Barber Sean Hayes’ journey has taken him from rural West Cork to the Gold Coast in East Australia – and here, he shares the details.
Growing up in West Cork, Ireland, Sean Hayes always liked to push boundaries when it came to his own style, “When I was growing up in West Cork anything different was always considered a bit ‘out there’ – I had red highlights and mullets so I was definitely showing an interest in hairstyles from a young age,” he tells us, however considering barbering as a career wasn’t something that occurred to him and Sean puts this down to how the industry was viewed at the time, “Barbering wasn’t ‘cool’ when I was leaving school so I didn’t think that was something I should do back then. It hadn’t got to the stage where it is now, so I went straight into an electrical apprenticeship and became a ‘sparky’ for ten years.”
After ten years working as an electrician Sean felt ready for a career change, “Barbering was the first thing I thought of because I could see the direction it had moved in. My friend had completed a course at Thomas Lloyd’s Barbering Academy in Cardiff and suggested it to me and I haven’t looked back,” he says adding that the course gave him the foundations to move on with his barbering skills relatively quickly.
A career change wasn’t the only big change in Sean’s life, “Before I made the jump into barbering, I’d visited Sam Squires who owns Backbone Barbershop in Australia. Having caught a glimpse of life on the Gold Coast, I decided I was going to move there,” he says. Backbone Barbershop takes its inspiration from a poem by American writer Clementine Paddleford, which states: ‘Never grow a wish bone where you ought to have a backbone,’ which resonated with shop owner, Sam.
Sean cites the lifestyle as the main influence on his decision to move to Australia and begin his career as a barber, “The laid-back approach and the scenery was it was for me. I came back from that holiday and finished my time working in the Northern Territory, booked onto the course in Cardiff and that was it.” This relaxed atmosphere emanates from the beach right into the barbershop on the Gold Coast which Sean now manages, having initially made his start in Miami, Queensland, “We were in Miami for two years in a huge shop with five chairs but it was quite residential so we moved to this new place which has a lovely big window looking out onto the main road – so you can’t really miss it. I loved the old shop, but I think it’s only when you go to a new location that you realise how much better it is.” The shop has the added benefit of being heritage listed, which he says adds to the appeal for both the barbers and their customers, “It isn’t as old as some buildings in the UK and Ireland, but it has high ceilings, old wooden floors and stained-glass windows which makes it a really cool place to work.”
The fact that the shop is appointment only helps to add to the relaxed atmosphere that Sean enjoys, “There’s a good variety of ages, styles, and attitudes so there’s a really good demographic of people coming in every day. We run off appointments so we don’t have lots of clients queuing or sitting and waiting for a haircut which makes the client feel much more comfortable,” he explains, going on to say that this is important for open discussions, “I think people can chat more freely than they would if you had a lot of people waiting. We have a lot of interesting conversations, and we serve beers and whiskeys, so it makes the clients feel even more at ease. When everyone gets involved in conversation together it’s a really nice time in the shop.”
Furthermore, the location on the Gold Coast enables Sean to exercise more of his skills telling us, “Where we are there’s more variety because it’s a beach city. There’s much longer styles whereas at home, especially with younger clients, one of them might get something cool, then the other fifty want the same thing so it’s more diverse in terms of style here.”
While moving across the globe is certainly one way to find yourself working in a relaxed environment, you can also check out our tips for a happier barbershop team right here.