Having been open quite a while, we’ve accumulated some pretty fascinating customers over the years. So we thought, instead of going on about us and our glasses, we’d shine the spotlight on the people that wear them for a change...
If you haven’t ventured past the top bit of the Northern Quarter recently, over yonder to Ancoats, you might have missed that it’s got rather trendy as of late. In amongst the innumerable new flat blocks, there’s all sorts popping up. From award winning pizzerias, to nice looking bars, there's a real buzz about the place.
Leading the buzz is Jersey Street Social Club. The anti-barbers have been bringing their unique brand of style and class to the area since the start of August and they’re starting to turn heads as well as trimming them. Mixing top quality customer service, professionalism and a healthy dose of that Manchester passion, they've quickly established themselves as... a cut above the rest.
We’re lucky enough to count the Jersey Street Social Club Head Honcho, Inky Steve, and resident scissor supremo, Mike Henry, as dedicated customers of Seen, so we thought we’d catch up with them for a chat to find out more about their shop, their style, and their love for original, independent eyewear. Take it away...
"I didn't want someone to walk past and go 'Oh, it's just another barber shop' because I've tried to do something else..." - Inky Steve
Hi Inky Steve and Mike Henry. Let’s start right back at the beginning. How did you both get into cutting people’s hair?
[INKY STEVE] I got the idea from a friend who was a hairdresser. I was doing graphic design and I was doing some graphics stuff for him and I wanted to do something more fun and he suggested hairdressing. The only course places were on barbering so I started doing barbering.
[MIKE HENRY] I was working on a contract that was running out and I didn't want to renew it. My sister was studying barbering at college and she was bringing home all her books on barber history and stuff like that. So I picked up a few books, started reading about it and I thought "I can jump on that." I started at college and about 12 months into it I quit. After that, I started an apprenticeship and the rest is history.
Nice. And how did you progress to opening your own place, Steve? Why did you decide to start Jersey Street Social?
[INKY STEVE] I started looking at the idea of opening a shop probably coming up to two years ago now. The place I was working at was going in a different direction and I thought it was a direction that was going against what customers wanted. I thought it would be better to have something that was accessible to everybody. Me and a friend had a conversation about opening a shop. He's not a barber but was interested in getting involved in something that was fun. So we just started talking about it.
From there we talked about locations and what we thought was gonna be like an up and coming area. Somewhere that was in the city but out of the city so it was more community based so you could have regulars. So I found this place in Ancoats, an old mill, and I thought “This is it. This is the place.”
"It's just four guys cutting hair. Everyone's got the same equipment. Everyone charges the same. " - Inky Steve
...So the area was really important?
[INKY STEVE] Yeah, yeah. Obviously it's got a lot of developing to do. Probably like another five years before it's finished. It will be interesting to see how it grows and I kind of wanted that feel to it. I didn't want it to feel done straight away, I wanted to be able to see a progression. We started with three guys; me and two others. And now Mike's come onboard with us. We're just going to push it forward now and see where it goes and what opportunities come our way that we can capatalise on.
Mike Henry in his pair of Anne Et Valentin's 'On the Moon'
Well it sounds like it’s working so far. Tell us about your name. You’re called the Jersey Street Social Club, not Jersey Street Barbers or Jersey Street Men’s Hairdressers. How does that relate to what you do?
[INKY STEVE] The reason I've called it the social club is because every single shop in the world has barber in it. I didn't want someone to walk past and go “Oh, it's just another barber shop” because I've tried to do something else. We wanted to make something that was accessible to everybody so it didn't matter if you were an old guy, a young guy, a kid, even a woman to a certain extent. If they want a haircut that we do in the shop then why should we not do it?
I wanted it open to everybody and I also wanted it to feel like there wasn't really an owner, or a manager in the shop. It's just four guys cutting hair. Everyone's got the same equipment. Everyone charges the same. So it's like, there isn't an owner in the shop. Yeah there is at a higher level, but when we're in the shop everybody's the same. It's got that equality to it, rather than a hierarchy where everyone's looking at somebody else to do something.
Do you have any inklings on where men’s hair styles are heading in the future? Is there a JSSC signature cut or style?
[INKY STEVE] Men's hair changes all the time. It's pretty fashion based. So, you're gonna have guys that see something and jump on it. That's not necessarily something I would do in the shop because a lot of the stuff I don't like. I don't like the fact that people try and reinvent the wheel for no reason. Everyone goes on about classic haircuts but I think haircuts done right don't go out of fashion. You know?
...so like that style over fashion thing?
[INKY STEVE] Yeah. Sometimes it's like what Topman tells you to wear isn't going to be for everybody. There's going to be guys that want that and there's gonna be guys that want something else. And, you know we’ll try and cater for them and advise where we can but at the end of the day, you can't please everybody so you've just got to concentrate on the guys that come into your shop and do your best and advise as you can.
Inky Steve sporting his Jacques Marie Mage Eluard
You’ve got a tattoo parlour downstairs, you go by the name Inky Steve so you’re obviously into tats. Tell us about yours and why they’re important to you?
[INKY STEVE] I got interested in tattoos a long, long time ago. As far back as I can remember. I started getting tattoos and visiting different countries and finding different people that I wanted to get tattooed by and going to the country specifically to get tattooed. Of all the countries I've been tattooed in I've had the name of the place that it was done.
[MIKE HENRY] Yeah I've always wanted tattoos since I was really young. The deal was that I couldn't get one till my 18th birthday. So I waited till then. My mum took me. [laughs] We went from there you know. Mother's permission. Guess you've got to do it sometimes, eh?
And how does that link into your style? You’re both stylish guys. Who and what are your influences?
[MIKE HENRY] I'm influenced by the guys that I work with really. I mean everybody's got their own stamp. I don't think anybody here follows fashion trends. I mean, especially Steve. He's a very stylish guy. I get a lot of influence off him I guess. But then you kind of just pick it up and just try and make it your own as well. I don't think any of us follow a certain fashion or trend. We're all very fashion conscious and kind of move with it but kind of stay pretty old as well, you know?
[INKY STEVE] See I don't think we’re following a fashion.
Do you think you're creating your own?
[INKY STEVE] No, I don't think we’re creating our own. It's definitely a movement but I wouldn't say it's for everybody. People probably look at some of the stuff that I wear and think I'm quite crazy or whatever. But, you know, I just wear stuff that I like. And most of the time, like music, I don't particularly like stuff that's just come out, you know? I'm not really interested in it.
I've got a pair of jeans that are 30 years old. Nearly as old as me. But they're still going. And, you know, I love the history behind it. To me that means more than the actual item of clothing. I like the reason why it was actually made in the first place. It's not been over-engineered...
...It's got a purpose?
[INKY STEVE]...Yeah, it's got a purpose. It's not just a piece of clothing, it has something about it. It's the same with shoes and it’s the same with glasses.
Inky Steve in his Jacques Marie Mage Enzo [left] and Mike Henry [right]
And I guess that’s where Seen comes in...
[INKY STEVE] Yeah. One conversation I had with Tareq will always stick in mind. He was like “How can you wear a pair of shoes that cost £200 or £300 but the glasses you're wearing, the things that actually help you do your job, cost about ten quid?” And I’d never really thought about it like that before.
When I went in to Seen, to the shop, and I saw Colette. I remember her asking me to pick five pairs of glasses and she went to go and pick five pairs. The five pairs that I picked she immediately removed from the area because they weren't right for me, which I know now. And she told me to take out the pair I liked the least out of her selection and they were actually the first pair I ever bought.
[INKY STEVE] Yeah. So you know, it's like coming in here. You go and see people because they're professionals and they know better what's going to suit you because they're around it all the time. And from there it's kind of, I wouldn't say addiction, but it's definitely something that I think about a lot. I've got a growing collection now and that will just carry on.
Inky Steve's Collection: Jacques Marie Mage Dealan [top left], Jacques Marie Mage Enzo [top right], Jacques Marie Mage Eulard [middle], and Theo Mille [bottom right]
[MIKE HENRY] An extensive collection I'd say [laughs]
How does it compare to yours, Mike? How did you get into Seen?
[MIKE HENRY] I was actually pretty late to the spectacle game, I guess. My first ever eye test was two years ago and it turned out I needed glasses. The lads went to Seen for their glasses already and I was like, “cool, I'll go in there I'll see what there is on offer.”
It's a bit weird for me, I've always found an eye test to be quite an intimidating thing. [laughs] I still don't know why, I guess because I'd never had one. Even going to pick my first pair of glasses was quite intimidating. But as soon as I got into the shop I was put at ease. The same thing that happened to Steve happened to me, you know, I picked five then they went and picked five. I think it was Collete as well who did it for me and, erm, yeah, we settled on this pair of Anne Valentines.
And what specs are you sporting Steve?
[INKY STEVE] The glasses I've got on now are Jacques Marie Mage’s Dealan. I bought these when I was opening the shop because I felt like I needed a new pair.
[INKY STEVE] [Laughs] Yeah, that was the excuse that time.
I have quite a few different types in the collection too. I'm a big fan of Theos and I've got a really cool pair of Dita’s that were sunglasses that are now opticals. I love them. But these, the Jacques Marie Mage, at the moment, are probably one of my favourite brands. I like seeing the influences in the design of them and what they're trying to do and I think that kind of fits with what I'm about really.
Do you ever find yourself giving clients eyewear advice?
[INKY STEVE] Yeah. A lot of people recognise the glasses and people that are interested will know where you've bought the glasses from. If people ask, I'd always tell them. I have a Seen card on my mirror so it's there for people to see and I've got one of the limited edition clothes that I'm getting framed to put on the wall as well. Because I'm all about independence. So I'd rather someone go and see Tareq.
Someone that you actually know...?
[INKY STEVE] Yeah. I'd rather help the independents of Manchester thrive really. And that's what we're trying to do with our shop. We're trying not to use any products that are mass produced, if we can. We're trying to work with local businesses and help everybody out. It's great that we can kind of be in completely different industries to Seen but still be under a similar umbrella. That's a cool, cool thing.
You're absolutely right Inky Steve, Manchester's home to some fantastic independents and it's great we can work together to support each other.
I'm afraid that's all we've got time for today. Thanks for letting me drop by and watch you guys at work. Good luck, we'll be back soon for a trim!
If you want to find out more about The Jersey Street Social Club, or want to book your appointment, you can find their website here.