The X Factor's resident hair stylist almost ended up as a professional footballer. Instead, he's winning hairdressing trophies left, right and centre
Both hairdressing and football are in your blood… how did you choose between the two?
Yes indeed, my mum was a hairdresser as well as my grandmother and great-grandfather whilst my dad was a professional footballer, so both were definitely in my blood! It wasn’t so much a choice, more cause and effect. I had started out following my father’s footsteps in professional football early on in my teenage years, but a serious injury cut short my dreams of Premiership glory. My mum had a hair salon and having spent lots of time in that environment, hairdressing naturally appealed to me as my football career had to come to an end.
You rose to the top of the hairdressing industry incredibly fast. What was your big break? Was there anyone you worked with who was especially influential?
In 2006 I won a place on an industry youth talent team, called the Fellowship for British Hairdressing F.A.M.E Team. I was exposed to lots of opportunities and leading figures in the industry. I really maximised this by making myself available to everyone and for everything and working every hour I could to gain as much experience as possible. Another big break was when I won the British Hairdressing Awards Men’s Hairdresser of the Year, which caught the eye of Gok Wan, who booked in for a hair appointment with me. He already had a hair stylist working on his TV shows but there was one day that they couldn’t do, so I was called in by his agent to fill in and the production team were so impressed that I soon became the main hair stylist on all his shows, which led to all the TV work that I do now. I’ve been fortunate to work with lots of inspirational people, but I would have to say that the most influential person in my career is still my mum, who taught me everything I know!
You’ve won almost every hairdressing accolade out there. Do you have a trophy cabinet? Are there any that you haven’t yet won that you’re aiming for?
It’s so nice to be recognised for the work we do, especially accolades for my team and salon. For example, we recently won HAIR Magazine’s London Salon of the Year which is a real stamp of approval, given the amount of top salons in the city and so we are very proud of this – all of our trophies have pride of place in our salon. Plus both Tasha and Megan Stevens (my sister and wife respectively, who are both amazing hairdressers and part of my team) are Grand Finalists in this year’s L’Oréal Colour Trophy. Personally, there is one award that I’m aiming for that I would love to win and this is HJ’s British Hairdresser of the Year Award – the industry’s most coveted accolade. In my first year of nomination I was the joint youngest ever to be nominated in the award’s history and this is now my third consecutive year of being shortlisted, alongside seven other leading hair stylists. Here’s hoping that saying third time lucky applies here, though luck of course has nothing to do with it!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I’m a real people person and so ultimately for me, it’s the power of being able to make someone feel totally amazing about themselves. They could be having the worst day and to be able to cheer someone up and give someone more confidence or positivity about themselves with a cut or a colour is very rewarding. I also love the diversity this career brings. One day I’m in the salon cutting hair, the next on a photo-shoot, styling hair for TV, doing press appointments or having business meetings. I really do love my job!
Are there any downsides to your job or anything you find tough?
I do a lot of overseas education and show work, which is a great experience – the only downside being is when I’m travelling a lot, I’m often working 24/7 which takes me away from those close to me, so that can be hard at times, as well as the jetlag!
Would you say that you have a signature style or favourite cut?
I’ve always strived to master a wide range of looks and make versatility my strength, rather than being pinned down to any one signature style as such. This is demonstrated in the variety of awards I’ve won and been nominated for, from Afro and Men’s to strong cuts and fashion-led editorial styling for women. My emphasis is always on doing something that is beautiful, suitable and wearable, while maintaining a bit of an edge at the same time. As for my favourite cut, I’ll always love the bob, when done beautifully.
Any hair no-nos?
I always say to my older clients that just because they’re getting older doesn’t mean they have to get an ‘old’ haircut - mature can still mean fashionable. I also see a lot of clients constantly fighting against their hair, rather than working with it - embrace what you have! Other common no-nos are generally things that are taken to extreme i.e. over-processed colour, over-styled hair and the number one no-no must be to use heated styling tools without using a thermal heat protector beforehand – what other part of your body would you put into contact with over 200 degrees of heat without protection?!
Who does your hair?
Generally that would be my wife, Megan, who is an incredible hair stylist in her own right. She knows what I like and I trust her with everything, including my hair!
Is there anyone’s hair that you’d love to do that you haven’t as yet?
I’d love to work with Rihanna because she’s always up for experimenting with her cut and colour, every hair stylist's dream!
What advice would you give to budding hair stylists?
Firstly, I think it’s important to set up some clear goals and discover what truly makes you happy. There are so many avenues in hairdressing, from cutting and styling to colouring, working in the salon or joining a session agency to styling hair for TV, film or the fashion industry. It’s good to understand what will be best suited to you early on in your career so that you can work towards this. Then it’s really just about working every hour possible to reach your goals and gain as much experience as possible. I’d also recommend surrounding yourself with talented people - if you want to be the best, you’ve got to work with the best and always push yourself.
What’s the most essential product in your kit?
Firstly, I don’t go anywhere without Matrix Design Pulse Loosely Defined , £10.95, it’s a brilliant, versatile product that works on all hair types - it adds a soft, touchable hold and texture to any style. There’s also Mega Dust , £10.95, from the same range which is ideal for creating lots of matte texture and volume. It’s a great product for when you’re on the go and you need something to take you from day to night. Simply shake a little of the product into your roots and massage in with your fingertips and you have lots of instant movement and body.
Are you into grooming yourself or do you practice a more au naturel approach?
I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’m rather metrosexual in my approach to grooming, from skin and hair care to fragrance – my favourite (and my wife’s) is Dior Homme , from £47.50.
Who are your top people in health, fitness and beauty?
I’m really into keeping fit, and I really rate James Duigan ’s Bodyism. His holistic approach to fitness, wellbeing and nutrition is great. Also, Dr Gurs Sehmi at the Kensington Clinic for his expert dentistry skills.
What’s coming up in your diary that you’re really excited about?
Everything – as I said I love my job and every day brings something new! My diary is packed with international shows and seminars so I’ve got lots of travelling coming up, as well as my photographic shoot for British Hairdresser of the Year. There are also other plans in the pipeline, which I can’t mention just yet, but I’m very excited about them!
Finally, how do you like to switch off from the day job? Do you have a favourite chill out destination?
I find it so difficult to relax as I’m always on the go, but I start to relax on the second week of a holiday so it’s good to get away for a period of time every now and then. The last place I went to was Mykonos, which was amazing, so that’s currently my favourite destination!