HOW DID YOU GET INTO BARBERING?
After going to university and working various jobs I knew weren’t right for me, I started doing evening classes with two local barbers. To be honest I couldn’t understand any of the concepts at first! But I now know that it’s because I was undiagnosed with autism and ADHD. I need to learn in a very specific way. I then decided to head for London where I completed my NVQ2 in barbering. I really enjoyed learning the fundamentals of barbering and how to execute certain styles. I then came back to Dundee and worked for Jeff Thomson in his barbers ‘The Bombay Club’. I always think you can’t stop learning in this profession, so I went to SB Barbering Academy. I was taught by Vikki Harrison Smith and, not only has she now become a good friend, but she was an amazing teacher too. She knew that I had mental health issues even without me saying. Vikki realised I could cut hair but I needed to learn in a structured way. Her and all of her team really supported me.
WHEN DID YOU SET UP YOUR SHOP AND WHY IS IT CALLED THE FAMILY BUSINESS BARBERSHOP?
I opened my own shop in 2018 and my aim was for my son and brother to work alongside me. My son Lucas is a sponsored skateboarder and all the skate gear in the shop is thanks to him. However, when he finished school he decided to become a mechanic instead. However, I am now teaching him barbering in the evenings hoping that one day we will stand alongside one another as barbers. Family is very important to me. He is like my twin –we both wear the same clothes and love music, trainers and, of course, skateboarding! But now the shop name works on another level because the shop has become like a family, it’s like the local hub. I treat everyone that walks through my doors as family. I’m always helping people and people are always helping me. For example, everyone that gets their hair cut signs their name or tag on my homemade table (which is made out of surfboards and kegs!)
WHY IS BEING AN ADVOCATE FOR MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS SO IMPORTANT TO YOU?
It’s very easy to tell as soon as you meet me that I have learning and mental health issues. I have been diagnosed with autism, ADHD, bi polar type 2, borderline personality disorder and complex PTSD. But these labels have lots of positive aspects. I have high levels of energy, I’m enthusiastic, and I always see the good in people. I’m proactive and I’m part of organisations to end mental health stigma and campaign for more services in Dundee. It might be surprising to hear, but I’m not always talking mental health! I want people’s experiences around me to be fun, but also at the same time professional. I think having various mental illnesses has helped my business in a lot of ways. Being autistic I struggle with noise and can completely understand how something as simple as a haircut can be difficult for those with autism. People have come in my shop crying and left laughing. Mental health was in my business plan and I will never stop talking on every social media platform about my struggles, my coping strategies, but also my achievements. I want people to know it’s possible to live with these issues if you have the correct support.
”MY LABELS HAVE LOTS OF POSITIVE ASPECTS. I HAVE HIGH LEVELS OF ENERGY AND I’M ENTHUSIASTIC.”
I KNOW SUPPORTING THE LOCAL COMMUNITY IS IMPORTANT TO YOU – HOW DO YOU DO THIS?
I always aim to be sympathetic, empathetic and affable. I opened the shop in the community where I grew up. The area has poverty and drug issues – and most importantly a lot of people have mental health struggles. I wanted to put money back into the community. Whenever I do demos or free haircuts, I always ask the clients to give a donation to the local foodbank. I support everything local, the shop was rebuilt by a guy just out of prison. All the artwork was created by a good friend Gav Guyan, the photography was all done from Craig Doogan who was the year above me at school, who goes by the name of Funkmaster Doogan on Instagram. I also support two clothing ranges from two good friends of mine – ‘Cho’ clothing range and ‘Frontside Clothing, which is an organic range of skateboarding clothes started by Craig McKnight who sadly passed away in 2009. This range has been brought back to life again by a good friend Smod and its new home is in my shop.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO A BARBER WHO IS STRUGGLING WITH THEIR OWN MENTAL HEALTH?
My policy is ‘honesty is the best policy’. If you don’t like that, then tough. I didn’t ask to be born with mental illness. If you’re struggling tell your closest colleagues, boss, friends, family or speak to professional agencies or charities immediately. I have lost three friends to suicide in recent years. I would never want anyone to hide about the way they are feeling because of the stigma attached to mental health. I have a quote on my mirror which is from Eleanor Roosevelt and it says “You must do the things you think you cannot do”. At my lowest points I always try and remember this. You can do it, you are loved and your life is important to a lot of people. That’s something I have forgotten a lot of times in my darkest places – but I am still here. You can do it.