Tried and tested: Popham salon, Oxford
Can’t say I’ve ever done a hair review – until this one – where I had my hair cut at one salon and then legged it up to a second salon for my colour but you’ll find out why I did it in a bit.
But let me introduce the salons, those of Popham Hairdressing, an Oxford institution of over 30 years, the original based in the gorgeous little road of North Parade just off the Banbury Road in the centre of the city (the pic above) and the second, more recent addition in South Parade, Summertown.
David Popham started out in hairdressing at 15 years old as an apprentice in the West End and ended up working for Vidal Sassoon in the Sixties and Seventies, snipping the tresses of rock stars, before heading off to do his own thing. Now he works three days a week and employs managers in each salon.
These two managers happen to be brothers from Dublin, Shane (North Parade) and Dean (South Parade) – how unusual is that?! Hence the zipping between the two salons to meet them both as it’s such an unusual story, especially as they’re both second generation haircutters – their dad was a barber, so barnet bobbing is clearly is in the genes.
The brothers look disconcertingly similar with their beards and slim builds, though being in two separate buildings I have failed to get a photo of them together! They’re both charming and affable, and have the requisite Irish GSCE equivalent in talking the leg off the table. And they’re not the only siblings Popham employ. General Manager Jo and her sister Nikki both work in the business too. Spooky!
First stop then to North Parade (off the Banbury Road), a stone’s throw from St Giles, The Ashmolean Museum (check out the Degas to Picasso exhibition currently on) and high street shopping. This is one of my favourite little streets in central Oxford, housing as it does the tiny, very cool Brew coffeehouse, 2 North Parade produce store and the pretty in pink Rose & Crown pub, with a street that is habitually garlanded in decorative flags.
Popham is housed in a lovely stone building and though, small inside, is light and airy with a clever use of space.
And it’s this space element that really creates the innovation I keep alluding to. Firstly, wash basins that come to you! I LOVE this idea. Rather than having to wander over to a wash station and sit next to other customers while the salon junior vacantly asks you about your next holiday, the stylist uses a moveable basin, adjusts your chair back and washes your hair right there. I’ve reviewed dozens of hair salons but never ever come across this before – it’s genius!
Then once you’re ready for your cut or colour, just sit back up again and encounter another first – a tri-angled mirror, so that you, and more importantly your hair stylist, can see you from all angles.
And once your hair has been cut, there’s a natty hoover attachment that’s hidden in the floor that then quickly tidies chopped hair, so no faffing around with brooms.
So the upshot is that Popham to me, though a strongly local salon in the sense that it’s not uber-posh or pretentious, feels very forward-thinking and smart.
Just with timings between the two salons I had my cut first (unusual I know but somehow it worked) and then the colour. There’s no reinventing the wheel on my preferred look, so I can’t show you anything particularly dramatic, but I couldn’t fault the service and loved the slight choppiness of my bob and the much warmer richer colour that hid the home-applied root cover-up I’d used a few weeks before that all the tonal nuance of tar.
Extras: No bells and whistles of hand massages and vibrating chairs here, but Popham does do a nice line in Nespresso, and also uses biodegradable disposable gowns and towels. All tools are fresh for each client.
Prices: A hair cut with David costs a princely £110, a senior stylist £60-80 and stylists £40-50. Blow dry £35-50. Full head colour £85-100 and balayage £170-195.
Awards: Salon manager Shane and senior colourist Kate Hooker were runners up in the 2016 Sassoon Professional Photo competition. Popham is the only UK hairdressing company to be awarded Champion Investor in People, meaning the team is properly looked after, well trained and well paid.
Parking: The public car park is your best best in Summertown. In North Parade there’s free parking for 1-3 hours in Canterbury and Winchester Roads and pay-and-display parking in Norham Road.
Popham Summertown, 1 Prama House, 267 Banbury Road, Summertown, Oxford, OX2 7HT. Tel. 01865 311223.
Popham North Parade, One North Parade, Oxford, OX2 6LX. Tel: 01865 517040.