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“More Like A Museum than a barbers” - Getting a Chop at Hopkinson’s The Dandy Gent

24 May 21 words: Adam Pickering
photos: Curtis Powell

The Dandy Gent are new kids on the local barbering block, based on the first floor of Nottingham’s well-loved vintage bazaar and arts centre Hopkinson. Adam Pickering went in for a chop from these curious coiffure curators, and found a lot more than just a barbers...

Don’t worry, this isn’t an article all about me getting my hair cut. As much as some perverse people might enjoy hearing vivid descriptions about every subtle glide of the comb, delicate snip-snip of the scissors, and gentle brush of the barbers fingers against my submissive head, this writer has a job to do, and that’s to tell you about The Dandy Gent. This bonkers, boutiquey, yet somehow old school and thoroughly unpretentious barbers, is tucked away on the first floor at Hopkinson on Station Street, and it turns out that it couldn’t be better located in this vintage mecca.

The Hopkinson building’s been there since the 1880’s, originally opening as H. Hopkinson Ltd. - a family-run industrial engineers. It's a venue that comes with heaps of historic character, and its own ghost stories to boot. So walking in the place always feels a bit of a time warp; stepping through the homely yet grand entrance and cafe bar, past the walls of bric-a-brac, mirrors, artworks, pots, pans, and just about any other fancy pre-loved perusables you can imagine. I trudge up the friendly rainbow stairway and emerge into what at first appears to be an indoor street, with a tattoo shop, guitar lessons on offer through another doorway, and artist studios galore, but I didn’t have time for browsing; it had been chucking it down outside and, in taking shelter under the Motorpoint Arena’s generous awnings on my way over, I’d made myself late for this already well-overdue haircut.

 

As I enter The Dandy Gent itself, a couple of old men are holding court, with one being given a cut-throat shave by manager Sarah; both are giving her exactly the sort of light-hearted stick you would absolutely expect a couple of cheeky local lads their age to be, and I’m greeted with “grab a seat Adam I’ll sort you out in a minute” followed by an intendedly audible and tongue-in-cheek “I’ve just got to deal with some problem customers”. Of course, she didn’t mean it - they’re friends, she’d later explain, and the gentlemen in question was actually getting a freebie this time. I sit myself down with Rolo, the resident dog, who greets me with a warmth consistent with his human colleagues. He gratefully received a few pats, strokes, and the odd boop, and as I ease myself in, my eye wanders to the carefully curated cabinets and assorted furniture.

I thought downstairs was heaving with eye-catching kitschy goodness, but it seems that the inside of the barbers has almost as much stuff packed into it as the antiques market I’d just walked through. From vintage bikes and Coca Cola dispensers, to cabinets full of classic pomades and weird and wonderful beard oils, there’s much to entertain the eyes.

“Hi Adam, welcome - make yourself at home” Sarah says, catching up with herself, and while it sure is homely and there are ample friendly faces, it definitely feels indisputably more like a barber shop. It’s clearly not any old barber shop though. She introduces me to my barber for the session, Stu, who offers me a coffee, which given the soaking I’d just received outside, I don’t sniff at. “How’s it been settling into Nottingham then?” I ask Stu, who tells me that it’s been “a test coming to a new city without a client base, but we’re a good team, like a little family. And we’re still on the lookout for another new barber to grow the team a bit more”. 

But customers have been gradually finding out about them, and it seems like they’re making friends quickly. It’s a mixed bag too - as well of your proper salt of the Earth old school Notts types, they've got local office workers coming in, as well as younger townies making up an eclectic customer base. As I sit down for my cut, atmosphere still alive with the jabber of thick accents, we briefly talk about what I want doing to my bonce (sheepishly little off actually - I’m growing it out, much to my dad’s dismay, who thinks I looks likes one of The Beatles, and likes to shout “get your haircut” at me on every one of the numerous video we’ve had over the last year or so).

Stu’s bubbling with passion, and keen to tell me what The Dandy Gent’s means to him - he says that “it’s more than just hairdressing, it’s about self-confidence and taking care of yourself. It’s a safe space too, somewhere where people can talk about their mental health or whatever they need to chat about. There’s no judgement with hairdressers, we meet and speak to all sorts of people from all walks of life - you have to be a people person”. 

“Sorry about the kerfuffle” Sarah chuckles, as the elderly chaps finally and loudly depart. “Absolutely not” I say, it wouldn’t have been the same without them. Alongside the vintage stuff that isn’t for sale, they’ve got their own line of The Dandy Gent beard oils and waxes too. The branding and product design is all Sarah’s, a keen collector and designer. I learn that The Dandy Gent in Nottingham is actually their third outlet, with two in Derby, which based on a more Victorian decor scheme, hence the period feel to their logo, but the decor here draws on American post-war pop culture, and the reassuring familiarity of a bygone consumerist heyday.

The Notts-Derby rivalry at this point of course reared its ugly head and almost derailed this interview, but I’ll leave out the choice language that ensued for the sake of getting this piece past LeftLion’s own Derby County-supporting Editor. But in all seriousness, I’ve not seen another barbers or hairdressers operating on such a modest scale actually making their own hair products - it’s an impressive level of detail and entrepreneurialism. “It’s more like a museum than a barbers really” Sarah explains “I love everything Americana so that’s the vibe we’ve gone with here - most of the stuff came out of my home”. I ask about the array of decades-old Aero bars I’d spotted in one cabinet - “I’m into collecting old chocolate bars too. You’d probably better not eat them though, they might be past their best” she quips.

From the way Sarah explains her knocking on the doors of local Capital One offices to persuade workers to give them a try, and how she teamed up with Nottingham institution Wild Clothing to get some double-sided flyers done to reach the Hockley chazza and vintage loving crowd, it’s clear that they’re putting their whole hearts into The Dandy Gent.

It’s fairly priced too, a snip compared to a lot of their city centre competitors at £15 for a cut and style. This love for their work, their shop, and their inclusiveness is what really makes them different to other barbers - “for us, it’s about giving people a treat and something a bit memorable without pricing anyone out - we’re here for everyone” Sarah says, and Stu agrees, “yeah that’s it, and I think we just want people to come away feeling as though they’ve had a really good experience”.  

Well, a good experience it was, and it’s one I’d thoroughly recommend - thanks guys. 

thedandygent.co.uk

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