After leaving university in the UK in 2013, and asking his travelling friend a thousand questions, Sam Squires decided to leave the sweet valleys of Swansea, booked a ticket and picked up a backpack for a new adventure. “I was working in business development and marketing. I had a friend travelling and I always wanted to travel,” he says. So he headed for Australia and had such a great time, he decided he wanted it to be more than just a holiday. After returning from his travels, Sam applied for his visa and got cracking on his new career. “My mother was a hairdresser and I always kept a hand in the industry. I moved into barbering after travelling and applied for a visa,” Sam explains. “I came back to work in Swansea and got my qualifications before heading back to Oz!”
Backbone’s original location on the Gold Coast was a threechair barbershop opened in 2018, which was followed by a five-chair shop and academy. However, due to the pandemic, both now run as busy barbershops, with Sam’s friend Sean Hayes from Ireland, running the second location.
Sam describes the Gold Coast as paradise. “I get to live on the beach with a great community feel. I live on the suburbs of the northern end and it’s a really chilled culture, lots of surfing, great restaurants, great sports and it’s a beautiful place,” Sam says. A more relaxed pace than Melbourne or Sydney has allowed Sam to have a great work/life balance and juggle his two shops alongside his wife and daughter.
Sam has seen the barbering scene in Australia go from strength to strength, though still sees room for improvement. “The development and training is not where the UK is, but it’s on the rise,” he says. Sam, and his colleagues, have been working on their own education platform, to catapult the learning of prospective barbers in Australia and supply their own shops with talented individuals trained to high standards.
Unfortunately, the lack of good training has resulted in a lack of excellent barbers looking for jobs, which has provided some challenges for Sam when recruiting staff.
“We are actually reaching out to people in the UK and all over Australia hoping to find some quality barbers that can come on board and join the team,” he explains. “We are looking to expand into more shops, but have always had a hand in training and education. I’ve been an educator for the best part of four years working with businesses and providing private training. We would like to move into a realm where we can run our own academies and siphon off the best barbers in the industry and put them into Backbone Barbershops.”
Thanks to the rise of social media, most places across the world tend to have similar hair trends, however Australia does lead the way with one particular haircut. “We haven’t moved away from fades and skin fades, they are still super popular haircuts,” Sam tells us, “but the fun trend in Australia is a mullet. It started as something ironic and has quickly become the style of choice. Many of the AFL (Australian Football League) players are rocking a mullet at the moment, so lots of barbers have put their own spin on trying to make them really trendy and stylish, but also we have a lot of shaggy and really out there mullets. The mullet is the big trend.”
Sam’s shops don’t just cater for shaggy mullets though; hot on the most wanted list are his collagen facial services and luxury beard sculpts. So much so, that Sam won the 2022 Australian Enterprise Award for Queensland Barber of the Year!
With his new life set up and flourishing in Australia, and much to the upset of his mother, Sam has no plans to move back. “I had an amazing time growing up in Wales, and have loads of friends and family there, but Australia is an amazing place for opportunity and growth,” he says.
“To anybody considering a move, just do it. If you’re thinking about it constantly, just do it,” he advises. “It’s a massive risk, I was 21 but didn’t look back.”
Sam is recruiting in both his shops and can assist with arranging relevant documentations. Find Backbone Barbershop online and have a chat if you’re considering a move across to Australia, as, like Sam, this could be one move you never regret!