Bruce Newman runs Hoons Barbers, “for ne’er do wells, cads and bounders” in Newquay, Cornwall. It’s a barbershop as full of personality as the man himself.
But Bruce hasn’t always been a barber. In fact, the first time he held a pair of hair scissors was in September 2018 when he attended a taster day with Mike Taylor Education.
Bruce spent 30 years in the police force, not only as an officer on the front line but also as a tutor and assessor, teaching colleagues how to respond to challenging situations. When retirement from the force gave him the opportunity for a career change, he’d already decided what he wanted to do.
Having always enjoyed male grooming himself and taking pride in his appearance, along with an untapped creative urge that had begun as a youngster at Art college, Bruce retired from the police on 30th December 2018 and started his barbering course just one week later.
As a former tutor himself, he was nervous about going back to the classroom. Also, being older than most of the other students, there was some trepidation about how he would fit in, but he found everyone welcoming and supportive. “I’ve found that about the whole barbering community”, he says.
With his teaching experience in the police force under his belt, Bruce understood the assessment process, which he found a great help because he knew straight away what criteria would be looked for, albeit for a very different subject.
The practical side was more of a challenge for Bruce, and he found when he was being assessed, he told his tutors he would rather not know as it would make him more nervous.
He describes his experience with Mike Taylor Education as “Awesome.” He describes how Mike and the whole team of educators focus on standardisation of the training process, but within that Bruce says they also have plenty of room for their individual personalities to shine through. They provided him with detailed and meaningful feedback, pointing things out that he wasn’t seeing himself; “Where I am now is down to them”, he claims.
While Bruce was studying, he continued to visit his regular barber as a client and told him that he had similar aspirations. Before he knew it, he was being offered a chair to rent in the barbershop. In April 2019, Bruce began working there. Shortly afterwards, his boss announced that he was going to have to close the shop for personal reasons. Bruce was despondent, having just found his new niche. A friend suggested to him that he take the shop on himself.
“I’d never dreamt of doing it”, Bruce says, “All I wanted to do was go and cut hair, and if someone wanted to give me money for doing it, well, that was fantastic.”
Bruce took over the rent for the shop and, after a quick lick of paint, opened for business on 14th August 2019, just 8 months after starting his course. It didn’t cost a great deal more to rent the shop than it did to rent the chair, so he says it was “a no-brainer!”
He also took on a stylist, hairdresser turned barber Lisa, who he credits with teaching him a lot. She told him early on that he looked like he’d been doing it for years. Ever the modest man, he jokes “I’ve never run my own business, and in the police, I was very well looked after, so I had to suddenly be a grown-up really!”
Bruce has a very personal approach and makes sure he doesn’t put his apron on or make the client put their gown on until the consultation is over. He sits down and talks things through with his clients. “I don’t want them to be just a head, I want them to be a person.”
Bruce’s next challenge came when he joined a team from Mike Taylor Education who appeared with iTEC & VTCT on stage at Salon International back in October 2019. He was very nervous before taking to the stage for the first time but loved the experience.
“I get really nervous, and it sounds bizarre when I think of some of the situations I’ve dealt with in the past, turning up at some really not very nice incidents… yet someone says ‘go and cut hair on stage’ and I found it far more nerve-wracking.”
The lighting, the noise, no mirrors and people watching were all factors that could have made the average barber lose his cool, but Bruce came away from the experience feeling “fantastic!”
While Bruce has come so far since his days in the police, in some ways he hasn’t gone too far at all. From his office window at the police station, he used to check to see if there was a queue at the barber’s and decide whether or not he could fit in a haircut at lunchtime. Now, he looks out from the door of Hoons and can see if there’s anyone sitting at his old desk! He’s also still in touch with a lot of his former colleagues, as they often come over the road for a haircut.
From policing to barbering, it’s been a real transformation for Bruce’s career in a very short space of time. “I can’t really believe how this year’s gone,” he says: “I have to keep pinching myself, to be honest.”
Looking to change your career? Check out our Career Pathways for information on where a VTCT qualification could take you.