbershop is changing men's grooming in the North East. We caught up with the founder of The Hoi Polloi, Steven Chapman.
By Laura Kingston
This sounds like something the North East has been waiting for! Can you tell us what a contemporary barbershop is? What can people expect when they visit?
For me, a contemporary barbershop brings the best from the barbershop and salon environments and merges them into one experience.
Right from the booking stage, we have an easy-to-use system on our website making it easy to make an appointment – no more standing around for hours on a Saturday morning.
Our cutting style merges clipper work you would traditionally find in a barber with scissor and razor techniques that you’d get in a salon.
It’s not a place for short back and sides then out the door. We go in-depth when doing our consultations, taking into account head shape, growth patterns and lifestyle to decide what will work for our customers. They can take a bit of time but this is how we really find out what the best cut will be for them.
All of our haircuts include a shampoo and condition which we believe aids the cutting process and really relaxes you too – it’s all part of the experience.
After the cut, we finish with our in-house products and advise how to style at home so they can recreate the look.
The atmosphere we create at The Hoi Polloi is really important to us – it’s relaxed and friendly. Some men can be self-conscious about saying what they really want to do with their hair. Our approach creates an environment that allows men to talk comfortably and enjoy a premium service from start to finish.
So you have three barbers in the shop bringing together experience from New York, LA, Singapore and London – tell us more about this and what you’re now bringing back to the North East?
I’ve been working in Asia for the last five years. I was general manager of a shop in Singapore as well as doing press launches for brands such as Burberry and Aesop throughout South East Asia. I now have a 2-year-old daughter so we wanted to move back to the North East to be closer to family.
The stars really aligned when I reached out to Sam Hickey who was an old colleague in London. He has been recently travelling around cities in America – New York, Los Angeles and Seattle to name a few – doing pop-up barbershops and training staff for Murdock London.
When I found out he was based in the North East it felt like fate. I think our experience around the world combined with how long we have both been barbering really makes us stand out from the crowd. We are both passionate about passing on that experience and knowledge to young barbers to grow and develop them and the brand as a whole.
Where did the name The Hoi Polloi come from?
I have had the name in my head for years. I came across the phrase ‘you don’t want to mix with the hoi polloi’ and wanted to look into what it meant. I discovered that The Hoi Polloi means the everyday man. The dictionary definition says the masses, the common person. In our shop we want everyone to feel welcome regardless of background, status or sexuality everyone will get the same great level of service.
How does barbering differ in the North East? Are there any particular trends that are really popular here?
The North East is a lovely place to work. Newcastle as a city is at a really exciting point. I feel that there are lots of cool and independent brands emerging and we are happy to be a small part of the culture up here. We have been serving a diverse mix of people so there is no standout look in particular, although the guys up here definitely love a skin fade.
Let’s talk beards – what services do you offer for beard maintenance?
Our beard service really makes us stand out due to the number of customers that have said they have been waiting for years for this service to be available in Newcastle.
As with our haircuts, we do a full consultation with every beard trim. We look at all the small details that can annoy the client when having a beard and look to ensure that they are able to work with it and maintain their beard properly.
Every beard trim is then finished with hot towels and a razor finish. It’s the ultimate way to relax. We cleanse and nourish the beard as well as giving styling and maintenance tips to allow the customer to keep on top of it at home.
Are you one of the only places in Newcastle to offer traditional wet shaves? What are the benefits of this?
We have been shaving as barbers for years so it made complete sense to offer this as a service, unlike other barbershops who steer away from it.
Due to our experience in other parts of the world, we are very competent in it and I feel it really sets us apart.
The benefits of a traditional wet shave in comparison to a shave at home is down to the closeness of using a single blade razor and it is actually beneficial for the skin compared to using a Gillette razor.
We use less blades and only need one or two passes on the skin. Compare this to three or four passes with a Mach 3 and our wet shaves do the job in half the strokes of the razor whilst reducing the risk of ingrown hairs, irritation and sensitivity.
We can see shots of whisky and beers in your brand video – is it more than just the barbering experience for men visiting The Hoi Polloi?
When the guys come in, they are able to grab a freshly brewed coffee made by us in-store using Pink Lane Coffee beans, or sip on something stronger from our draft Wylam Brewery dispenser.
We’re currently offering Jakehead on draft, a true Geordie favourite. Whisky is always a winner in a barbershop and we currently have a trio of different tipples on offer – how can you refuse that before, during or after a service with us?
Our music tastes vary from barber to barber too but we aim to keep the atmosphere calm yet contemporary – you might see us mix from hip-hop and R’n’B to indie and rock, with even a sprinkle of jazz in the middle too!
Ultimately, The Hoi Polloi is a place to come, sharpen up, relax with a beverage, converse with your barber and enjoy the overall experience.