The Leeds and Barnsley hair and colour technician also enters the Hairdressing Hall of Fame. Stephanie Smnith reports.
Robert Eaton, creative director of Leeds and Barnsley hair salons Russell Eaton, has won British Hairdresser of the Year 2019, the first Yorkshire champion of the prestigious title for 13 years.
Robert, 39, joined eight other finalists and and hundreds of hairdressers from across the UK on Monday for a grand dinner, show and ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel to celebrate the Hairdressers Journal British Hairdressing Awards, the “Oscars” of the salon world, which have sky-rocketed the careers and brands of top names including John Frieda, Charles Worthington and Nicky Clarke.
Robert is now one of only three Yorkshire winners of the title, following Andrew Barton of Barnsley in 2006 and Mark Hill of Kirk Ella, Hull, in 2000 and 2003. At the ceremony, he was also accepted into the British Hairdressing Awards Hall of Fame and he and fellow nominees recreated their entries on stage for the audience, which included his father Russell, who founded Russell Eaton in 1978 above Rita Britton’s Pollyanna store in Barnsley, before moving to Wellington Street and then its current Shambles Street home. In 2012 Russell Eaton opened its second salon at Boar Lane in Leeds.
Robert joined the family business in 1996 as an apprentice. “When it came to deciding what to do when I left school, I loved it already,” he said. “I used to look at all the different styles that the teams were creating, but also at what they looked like themselves – so creative and so different.” His sister Isobel is also a multi award-winning hairdresser (North Eastern Hairdresser of the Year 2017 and 2018) and their mother Karen manages administration at both salons.
Speaking before the awards ceremony, Robert said that, by taking part in creative competition, hairdressers show that they are constantly evolving. “Ideas and trends and inspiration are shared so much now on social media, so that’s made trends become mainstream much more quickly,” he said. “It’s not about an iconic celebrity-inspired haircut, as it was with the Jennifer Aniston cut or the Victoria Beckham bob. It’s much more about little micro trends. Clients actually come in to us with loads of ideas, set up with their own Pinterest boards.”
As the high street struggles, hair salons continue to be its backbone, with more than 287,000 people working within the industry in the UK, contributing £7bn to the economy each year. “There has never been a better time to enter the industry,” said Robert. “There are so many areas you can go into with hairdressing, whether it’s film and TV, owning your own salon, being a freelance, combining make-up and hair.”
The North Eastern Hairdresser of the Year 2019 winner was Alexander Turnbull of Alexander Hair & Beauty in Anlaby, and Rick Roberts of Beverley won the Afro Hairdresser of the Year 2019.