Julie Robinson is the Master Barber at Truefitt & Hill in London. She shares with Salon India, matters close to her heart and her journey so far.
What led you into the world of hairdressing?
I feel I was destined to be in the world of hairdressing. I must admit that it captured me from a very young age and I have photos of me as a little girl styling my mother’s hair and giving her a make over! About 12 years ago, I decided it was time to master a new skill and turned to barbering. I was drawn to the technical aspect of male grooming – not only to the detail and definition of men’s haircuts, but also to all the skill and craft involved in giving the perfect hot towel wet shave. And again, here, fate intervened and I was lucky enough to find a position with T&H – the masters of the male grooming.
Tell us about your professional training. Who was your mentor?
I’ve been very fortunate to have always worked in high-end successful salons and barber shops. The companies I’ve worked for have been positioned amongst the leaders in the grooming industry and I have benefitted from the training they provided me with and been given the opportunity to share their knowledge. Working at T&H, however, has brought this experience to the next level. I am surrounded by experienced barbers who are constantly adding to my skill set which ensures I grow and develop as a professional. At T&H, I’ve had the best mentors the industry has to offer. Their skills and knowledge have been passed on from generation to generation and I feel privileged to have been able to learn from them and now, in turn, pass that skill and knowledge onto my colleagues.
How has the journey been so far?
Amazing! Styling my mother’s hair all those years ago I could never have dreamt that today I would be working for the oldest barbershop in the world and the leader of the male grooming industry. With ever evolving trends and fashions, it’s up to me as a barber to continually keep up to date and listen to what my clients want. I also love working with our team at T&H in launching new products that will suit my customers needs. I feel I not only grow in my professional capacity, but also thrive on a personal level while I build on my knowledge and skills, expand my network of customers, and constantly give the attention to details and excellence of service that all patrons of T&H have become accustomed to.
What were the challenges that you had to encounter in the initial days?
Learning to shave can be a bit daunting. It’s a very challenging skill and calls for lots of patience and a steady hand. In the beginning, there were lots of popped balloons as I was expected to shave these with a cut throat! I was also very fortunate to have some friends who allowed me to practice on them.
How did you overcome them?
With lots of patience, perseverance and practice. You have to be dedicated. So long as you persist, the confidence and skill will come.
Who do you think is the guru of the hair dressing industry?
Our oldest barber, Jimmy Ttoffali, who has been with T&H for over 40 years, has to be the most skilled professional, and therefore, a shaving guru.
Tell us about your favourite professional tools.
Although it’s vital to have a good quality, sharp blade when performing a shave, the most important ‘tools’ are definitely the products. T&H’s Pre-Shave Oil is essential to the ultimate shave. Packed with essential oils, it not only softens the beard, but also protects the skin form irritation and razor burn. The Ultimate Comfort Shaving Cream and Aftershave Balm are another two of my favorites.
Please name some of your celebrity clients.
Not only are Truefitt & Hill honored to have been in service to the British Royal Family for over 200 years, but we’ve also attended to some of the world’s greatest leaders. We have been of service to historical giants who have literally shaped the history of the world – from past British Monarchs to statesmen such as Winston Churchill or military leaders such as Field Marshal the Viscount Montgomery of Alamain. Unfortunately, for security and ethical reasons, I will not be able to give you any names and will not be permitted to mention who they are.
Tell us about the awards you have won, so far.
I came second in the state of NSW Australia for the prestigious IHS Awards (International Hairstylist society). I also hold numerous diplomas and certificates of excellence and have always worked for award winning salons and barbershops around the world.
What is your advice for aspirants who want to enter the line of hair dressing?
Persevere with it. The first few years can be really tough. There is so much to learn and it takes some time until you get to the really exciting things like working for big brands or with celebrities, or being involved in new product development. It’s important to continue to learn and grow. Even though I’m a master barber, I’m constantly ensuring I continue to stay ahead of the trends. And obviously, you need to love what you do.
What is your view on the emerging hair market in India?
This is a difficult question for me to comment on as the Indian market is not my area expertise, as I have no previous experience of it. Europe, however, is definitely seeing a more timeless, dynamic and versatile look. Traditional grooming is making a strong come back – think sophisticated sportiness and laid-back elegance which is now coming up in India.
Do you have your own academy?
T&H does not have an academy as we only train the barbers who work for the company and this is done on an in-house basis.
What are your future plans?
Being a Master Barber at T&H really is the pinnacle. I am able to work with the most prestigious brand in the industry along side some of the most talented barbers in the world. The skills and techniques I’ve learnt from these barbers are invaluable and its’ now my turn to pass them on to the next generation of Truefitt & Hill barbers coming up the ranks.