Do you buy your styling products online from Oliver and Nick?
Why not drop in as well?
Get a shave, get a haircut, get a facial, get a beer!
It was only in 2018 that you two opened your Tankerton… what should we call it – barber’s or male hair salon?
Oliver Waterman: Whatever suits the customer! We’re quite happy to be called a barber’s but then some people think a male salon is more high end – while others say “I’m wouldn’t go in one of those!” Whatever suits the customer; as long as they’re happy.
Nick Webb: We’ve like to think we’re pretty laid-back about most things. We stay open till eight in the evening a few nights a week. We’re a licensed premises, too, so the customers can have a beer if they want, rather than just a coffee, while they are getting their hair cut. And they’re welcome to sit and finish it while joining in the general chat, hang out, have a laugh.
Oliver: We’re both in here working every day so we wanted a place that’s pleasant to be in. We’ve all had to work in rubbish places haven’t we? What’s the point of that?
How did you two meet?
Oliver: At school. We’ve been best mates since thirteen and we both did our hairdressing apprenticeships in and around Canterbury. At one point we even worked at the same place in Herne Bay for a while before going our separate ways – in London and elsewhere. But we stayed friends and it was always on the cards we would start a business together, one day.
And now you employ five staff – or do they just rent their chairs from you?
Nick: Oh no, they’re all staff. The rent-a-chair business model is fine if that’s what you want but then we think you’re a landlord rather than a brand. And if everyone decides to take the same weeks as holiday you have to shut up shop!
Oliver: We all work as a team, almost a family; it’s better for everyone. As it happens we’re all males currently – but that’s only because no woman has applied!
You provide a wide range of services in addition to hair styling: shaving, facials – and your own range of hair, beard and skin treatments. How did all that come about?
Oliver: We both used to do the big national hair shows, working for companies like Harvey Nichols, so we were also mixing with the companies who provided the products. But the big companies market their lines the way they want them marketed and we were both interested in creating our own brand. We found a small British manufacturer who worked to our own specifications, sent us testers for us to out, pick the scents we liked and so on. It began with just half a dozen products in 2018 but then really took off and now we have about fifteen.
Nick: We also offer popular in-house skincare treatments: cleanser followed by mud mask, hot towels and steam, then cold, with a hydrating facial cream between, to cleanse and protect the skin.
The online business must have been a godsend whenever Kent went into lockdown?
Oliver: It’s really grown over the past year. Whenever the salon was closed it gave us time to put work into the online side that we would never have been able to spend on it otherwise. I’d say about 20 per cent of our business is online now – and of course we want to expand on that further.
Would you like to grow the shop side of things too, open new branches?
Nick: Absolutely. Locally to start with, so we can stay hands-on. We are also hoping to start our own in-school academy for school kids in Kent before too long. It’s quite difficult to find the right staff in hairdressing – often you get people who are only half-trained, or they have been fully-trained in bad habits and can’t be persuaded to change.
Oliver: We want to bring kids who have a feeling for the work – kids like we were – and bring them through by giving them the skills that we need. And then hopefully – provided they want to come to us of course – to employ them.
The whole male grooming thing has really taken off these day hasn’t it?
Nick: I’d say there has been a real sea-change with men looking after themselves more and Waterman & Webb want to be there, to be part of it. Supermarkets say that male grooming is outselling female in some areas. And a lot more men are interested in taking care of their beards.
Oliver: Five years ago, most were clean-shaven and the beards you did see were usually either someone who just hadn’t bothered to shave or a fisherman who wanted a beard to keep warm! Now all sorts of men are growing beards and now they want to know how to look after them better.
So any Whitstable fishermen among your clientele?
Oliver: Who knows? There may well be – why not?
Waterman & Webb
Open 9 till 6 Monday; 9 till 8 Tuesday to Friday; 8 till 3 Saturday
Telephone 07763 663257