Image courtesy of Dean Chalkley

WHEN Dale Ted Watkins returns home late to his missus after cutting Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen’s hair, the wacky actor makes sure his favourite barber doesn’t get a telling off. 

“Sasha would do a little sketch for me that I filmed on my phone, apologising for my lateness addressed to my girlfriend so I could show her, making her laugh to stop me from getting a rollicking,” Dale laughs, “It’s kind of smooth really.”  

Dale has spent over 30 years pushing the boundaries of men’s hairdressing in the UK. Since training and working under Vidal Sassoon, he has worked all over the world in cities from Paris to Moscow, Barcelona and Milan, cutting the hair of the rich and famous.  

As a session stylist working on fashion campaigns, music videos, magazine shoots and as an educator, he encapsulates British men’s style with his own unique twist. His latest collection, Skin Deep, reflects the skinhead culture’s ‘rudeboy’ attitude without the frills.  

Barbering is turning into a powerhouse. No longer is it the poor cousin to ladies’ hairdressing. It’s now a standalone craft being given the respect it is due.

How did you become so successful? 

It’s simple really, my job is to make people look and feel good about themselves. It’s a simple theory but one that has taken me years to master. 

 A 30-year journey in and around the world of men’s grooming a journey that has taken me all over, from London to Russia, Paris and Toronto, enabling me to get me hands on the hair of the rich and famous. 

CITYBOY, my educational company, has enabled me to share the craft I love through my seminars and courses as well as my DVDs and apps, with others around the world. I’ve always been interested in exploring and testing the boundaries within the exciting world of barbering. 

What inspired you to get into your career? 

After my three-year apprenticeship and years of working in unisex salons, I decided I was only ever going to be ‘okay’ as a ladies’ hairdresser. But I didn’t want to spend my working life just being ‘okay.’ 

At the time barbering wasn’t considered cool or exciting, I didn’t agree with that and I wanted to prove people wrong.  

I felt barbering was an untapped market, a brave new world. Somewhere I could make my mark. So at the age of 28, I decided to start all over again. I wanted to learn from the best I wanted to push myself and test myself, so I started my journey. I was fortunate enough to be re-trained as a barber at Vidal Sassoon. 

It was a tough journey but one I wouldn’t change for the world. So, how did working at Vidal Sassoon change me? I now looked at hair in a completely different way. For the first time, I considered myself a craftsman. I now related hair like a fine tailor building a bespoke suit. I treated hair like a cloth, working with the individual’s hair texture, head shape and face shape, tailoring it to the client making him feel special with a bespoke, fitted look. 

Could you tell us a bit about your latest collections and the inspiration behind them? 

Who you are runs SKIN DEEPclothing not required to show what tribe you truly belong to. You can cut away the clothes but who you are is ingrained in you, aka, SKIN DEEP. I wanted these images to showcase the skin head culturereflecting this perfectly with their rudeboy attitude. 

What has had the biggest influence on you? 

I get inspired by street culture, youth movements, clothes or a music scene. Something that has got soul. To look forward first, you have to look back. 

In my work, I like to pay homage and be influenced by tapping into our history by telling a story about our Great British street culture and heritage. I’m very proud to be an English man. And the reason being is this place has been a world leader, producing some of the most amazing street cultures, from Teddy Boys, Mods, Rockers, Greasers, Scooter Boys, Suede heads, Rude Boys, New Romantics, Soul Boys and Casuals to name but a few. All with their own brand of style, haircuts and music all with their own gang affiliations some even with their own modes of transport. How can one not be influenced by Cool Britannia? 

What are your trend predictions for 2019? 

For me, it’s not about following trends. It’s about celebrating individual style. It’s about understanding the message your client wants to give to the world and what their look says about them to others whether it’s at work or at play from the simplest look to the avant-garde. One wordsuitabilityso it’s simple, who is your client and what is their message to the world? 

Although we are individuals, we are also tribal. We have friends that have similar interests, whether it be music, a certain scene, a look or a sub culture. 

As a professional, it’s about understanding who my client is and what look is appropriate to his tribe. It’s about understanding the visual rules of that tribe, nothing as crude as giving him a ‘trendy’ haircut. This is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, completely inappropriate unless, of course, your client is a slave to fashion. 

How to you think the industry is evolving? 

Barbering is turning into a powerhouse. No longer is it the poor cousin to ladies’ hairdressing. It’s now a standalone craft being given the respect it is due.

How has male grooming progressed in the last 10 years? 

It still feels like the industry is young and exciting with so many opportunities, you just got to grab them. Our client has become more demanding and aware of his style options, more confident in the fact it’s okay to be well groomed and cool to go to the barber shop again. Because our clients now expect great service and a great haircut it has forced the industry to up its game. 

What’s been your most memorable experience so far in terms of wacky, strange or unique situations in your career? 

I’ve had some wonderful times like working back stage at the Mercury Prize cutting hair for bands like ALT-J, Django Django and winner James Blake. Music videos for Scouting for Girls, promo shots for Mumford and Sons. I’ve had the pleasure working on NME front covers featuring Paul Weller and Miles Kane, an UNCUT front cover with Kevin Rowland of Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I’ve been very fortunatetoo many things to mention really.  

Also, I’ve had fun working at Paris Fashion week with the Vidal Sassoon art team for designers like Joe Casely-Hayford and more recently, LCM with Fudge for designers like Christopher Shannon. 

And I loved working with stars like Sasha Baron Cohen for his premiers in Leicester Square, it’s just a privilege to share time with these great characters and stars. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to your stage? 

Never be the best one in the room. Always work and train with people who can push you to be the best version of you. 

How is social media impacting or changing the industry? 

It’s incredible really. It’s the new market place to sell your wares. You have to put as much time and effort into your social media as any other part of your business. Social media is the online shopfront to your business. I’ve always said having a great idea is the easy bit, selling your idea is the hard bit and social media can help with projecting you and your business. 

What’s next for you and what has been your highlights of the year so far? 

I’ve just gone freelance again which I’m proper excited about. I’ve started shooting my own collections again and starting to get back into session work. I’m starting to run my own CITYBOY Courses and seminars again, and mentoring. I’m in talks with running seminars abroad in Canada and Belarus this year. I’m excited to be collaborating with product companies like Sknhead London with their education. I’m also toying with the idea of opening my own shop. So watch this space…