Mrs Thatcher never travelled without one. Some people visit theirs at least once a week…
We are, of course, talking about a good hairdresser – and in Robert Neil, East Sheen has a doyen of his trade.
It’s been 40 years since he opened the doors of his salon on the Upper Richmond Road and demand for his skills remain as high as ever. In fact, the business was awarded the top accolade of five stars by the Good Salon Guide in 2011. It means that clients know that the time they spend in the tastefully-decorated premises will make them feel good and, most importantly, look good.
Robert is so busy he needs a staff of 15 to keep up with the demand.
They include his sons Adam and Damien, and his nephew Marc, which is especially heartening for him to know that the business is in good hands and that his family will keep it going.
Not that Robert, who keeps very fit by playing football once a week and going to the gym twice a week, has any thoughts of retiring.
“I still work on a full-time basis because I enjoy it,” he says. “And I still cut the hair of some clients who first came here 40 years ago, though I also like to take on new ones and young ones.”
Robert, who trained under the legendary hairdresser Vidal Sassoon, says the secret of being a good hairdresser is simple – to be able to cut properly.
He adds:”This talent has to be allied to good communication skills, that also means to listen to the client, and to have a creative mind, to know what cut would best suit them. Sometimes you only discover that by talking to them.”
Robert has seen many changes in the hairdressing business during his long career, mainly in the huge range of products and colouring techniques now available.
“People take more care of their hair these days and there are now many products available to help them,” he says.
“Hair colouring is much more popular now,” he says. “The majority of clients have some sort of colour in their hair nowadays. In most cases it has been done so well that you would not know that it was not real.” He adds: “The techniques which have been developed are very specialised because it is very important that it is done properly. We offer all kinds, even an organic colouring process.”
To ensure that his salon’s standards are kept high, Robert is very keen on extra training for his staff.
“We attend special seminars, hair shows, training, and take part in hair shows,” he said. “It’s essential in this business to get involved and keep on the ball.”
For women, the price of a cut and finish at the salon is from £34.50 and for men from £20.50. Colouring services range from £40 for organic colour, to from £47.50 for whole head colour, to from £72.50 for whole head highlights.
The salon also sells a large range of shampoos, conditioners, and other hair products.
Robert Neil, 222 Upper Richmond Road West SW14 8AH. Tel 020 8876 1141
Words by Mark Dowdney – Pictures by Bob Lisney – Project Coordinator Richard Osborne