Huckle barbers spill the beans
What is session styling? A session stylist’s job, in a nutshell, is to prepare models’ hair for fashion shows and photoshoots. If you’re good enough your skill with a pair of scissors will become a passport to a fast-paced, international lifestyle.
Three barbers who work at Huckle are also session stylists. They work globally, assisting the best stylists in the business, cutting celebrities’ hair and creating wild styles at the very pinnacle of fashion.
All Huckle barbers are highly skilled of course, but session styling is an interesting and little-known world that’s worth lifting the lid on. We caught up with Darren, Alfie and Laurence to find out how they got into the fashion industry, what the job’s like and how session styling has made them better barbers.
My mum was a hairdresser and I used to go with her during the school holidays. I loved it because her clients, mostly old ladies, told great stories. Years later my brother’s mate was working at Lee Stafford in Soho and he encouraged me to get into hair. At that time there was a TV show called The Salon, which showed me the reality of the job outside old ladies’ houses. I was hooked.
Becoming a session stylist
Being an apprentice means lousy hours and lousy pay but I got a good education. I moved from salon to salon then ended up working in Shoreditch. My first session styling job was working with Tyler Johnston, global ambassador for Schwarzkopf Professional. That was a result for me because the boss at a salon that had let me go, and told me I wasn’t good enough, always rated Tyler highly.
50 styles in four hours
I’m so grateful to have worked with some of the best in the business. Shows I’ve worked on recently include Hermès, Lanvin, Salvatore Ferragamo and Paul Smith. You usually have about four hours to get ready for the shows. Working in teams we style 30, 40 or sometimes even 50 models’ hair in that time.
My most memorable show was the Cedella Marley collaboration with Puma showcasing the new Jamican 2012 Olympic kit. I was styling hair of course, but Jason Marley asked me to model too and do the runway show with Usain Bolt.
Working at Huckle the Barber
Working at Huckle keeps my feet on the ground. There’s a real friendliness and transparency that you don’t get at other barber shops. And they play good music, which is so important when you’re on your feet all day cutting hair.
My session styling work has given me rich experience so I don’t get phased by any requests. Try me!
I’ve worked my way up over the years and now I’m first assistant to Eugene Souleiman.
We fly all over the world together, it’s hectic but exciting. When we travel we have 12 suitcases full of hair kit. You wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff.
Eugene is requested to work on shows with designers like Acne, Stella McCartney, Yohji Yamamoto, Thom Browne, Maison Margiela and so on, and I help him on the jobs. Session styling is very different to working in a barber shop or salon. You might have 30 years’ salon experience but once you start in the session styling world you’re a novice again.
Session styling is a fast-paced world
I love New York, Venice and LA, but we don’t get many beach jobs sadly. Eugene is known for wacky, full-on hair. Not the kind of thing people want on the glossy commercials which is mainly beautiful blowdries.
It’s a fantastic job though, very dynamic. I’m always moving, always meeting new people. I’ve got a tendency to be quite introverted and this work forces me to come out of myself, which I like.
The perfectionism of being a session stylist
I’ve built up so much experience that I can offer clients really good tips and advice. Eugene is a brilliant haircutter, he’s taught me so much technique. There’s perfectionism in his work which has rubbed off on me. I’ve learnt to be precise, create a good foundation and go from there.
Fashion and session styling take inspiration from the street
In recent years there’s been a trend for street casting. Designers want to tap into the authenticity of the cool kid who just throws his outfit together and shaves his own head. Fashion takes inspiration from subcultures. Like the skater boy phase. Remember that?
I hated school so when I hit 16 I got an hairdressing apprenticeship and left. I did my training at the Toni & Guy Academy, then joined the team at their flagship store on Sloane Square in Chelsea.
Clients are not the same as models
As a session stylist you’re not working with clients and responding to their requests. You’re dealing with photographers and art directors. You don’t really discuss the hair with the models, they’re just having it done to them!
On the road as a session stylist
The major shows take up about four months of the year. Recently I’ve worked on shows for Prada, Alexander McQueen, Dior, Maison Margiela and Givenchy. Outside the shows I’m usually working on photoshoots.
Two of my favourite stylists to work with are Eugene Souleiman and Guido Palau. Working with them has been a real eye opener. The standard they’re at, the techniques they use - it’s incredible what they can do with hair!
I moved to Paris in June this year so I’m just settling in. My French is terrible but I’m learning. I love it here, it’s much smaller than London and really feels like you can walk everywhere.
What session styling teaches barbers
Session styling has taught me new techniques and my skill level has definitely gone up. I’m more in touch with the world of fashion and changing trends, and I’m confident about trying new things. I don’t get any outrageous requests at Huckle but I have done a few mullets. I thought it was funny at the time but now I’ve got a mullet so the laugh’s on me!
Huckle the Barber offers London gents smart cuts, beard trims and wet shaves, on Old Street and Lamb’s Conduit Street. Book online here.