From Commando to Clippers - An Unconventional Journey into Barbering

Published 14th May 2024 by Josie Jackson

We spoke to Mark Lovell about his unconventional career journey from Marine to barbering mentor...

Mark’s journey into barbering began when he worked in a shop while still in school as a teenager. However, his future took an unexpected turn when, driven by a sense of adventure, he joined the Royal Marines after seeing an advert at his local cinema. “I had so much energy that I just wanted to go and do other things,” he explains.

After six years of military service, Mark started working in private security in Africa protecting clients from threats like Somali pirates. Eventually, the effect it had on his personal life prompted him to make a change. “I was never in the UK and it started to take its toll,” he says, adding that at such a young age he’d already seen and experienced a lot more than most. “I started looking at the people around me and there was a common theme. They had problems with alcohol or complained that they never saw their kids and their wives had left them. I knew I never wanted to be like that because I experienced the same when I was young,” he shares.

Mark decided to return to his  roots in barbering and focus on raising a family. “It was a completely different life to the one I’d known. I worked with the team for free for a year; training, doing free haircuts and getting to know the industry again.” With savings from his private security work, Mark invested in and eventually took over the first Mr. Barber’s in Bury: “I’ve opened a shop every year, and now I own six shops, and business is good.”

Although he found success in barbering, Mark had his own struggles with alcohol and substance abuse which led him to make some lifestyle changes. “Being in the shop didn’t always give me the same energy that I had in the Marines or private security. I found myself drinking more on the weekends, which led to cocaine use and then it all started getting out of hand by the time I had my first child, so I decided to stop the drinking and drug abuse. I’ve been sober for about three years. When I stopped drinking I started gambling - I was always looking for that rush. Eventually I quit gambling and I basically live like a monk now!”

Mark turned his attention to mental health support and tells us that his approach to coaching integrates fitness, mindset, and mentoring to provide a holistic support system for those facing various challenges. “I still run the shops and cut hair two or three evenings and afternoons a week, but I use my fitness background to give people a whole package.” He adds that he is passionate about mentoring the younger barbers in his shops too: “When I first started working in the industry, I wanted all the most talented barbers, but I realised that’s not always the best way. It doesn’t matter if they’re really good straight away it’s whether they’re willing to become team players too.”

For Mark, barbering is about the opportunity to connect with people on a personal level. “My life’s really busy but it’s like the world stops when it’s just me and the client. I get to meet lots of diverse people and that’s what I love about the industry.” As he strives to make a positive impact on others, Mark’s story serves as inspiration for those who are navigating their own unique career paths.

Josie Jackson

Josie Jackson

Published 14th May 2024

Josie supports the team with content for the print magazine, website and social media channels at HJ. Having grown up in a salon environment (thanks to her hairdresser mum) and even working as a Saturday girl before getting her degree in English Literature, Josie feels right at home in the industry. Although she’s experimented with a few creative colour looks in the past, she always comes back to blonde, and loves all things hydrating and bond building.

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