We first started working with The Roots Foundation Barbershop in August 2017, when they started carrying our products in their barbershop. They only carry vegan products so ours fit right in! We enjoyed getting to know these guys a little better through this interview and we hope you all do to. The purpose of our barber spotlights is to shed a little light on the barbering world around us, and introduce you guys to some of our friends. We hope you enjoy!
How long have you been a barber?
PJ: After years of trying to “make it” in a touring punk band, I came to barbering at the age of 30. I completed my training in 2014 and have been cutting ever since – and loving it!
LUKE: I was a hairdresser for roughly 10 years. However, I wanted to fine tune the techniques of shorter hair, such as shaving and fading, so I moved into barbering about 5 years ago.
When did The Roots Foundation get started and what was your vision for it?
PJ & LUKE: The Roots Foundation opened in September 2017. We set out to build an inviting and creative space where everyone could feel welcome, regardless of their age, background, gender or anything else. We stand for positivity, inclusivity and compassion. These are our guiding principles for everything we do, along with one of our mottos: “All styles, all lengths, all welcome.”
We are proud to be the first vegan barbershop in the UK. This means you can expect leather-free chairs, vegan styling products, plant-based drinks, and all the pizza chat you can handle.
We were always going to be picky about products. The mainstream market always left us disappointed and we knew we wanted to go further and seek out something special. The products we use are all natural, completely free from animal products, ethically sourced, and hand made in small batches by independent producers. We both grew up with a strong DIY ethic, so we strive to support other small businesses and foster those all-important personal connections. We had admired The Mailroom Barber Co. for quite some time and we are so chuffed to be the exclusive stockist in the UK! We love you guys!
The Roots Foundation is also an avenue for us to indulge in our other passions. This is why our shop is also run as a social space, providing opportunities for the local community to engage with artists, makers and social movements in our area and beyond. We have hosted film screenings, music shows, workshops and other events, all of which further our messages of positivity and creativity.
If all of this isn’t enough, we also wanted to serve banging coffee. Seriously, we love coffee. We serve locally roasted espressos from our friends at Roastworks Coffee Co. and we have a collaboration coffee coming out with them soon, which we’re really excited about.
What are some trends you see developing in men's grooming?
PJ & LUKE: This is kind of a tricky question to answer as we try not to think of barbering and hairdressing in strict terms of “men’s hair” and “women’s hair”. The most striking trends in the industry come when there’s a little mix of both. That being said, one of the main trends in the UK is that men are starting to care more about the whole experience of patronising good quality barbershops. Having your hair done isn’t a chore to endure, something where you’re in and out in 10 minutes - it’s a positive experience where you leave feeling relaxed and good about yourself. A few years ago, it wasn’t considered “masculine” to care about your hair, but now that stereotype is being broken down – and rightly so!
That, and mullets are back. Big time. And we at Roots couldn’t be happier about that.
What are your clients’ favorite Mailroom products?
PJ AND LUKE: It really depends on the style a client is looking for, but for more natural or textured looks, the Matte Clay Pomade is very popular due its versatility, especially in winter, as it’s more resistant to rainy weather than water-based matte products (and boy, does it rain here in the South West!). But we have plenty of suave clients that love a slick look, and the XXX Heavy Hold Natural Pomade is perfect for that. It’s so easy to use, even though it’s a heavy pomade. Everyone agrees though: you can’t beat the scent of Nolde Forest. You guys really nailed that one.
What's something your clients probably don't know about you?
PJ: I can dance a mean Charleston.
LUKE: I used to work on a Pearl farm in Western Australia and had the nickname, Oyster Boy.
Why do you do hair?
PJ: Ooh this is my favourite question! This answer might not seem relevant at first, but stay with me… When I was 15 years old I discovered punk rock. A colossal explosion happened in my mind and nothing was ever the same again. I’m originally from Switzerland, which is a beautiful country, but one that is obsessed with rules and regulations, and where everything fits neatly into its own box.
Punk rock was the antithesis of that and I fell head over heels in love with it. I found a place where I could be myself, without fear of judgement. The freedom for anyone to be themselves is a fundamental right, yet sadly it is a right that is abused every day. Whether it’s through advertising, peer pressure, or society, you are always told that you have to conform, act, or look a certain way in order to succeed. Punk rock gave me the space to be myself. And when you feel like yourself, you’re at your most beautiful, your happiest, your kindest: you’re at your best.
Hair is only a part of how you express who you are, but I still believe it is an important one. When you’ve got the hair style you want, you feel like yourself! And when it comes down to it, why does anyone get a haircut? To feel good! So if I can help people feel like themselves, and give them even a little bit of the feeling that I got from punk rock, then I’m doing something positive. Basically, cutting hair is punk AF!
LUKE: OK. So, unlike PJ, I am a man of few (or at least, fewer) words! For me, cutting hair is something practical, artistic and social. Plus, I get to change how someone is feeling about themselves - what POWER!
What's your favorite hairstyle to create?
PJ: This changes all the time, but I’m really enjoying combining the looseness of a longer scissor cut with a really tight taper around the temples and neck (maybe with a few unexpected bits left longer around the hairline). For anyone that doesn’t cut hair, that basically means you have it fairly long all over, but then the hair fades right out to nothing at the bottom of the neck and on the sideburns. Laaaaaavly!
Another thing I really love is when people come to us for the first time, who in the past have shaved their own heads, or cut their own hair, believing that there’s only so good their hair can look. When that happens, you’re given an opportunity to show that person all the amazing things that can be done with their hair. That’s always fun.
LUKE: I love working with mid-length hair that is worn naturally, but with some clipper work in the nape or around the temple.
If you were a beer what brew would you be and why?
PJ: I would have to be an espresso-infused IPA… a bit weird at first, but ultimately very likeable.
LUKE: I’d be a Blonde… because I’m fairly pale, sometimes bitter, and often fruity.
As you can see, Luke and PJ are two pretty amazing, funny guys! Go check them out the next time you're in Exeter.
Is there really a difference?
Let's think of it this way, drugstore products are like fast food restaurants. They're cheap and convenient, but in the long run, they're not what's best for your body. Your hair is part of your body so why wouldn't you treat it with the same care as any other part of you?