Pall Mall Barbers has just celebrated its 120th anniversary, so what is the key to its success and why do they appeal so much to the modern man?
Pall Mall Barbers first opened its doors in 1896 and has been serving London ever since, making it one of the oldest barbershops in the country. With locations in Trafalgar Square, Fitzrovia, Westminster and Bishopsgate, the team has over 350 years of international expertise and provides a mixture of old-school service and razor sharp techniques.
Richard Marshall, who founded the store as it is known today when he acquired the business in 2005, is passionate about combining heritage with modernity.
‘When I first saw the store, I could see that it had lost its way and I just wanted to get it back onto its journey. Once I’d taken it on, I received an email from a lady in Perth. A member of her family had passed away and she was rummaging through their loft and found two photos of the Saloon in its original state. It turns out that one of the barbers in the photo had to flee London before WWII, where he emigrated to Australia.’
They are rich in stories here and it’s this, in many ways, which keeps people coming back for more. ‘It’s all about the authenticity here and our legacy is what sets us apart,’ says Marshall.
‘We’re not just a barber shop that looks old, we have a real heritage. Not just myself, but the entire team are barbers, even our accountant. We weren’t born from a business idea; we were born from a passion. That said, we’re still open to new ideas and innovation. Our tag line is traditional service in a modern manner and that’s not just a slogan, it’s at the core of our business.’
We’re not just a barber shop that looks old, we have a real heritage. That said, we’re still open to new ideas and innovation
They’ve tried to keep the interiors as authentic as possible with original fixtures and fittings, and if you’ve ever been into one of their shops, you’ll notice the dark oak panelling and white metro tiles. Also, each store still has an original barber pole outside.
‘Our techniques are also traditional; we use the same tools such as the cut throat razor and front washbasin but, at the same time, we continue to develop through education,’ says Marshall. ‘Our barbers are the very best they can be and are always up to date with the latest techniques.’
I can’t help but wonder what it must feel like to work for a company that holds so much history. ‘It looks like my moisturiser is doing a very good job, doesn’t it?’ laughs Marshall. ‘Joking aside, celebrating the milestone of 120 years was amazing and fills us with great achievement. Having the history behind us gives us an edge and the ability to move forward in an ever-growing sector. It’s very special.’
Marshall tells me how barbering itself hasn’t changed that much over the years. Techniques have sharpened, he says, but trends have come and gone and the core values of barbering have stayed the same for centuries.
We are aware that the term gentleman is a little antiquated. The modern man is completely individual
‘The details have definitely improved and, by that, I mean the sensory experiences; the music, the environment and the rapport with the barber themselves,’ he says. ‘People want a bespoke service, something that is just for them so it’s important that’s reflected.’
But what is it that makes Pall Mall Barbers so appealing to the modern man, as their popularity is something that isn’t often seen elsewhere in the barbershop trade? ‘I think we are aware that the term gentleman is a little antiquated. The modern man is completely individual,’ says Marshall.
‘Trends have become a thing of the past and everyone who steps through our door interprets style differently, has a different lifestyle to the next and has a different connection with us. Pall Mall Barbers respects individuality and we like our clients to experience no barriers. We’re an extension of their grooming ritual and no matter how different they are, they come to us for one reason: to feel good.’
So what’s next? ‘We’re launching a new store in King’s Cross towards the end of the year,’ says Marshall. ‘It’s a 10-seater barber store, so our biggest yet. We’re also forming some great relationships internationally, so an expansion overseas is on the horizon too.’
the Lions Barber Collective:
tackling the mental health stigma
This sense of openness, compassion and inclusivity is something that stands out at Pall Mall Barbers, and it’s clearly something that is important to Marshall. They are a part of the Lions Barber Collective, a barbering group that urges hairdressers and barbers to join forces to tackle the stigma of mental health and male suicide.
‘By utilising their one-on-one time with customers to offer an ear to men, barbers are in the perfect opportunity to provide a listening ear and notice the first signs,’ says Marshall.
Barbers are in the perfect opportunity to provide a listening ear
‘One of my best friends committed suicide and it was a difficult experience for all of us. So many men don’t talk about their personal issues and are frightened to share them. We make sure our barbers know how to communicate and build friendships so clients feel open enough to share.’