A look inside Three Chairs Grooming in Princes Risborough
PUBLISHED: 12:38 12 August 2016 | UPDATED: 12:38 12 August 2016
Something for the weekend? How about a facial and a craft beer? Sandra Smith just had to investigate for us
If it wasn’t for the mean and moody photos here you’d struggle to guess the type of business I’m describing. In rugged, rustic premises, craft beers and a collection of top brand Swedish clothes are on sale. Services range from hangover cures to wedding packages and creating the right imagery for customers is just as crucial as the leather sofas on which they are invited to relax, drink coffee made to order or browse a number of newspapers.
Not an obvious one to nail, is it, despite this being a familiar profession, one with a long history that has a presence on most High Streets? In fact it could be the location that might most surprise readers who expect to only find such on trend treats in the sharp and smart sections of Britain’s cities.
For this is Three Chairs Grooming – even the name is refreshingly quirky – a 21st century barbershop reinvention that owes its character to director Ryan Bartlett’s imagination in packaging his Princes Risborough location where he provides the ultimate in modern male grooming.
“My aim is to provide something a bit more ‘loungey’ so clients aren’t rushed in and out,” Ryan shares. We’re sitting in the spacious first floor salon. A customer who could easily be heading for a photoshoot, such is the precision of his hair, orders a beer before admiring a selection of Cheap Monday T shirts. Another ‘20 something’ sips coffee in between a head massage and style consultation. Yes, we really are in Princes Risborough, I promise.
“Imagery is a huge thing,” says Ryan. “A lot of men blow dry their hair these days. Everyone wants to look like the photographs in magazines and it’s nice to have blokes cut your hair.”
Ryan could easily grace such pages himself. He really looks the part, and his good looks are accompanied by an engaging level of modesty. Determination and focus may drive his business side, but he oozes humility when accepting my compliments about the atmosphere in Three Chairs Grooming.
Even the way he got into personal grooming is fascinating. At the age of 12 Ryan bought a cheap pair of clippers from Argos – a lot of us have done that - to cut his brother’s hair. This kick started his interest. Barbershop work followed before Ryan embarked upon a fast track training course at Covent Garden’s Saks Academy after which he was invited to assist the Art Director. Simultaneously he continued to build up his own loyal following by, wait for it… “Cutting hair in my garage.”
The desire to open his own business just wouldn’t go away and culminated in him viewing the Duke Street premises in 2014.
“It had been empty for 10 years, but I fell in love with the place. My dad’s a builder and together we reinvented this space, working day and night for several weeks painting, building a bar and sanding the floor. We opened 18 months ago.”
The services Ryan offers go way beyond a traditional haircut. Had one of those late nights you thought you were still young enough to survive with no ill-effects? Yes, we’ve all been there, too.
“Our hangover cure is like a wake up call and good for the skin,” he explains. “It includes a facial, steam machine, exfoliation and hot towels.”
And mindful that nuptials aren’t only about the bride looking her best, this company’s wedding package includes a consultation, champagne, face shave, head massage and Gentleman’s Haircut with optional food platters and group bookings (Best Man and ushers perhaps?)
Ryan’s resolute approach has resulted in an all round experience with every detail covered.
“Hairdressing is a technical way of cutting hair. I take on hairdressers and teach them barbering, which traditionally was taught by family and friends.
“Young, trendy guys are the ones who should be cutting hair. My staff are trained baristas, too, because we serve freshly ground coffee.”
He smiles when recalling a local council hearing he attended after applying for a drinks licence, leaving not only with the required paperwork but bookings from two of the councillors.
Balancing duties between his natural skill and running a business has, Ryan confesses, been a challenge. But his careful choice of personalities forms a unified team and, apart from one day per week dealing with admin, he relishes his time spent in the salon.
“I enjoy cutting hair as much as ever. If I’ve been busy with admin it only takes one hair cut to jump me straight back to square one. Hairdressing still interests me and I’m still learning.”
Sitting in this earthy environment makes me realise the clinical aura that pervades some women’s salons. This is much more homely. Ryan has his own dedicated space complete with an eclectic mix of seating and a pair of boxing gloves hanging over the edge of a mirror. An umbrella stand and a guitar propped against a couple of old suitcases add to the atmosphere whilst a few fairly tasteful photographs of - how shall I put this - underdressed females adorn the walls. But, hey, this is a blokes’ environment and I imagine most men would be more comfortable here than in a brightly decorated salon overflowing with women.
Not that Ryan is gender biased as far as his skills are concerned. He’s anyone’s! “I do bridal hair, too,” he tells me. “But what’s really nice about men’s hair is they don’t have colour, so it’s usually in good condition and not weighed down by length. Men’s hair is also generally thicker, more coarse and has more growth periods.”
Such is Ryan’s reputation, Three Chairs clients travel from as far away as Marlow, Beaconsfield and Oxford, which is why he’s tempted by a long term agenda to open more salons.
I’m as much taken with Ryan’s manner as his achievements. He is quietly spoken rather than effusive, modest not pretentious. Nevertheless, vision and commitment have prompted him to develop his own product range, another aim he has long harboured. Clays, beard oils and shampoos are displayed in an old dresser and each of his stylists educates customers regarding their benefit and application. He’s also been nominated for Barber Connect’s Barber of the Year, is toying with the idea of speakeasy events, and in September his classic Mini will double as a pop up salon at the Kop Hill Climb, a testing non-competitive charity event.
With such commercial insight, it’s no wonder Three Chairs Grooming is successful. The end user is happy, too. As I leave a smiling customer walks downstairs ahead of me and outside I can’t help noticing the way he buoyantly strides along the High Street, stopping to admire his newly trimmed beard in the reflection of every window. These boys… they just love looking at themselves in the mirror!