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The Grooming Room: Murdock London

The Grooming Room: Murdock London

“You can’t fight hair. At the end of the day, it will always come out on top; you’ve got to work with what you’ve got”

Gavin Sharp, Master Barber at upmarket gentlemen’s barbers Murdock, knows a thing or two about the age-old battle between man and mane. It’s a battle I’ve been losing for as long as I can remember, so I’ve headed to Murdock’s Covent Garden location to put my mop in Gavin’s more-than-capable hands for the morning. Murdock has expanded over the years and now has seven branches across central and East London. The company, which was established in 2008 out of Shoreditch, takes its inspiration from Victorian-era style in pursuit of what it calls “masculine luxury”. They’ve earned a reputation for blending cutting-edge style with old-world charm.

Their Covent Garden barbershop, located on the upmarket Monmouth Street, is a perfect example of this, adding its own twists to the classic barbershop experience. The salon boasts its own well-stocked bar (my appointment being at ten in the morning, I turned down the customary G&T upon arrival, though it was tempting), a Victoriana-meets-contemporary decor with artfully askew pictures and even a wall-mounted stuffed boar’s head, affectionately named Nigel by the barbers and regulars. There isn’t a single two-year-old copy of GQ in sight; instead, there’s a selection of first-edition classics to read while you wait. The company also sells a wide selection of its own own gentleman’s grooming products in-store, which has expanded hugely in the past few years, ranging from hair essentials and accessories to British colognes and skincare products.

I’m not normally one for barber chat – my local barber’s in South London is more of a ten-minutes-and-you’re-done affair - but Gavin knows his way around a conversation as well as he does a head of hair, putting me quickly at ease. We’re soon chatting about everything from the Gallagher brothers - Noel can regularly be spotted near one of Murdock’s central London locations, apparently - to a question that’s been plaguing me for years: whether or not barbers cut their own hair. Spoiler alert: they don’t.

Gavin’s got some great tips for keeping your hairstyle in check, too. As a long-standing sufferer of thick curly hair, I only need to think about my hair growing for it to spiral off into every direction, so Gavin’s expert suggestions throughout our conversation were music to my ears. I opted for a short-back-and-sides style that would look smart without being stuffy, one that would require minimal effort in the mornings. Gavin obliged, blending my hair through the sides and taking weight out the back, meaning that I wouldn’t need to worry about my hair growing out too quickly or disproportionately.

Read on for some pearls of wisdom from Gavin, and much-guarded tips of the trade.

On the secret to using hair gel or wax . . .
Don't put it in if your hair’s completely dry. Towel-dry your hair off a little, then add in gel or wax while you’re hair’s still wet. Adding product before your hair’s completely dry helps it to hold in shape; from there, just give it a quick blow-dry and you’re good to go.

On dealing with stubborn hair . . .
Go with what you’ve got, and make your hair work for you. If you’ve got thick hair, work it slowly with a hairdryer, and move around the kinks. If you’ve got darker hair, try some of our Matte Mud to give your hair all-day texture.

On how long to leave it between haircuts . . .
It all depends on how quickly your hair grows. If you’ve got fast-growing hair, you’ll get about a month out of it post-haircut. It’s more about the shape; for a short style, as soon as you start to see an imbalance on the back and sides, it’s time to get it cut.

On the barber-client relationship . . .
Over the years, you realise that people come to you not just for a hair cut, but because they trust you. You can forget that if somebody’s coming at you with scissors, or with a cutthroat razor, there’s a lot of trust involved. People can feel more comfortable talking to a barber than to their friends, because they know it won’t get back to anybody they know, and because it’s so confidential. It’s like doctor-patient confidentiality.

On the best thing about being a barber . . .
The conversations. Not everybody wants to talk, but a lot of people need to get things off their chest. It’s a great feeling when a customer comes in stressed, but leaves having talked through what they needed to.
Words: Jake Hills