Memo Barbers has just opened in Soho
Memo was 12 when his father, who was also a barber, passed away. At that young age he was put into a haircutting job at his family salon in Istanbul. By 16 he was professionally qualified. With bundles of eccentrically frizzy black hair, Memo is only in his early forties now but is in the unique position of having over thirty years of haircutting experience.
After cutting in Istanbul as a young man he fulfilled his dream to move to London and set up two self-titled hair salons around London, one in Uxbridge and the other in Wood Green. But it was always Soho that Memo had his eye on as an end goal and last month, the genial Turk fulfilled that dream by opening Memo Barbers on Rupert Street.
“People come in and say, this is what Soho needs,” says Memo, who was hacking at chunks of my hair as we spoke. “A traditional barber’s shop in Soho with a vintage feel.” It may sound unlikely, but there aren’t that many barbers shops in Soho. Cuts, a short walk away on Frith Street, is a Soho institution that launched in 1979 but it has faced challenges with properties and has been forced to relocate.
Rents for businesses in Soho are so high that they price out individuals like Memo, but he managed to convince his landlord he would be a suitable rentor because he already had two other properties in the capital.
Memo’s haircuts and wet shaves are traditionally Turkish in style, “but we have a fully stocked bar,” he says. “That’s not traditional.” I’m offered different types of whiskeys, beers and anything else I can sink in the 45 minutes it takes Memo to sort out my mop. The shop has a laidback feel, with armchairs to wait in within eyesight of the stocked bar, and a handful of chairs for cutting. Within the short time that I’m in the salon, two new customers appear and take seats, waiting patiently for Memo to finish. He won’t speed up though, cutting takes time.
Memo gives me a gentle, meticulous haircut. It takes longer than the average in-and-out barbershop, which I like. Then the hot towel comes out, the little fire lighters for your ears and the massage of your temple. Modern hair stylists can do all sorts of wonders – I’ve certainly had fancier cuts – but a wet towel shave and cut at a traditional Turkish barbers is a brilliant, timeless experience.