Russell Manley started his first Tommy Guns salon at the age of 23 in Brighton, England. He then moved on to open another wildly popular location in London’s Soho and made the move to New York’s Lower East Side a year and a half ago. Walking into the Ludlow Street location feels like taking a step back in time. The salon is adorned with leather upholstery; nickel, mirror and glass cabinets and marble throughout. Vintage light fixtures are the icing on the cake. A peek inside after the jump.
On the first location: In Brighton there was an old barbershop that had been open since the ‘20s that closed down. I bought the whole interior of it—the cabinets, the chairs, everything. At that time in salons, the look was gold and gilt interiors. I just wanted the kind of aesthetic of a comfortable barber shop and have it for guys and women. We put the interior of the original barbershop in the site we found in London. At the time, no one else in London was doing that. It was laid back and comfortable. We didn’t want stylists that would look you up and down to make sure you were cool enough to come here.
On his first years as a stylist: I started by doing friends’ hair and not having any idea what I was doing. At the time it was a late-punk, early new romantic, and I decided it was what I wanted to do for a career. I went away to an apprenticeship, learned how to do it properly, and then went from there.
On avoiding hair cutting disasters: It was pretty straightforward when I started. I bought myself a pair of clippers and it was just a lot of shaved on the sides and long on the top and the crimp. It was all very basic.
On the move to NYC: I’d worked 17 years in London so it was time to have a challenge. I didn’t want to open another salon in London. I had friends that lived and worked in New York, so I was traveling back and forth seeing them. New York is a lot cheaper than London, although I wouldn’t have said that ten years ago. New York has changed a lot and for the better. It’s a fun place to be and I thought it’d be a good test to see if our concept in London worked here. We’ve been open 15 months now and luckily that seems to be the case. It gets busier and busier with each week. It’s getting a good rep and about 60-70% of our clients are actually women.
On trends in facial hair: For a while there were a lot of guys getting mustaches. Definitely no goatees. Don’t do that. Thank god that fashion passed.
On British v American salon visitors: To be brutally honest, the British clients don’t tip! That’s the biggest difference. It’s surprising though, there isn’t a whole lot of difference culturally. It’s very similar. I don’t know if that’s because of the media crossing the Atlantic so easily in terms of magazines. Probably because we’re in the LES—I bet if we were uptown it would be different. But the LES is very similar to the other areas we are in London.
His worst habit: Saying the word “cool.”