Beards are booming. You can’t move without coming face-to-face with facial hair. You’d think this would be bad for business for barber and wet shave expert Chris Moon, but it’s not. When I meet him at his shop in North Shields I find he’s even sporting a beard himself. ‘I went on holiday last September and forgot to take my razor so just let it grow,’ he explains while preparing for the wet shave he’s about to treat Living North to. ‘I get loads of people with beards coming in for trims. People see I’ve got a beard and trust I know what I’m doing – the beard trend has been really good us.’
He certainly does know what he’s doing. A self-confessed wet-shave geek Chris regularly trawls the internet for the latest tricks and tips. One of his favourite blogs belongs to a guy called Miguel Gutierrez, AKA The Nomad Barber. ‘He’s travelling the world at the minute looking at different barbering techniques, posting videos and blogs online as he goes. With wet shaves everyone gets the same end product but they all use their own techniques, my style’s developed loads in the short time I’ve been doing them professionally.’
Chris is a third generation barber himself. His grandad opened the family’s first shop in 1938. Hotspur Hairdressing was beneath Whitley Bay’s Hotspur Ballroom with the name changing to Kutz when Chris’s dad took over. Today the family have three shops: two in Whitley Bay (managed by Chris’s dad and brother Steven) and one in North Shields where Chris cuts hair and performs wet shaves.
Chris studied IT when he left school – ‘I hated every minute of it’ – and didn’t pick up a pair of hair clippers until he was 20. Before that he worked as an Assistant Manager in a local pub. ‘I thought, “How long is it before I become a manager and get stuck in a pub for the rest of my life?”’ He was persuaded to join the family business 12 years ago and agreed to give it a couple of months – he loved it. ‘I’m 32 now and for the last few years I’ve really wanted to push myself. My mum died two years after I started in the business – she was only 50 – and I felt like I never really showed her what I was going to do with my life.’
When Chris’s dad taught him how to cut hair he also taught him the art of the wet shave, but he barely did one professionally for 10 years. Two years ago, after becoming bored of just doing haircuts, he introduced a wet shave service to his shop in North Shields. ‘I thought if our competition’s doing it we should too, so I took the bull by the horns and found I enjoyed it more than cutting hair.’
Searching for the best shaving products to use and sell in the shop he discovered premium grooming brand Bluebeards Revenge. ‘I think their products are the best,’ he says. ‘I also use their cut-throat shavette and disposable blades. They emailed me last year and said they were running a wet shave competition with the British Barbers’ Association, so I entered.’ The response was massive. Entries were whittled down to 180 in total (12 regions, 15 barbers for each) and Chris made the North East shortlist. He headed to Pro Hair Live in March, a huge hairdressing expo held in Manchester, with a specially selected beard model in tow, ‘I made my mate grow his beard for about three weeks.’ There he had to perform a wet shave in front of three judges from The British Barbering Association while being quizzed by Chris Foster (the industry equivalent of Greg Wallace).
There was a strict scoring system consisting of five categories, including health and safety, technique and difficulty of beard. ‘I took someone who was about 75 percent difficult,’ explains Chris. ‘I wanted to show that I could really do it. I was nervous but once I’d finished I watched the other barbers and thought, “There’s no reason why I can’t win.”’ Winners were announced by email the week after the event and Chris discovered the result while he was in the middle of cutting someone’s hair. ‘My phone went off, I looked at the customer and said, “You don’t mind me checking this do you?”’
He’d won the North East heat and also finished in the top eight which qualified him for the national final which will take place on Sunday 25th May at Celtic Manor Hotel in Wales. ‘The format will be completely different. We go to the Birmingham NEC the week before where there’s a hairdressing show on, and they’re going to get us all on stage and draw names out of a hat like the FA Cup. We then go to Celtic Manor where they’re putting us in a boxing ring with two chairs facing each other and it’s the quickest shave wins, with time penalties for things like nicks, razors and missed hairs.’ Speed shaving with a cut throat blade – not for the faint hearted. Furthermore Chris has never ‘speed shaved’ before. ‘I’ve got all my friends coming into the shop after hours and I’m working on my speed.’ Let’s wish Chris (and the models he will be shaving) the very best of luck.
We’ve teamed up with Kutz and Bluebeards Revenge to offer one bearded reader a free shave from Chris and a year’s supply
of shaving products. To enter visit
www.livingnorth.com/win-win-win and quote WET SHAVE when entering your details.