The final chapter of our Universal People On the Map series takes us to meet one of Birmingham’s best-known hairstylists. Dale Hollinshead is the man responsible for keeping The Liquor Store founder Phil Hazel’s hair in check, as well as being the proud owner of Hazel & Haydn, based in the heart of the city's famous Jewellery Quarter. For chapter 5, we sit back and relax in the spacious, light-filled salon, in a bid to find out more about Dale, who balances life in the salon with his TV career as part of the hairdressing team on the BBC’s ‘Glow Up’ series.
Unusually (for a hairdresser) Dale’s odyssey towards hairdressing started out under the bonnet of a car. A former car mechanic, he left school with dreams of becoming an architect, but after being told he probably wouldn’t attain the right grades, decided to pursue his passion for cars instead. Fixing cars was a job that served him well, until one day, he strolled past a busy hair salon - and everything changed. He swapped the spanners for scissors and the rest (as they say) is history.
Dale Wears; Field Jacket in Sand Moleskin, Loose Crew in Camel Recycled Wool, Pleated Track Pant in Navy Recycled Soft Wool.
“When the career’s advisor made me believe I’d never go to university, I felt slightly lost. I loved cars, so it made sense to train as a mechanic instead. I really enjoyed it, but it felt more like a hobby than a career. When I walked past that hairdressing salon I loved how much fun they all seemed to be having - at work - and it got me thinking. So I took the plunge, applied, and got a job as a trainee stylist. After spending a short time being a qualified ‘hairdresser’, I realised that it was actually quite similar to architecture anyway, in that it’s all about creating shapes (but with hair). The working environment was great and I progressed really quickly. At 24 I opened my first salon and I’ve not looked back since.”
Dale Wears; Swing Overcoat in Stone Recycled Columbo Tweed, Loose Crew in Camel Recycled Wool, Pleated Track Pant in Navy Recycled Soft Wool.
The launch of Hazel & Haydn was made possible thanks to inheritance funds from his late grandparents (who the salon is named after). What started as a one-man-band is now a 13-strong team - or 14, if you include Alan the salon dog. Spread over 2 floors, the space is modern and welcoming, with stylists chosen for their personalities because, as Dale explained “Capabilities can be changed. Skills can be learned and honed over time. What’s more important is how we interact, both together and with our clients - it’s quite an intimate act, cutting or styling someone’s hair. When people walk through the door it’s because they have set some time aside for themselves. Away from work, away from family, away from other commitments. When you see someone every 4-6 weeks, you develop a kind of relationship with them - they trust you, they confide in you. Part of the code of being a stylist is to respect that connection. We keep our conversations secret - we never, ever share details of the chats we have with our clients.”
Far from the Warren Beatty model of hairdressing (for anyone confused by the reference, Google the 1975 film Shampoo) Dale and his team take their roles very seriously. “As hairdressers, we’re in a great position to be a sounding board for the nation. As well as helping people to feel better about the way they look, we’re also there as a place for them to talk over the latest news or current affairs. We listen and if asked, offer opinions. It means every day is different and one of the best parts of the job is noticing how relaxed people look when they leave after having a good old chat, offloading about something or just sitting here in pure silence, enjoying an hour or two of total chill.”
Part therapist, part image consultant, it’s a heady mix. Throw Covid-19 into the mix and stylists like Dale have had to adapt to survive the post-pandemic struggle on the U.K. high street. His smart thinking and proactive attitude have seen the salon become a destination that’s not just hair-related. Gesturing towards the familiar sound of milk being frothed, he described, “Covid changed us. It changed people’s point of view and altered the way we do business. Over there, you’ll see we’ve enhanced the community experience by adding a coffee shop section with a hatch to the street, so people passing by can stop for a hot drink. It’s another string to our bow and helps us connect to the city.”
He continued, “Over there, you’ll see what used to be our ‘magazine wall’. Communal magazines aren’t something most people feel comfortable with anymore, so we changed the purpose. It’s now a place for small, independent creative businesses to showcase (and sell) their wares. It brings a totally new dimension to the salon. Personally, I think we’re stronger than we’ve ever been before. The community spirit in Birmingham helped keep us going - it was as though the local people rallied to keep us independents alive.”
When asked about his worst ever haircut, Dale cracks up laughing and confessed, “I once had a question mark bleached into the back of my head. Needless to say, that was an instant regret moment. Luckily it grew out pretty quickly.” It left us wondering who would be his dream client, and the answer came as quite a surprise, “Well, I’d actually love to spend some time doing Miriam Margolyes, I reckon that hour would be a right hoot!” Definitely one for the swear jar.