February 22, 2016
Originally from Glasgow, Stephen Martin trained under his father’s family owned barbers in his initial years of training. Stephen then moved south to take the role of head barber at the prestigious London based Murdock Barbers.
Previously considered almost borderline taboo, ‘male grooming’ has gained wider acceptance over the years. With the market for men’s grooming products now hosting a multitude of beard oils and hair care solutions, barber shops have also made the move. Previously a detour of disdain, now your monthly cut has become a desired destination for the modern millennial.
Stephen has since returned to Glasgow and last year opened Glasgow’s leading premium barber shop; House Martin. Accompanied by two other fully trained barbers and a qualified in-house barista, House Martin delivers a list of consultation led male grooming services in the city centre.
By pre booked appointment, I visited the Bath Street barbers in early February this year. The booking process was an easy one, using the online booking system or by telephone. You can choose your preferred barber, day and time. All easy enough.
Similar to the surrounding businesses, the entrance steps lead you down and away from the city centre commotion. On descent to the shop door, you are faced with large geometric window panes and within the avian logo spread across the sub street façade. I later learned that the house martin bird logo was constructed with geometry inspired from the Art Nouveau history of the city. Bearing the House Martin name, the sans serif type-face surrounds the bird logo across the shop front.
On arrival, you enter into a consultation-waiting area laid out with wooden window-side stools, a welcoming fireplace and taxidermy stag on the wall. With your jacket removed and hung for you, you have the choice of a complimentary beer, rum or whisky. For an appointment earlier in the day, one of the resident baristas can make you a beverage from the industry spec coffee machine that sits seamlessly in the corner. These detailed stages gently lead you away from prior experience. The primary focus remains, but you realise that these proceedings aren’t just about a haircut. This is a process.
Makers Monday was set to exemplify and celebrate those who have a direct physical influence over their produce. Before I chose to write about the leading Glasgow Barber I was unsure of it’s service-based format positioned amongst people who craft their own physical commodities. After speaking with the owner and founder Stephen, my reservations were laid to rest.
Learning about the specificicty of shop curation was enlightening. Stephen ellaborated on the bespoke barbering booths in which I was sat. Rotated 180 degrees, I was tilted backwards in the premium Belmont Babrers chair for my hair to be washed. Stephen explained about the design and layout behind the shop space that make for the House Martin experience;
“We had the booths designed and built fully from scratch. Each has their own set of utilities so the expereince is contained. You don’t have to go over to other parts of the shop to borrow anything leaving the customer by themselves. Everything is where you need it to be. Each booth has it’s own hairdryer, storage, mirror and sink. There’s no walking around with your hair soaking wet. You sit down with a drink and when you stand up you are finished with the haircut that you asked for. It’s all part of the service.”
Nearing the end of my cut, Stephen drew my attention to the ‘hoover’. Quizzical look shown, Stephen smiled and produced a vacuum hose with a small brush head attachment. Stranger still, he plugged the end into a small circular ‘port’ on a wall no thicker than my bottle of beer. My curiosity got the better of me. Used for removing loose hair trimmings, this approach was new to me but no hoover could fit insde a wall that narrow. Stephen proudly explained the inbuilt ‘central vacuum’ system.
“Rather than having a noisy and cumbersome vacuum cleaner getting wheeled around from booth to booth we had a central extraction system installed like those in certain Scandinavian houses. Theres a port in each booth where you plug in a hose attachment. In the back room, there is a large extractor that sucks everything into disposable bags. It keeps the noise down and adds the to seamlessness of the expereince. When we moved into the premises we started from scratch. I had the chance at designing fully bespoke booths and this was seemed logical.”
The shop offers an array of their own House Martin premium grooming goods. A nice thought : you can purchase the same wax used during your haircut, however this isn’t just logical retail. During your consultation and hair cut, your booked barber will inform and explain proper product methodolgy specific to your hair type and style. Stephen explained that the majority of people aren’t properly educated in how to use hair or beard products that they use almost every single day. If you use a product properly, it will save time as well as money. It’s the best way to maintain the invested quality and skill that went into the cut.
Specific to my haircut, Stephen explained how I could achieve what I wanted to. He talked me through each stage simply and clearly. It turns out I was previosuly doing it wrong. Comfortably sitting with my complimentary beer, I was recieving complimentary knowledge.
External to their own product range, you can also buy cigars, premium tea or bags of locally roasted coffee beans from the Glasgow based Dear Green.
I spoke with Stephen about the positioning of House Martin and it’s initial year of success, having won the the award for 'Best Barbers' at the 2015 Scottish Hair and Beauty Awards.
“People aren’t spending as much these days or going on holiday as often. Purely born out the recession we are currently suffering. I think people are more likely to indulge ‘here and there’ rather than blowing large amounts of money on one short term fix. They want to spoil themselves but more reservedly. Our clients are willing to pay for our services with haircuts priced at thirty pounds. I think they recognise the quality of what we do and that goes for more than just our haircuts.”
I asked about the clientele of House Martin and who they were aiming at. This led to quite possibly the most surprising and unexpected of answers from the ambitious barber.
“Ideally we would get groups of guys booked in all at once prior to social outings or events. It might seem mad for a barbers but stag parties would be perfect. First thing in the day, the stag group can all come in, 'suited and booted' and have a few drinks. The shop would be ‘hired’ in a sense, where they can all have their first few drinks of the day before things get too messy. The can all get their haircut at once. We have a beer garden out back we are working on. Do you want to see our poker room? It’s inside our old bank vault.”
Hair cut and styled, you can then choose what cologne you would like before your coat and bag are returned to you. Spicy or fresh, the decision is yours. The whole expereince is uplifting and with a spritz of your preffered scent you can then pay at the same desk at which you were greeted on entry. Ready to take the stairs, the entire experience returns you to street level but with an elevated sense of wellbeing.
No longer a task of necessity, the notion of a visit to the barbers has somewhat changed for me since my visit to House Martin.
My thanks to Stephen for the great haircut and his time.
Website – Book your appointment here
Call On : 0141 352 9775
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