Gentlemen’s barber Ross Coco, who has been cutting the hair of Brisbane’s gents for 50 years, recently answered our questions about the changing face of his business.
Ross Coco has been a gentlemen’s barber in Brisbane for half a century. Now he has has bought a ute to hit the road with his business.
While trimming the hair of many loyal clients, Ross has witnessed Brisbane change and grow and has some great insights into the importance of customer service and the growing industry of men’s hairdressing.
How did you become a barber?
I was fortunate to have been seeking a career at the start of the youth revolution when hair styles were defining youth culture. Hair stylists, such as Vidal Sassoon,were also becoming internationally famous. It was an exciting period – and I wanted to be part of this new wave. The old short back and sides of the past were giving way to the Elvis style and the Beatles cut. Barbers were, out of necessity, becoming stylists and it was a fun time to be learning the skill sets that would enable me to spend my life doing what I enjoy.
Tell us about your successful business in the Queen Street Mall?
When I struck out on my own in the early sixties, I was lucky to get a shop in Queen Street. Because of its location a lot of my clients were young businessmen, politicians and lawyers starting out just like me. Many of my clients have stuck with me over the decades and have become good friends. The men’s hairdressing industry has blossomed and adopted a lot of the new trends with expensive fit-outs and many hairdressers expanded their operations into big businesses.
But, while I’ve kept up with the hairstyle trends, I have maintained a business that people would describe as a gentlemen’s barber. My clients like the fact that it’s the same person that cuts their hair every time they visit. In a world where the concept of customer service is fast disappearing, I stick to old-fashioned ideals of simple, friendly personal service and people see my rooms in the Queen Street Mall as an oasis in an otherwise bustling and impersonal CBD.
What prompted you to take your business on the road?
For years I have offered a house call service to clients who were unable to make the trip into the city, were reluctant to battle traffic snarls or pay the increasing cost of parking, or they were running businesses from their own homes. I was doing so many clients around the South-East that it occurred to me that I should shift the focus of the business to becoming a mobile operation.
When I recently purchased a property at Boonah – a tree-change – it all came together.
Many of my clients love the concept of booking an appointment in their home. It’s just like having a personal trainer. It also fits in with my concept of personalised service and maintaining the close relationships that I have built up with my clients. The bonus is that they won’t have to sit around in the barber shop waiting their turn and reading my old collection of magazines.
Do you think in-home services are on the rise in the hairdressing industry?
Hairdressing house-calls is becoming a growth industry in many cities around world. In London, Los Angeles and many other big cities it’s now longer the superstars who can arrange to have their own personal hairstylist visit their home. Many busy people are time poor and personalised home haircuts are going to continue to grow in popularity.
There are hundreds of services listed in Sydney and there are even online booking apps. Like when I started in the sixties, I’m fortunate enough to be able to become part of a new wave of hairdressing services. People can buy groceries, clothes, shoes without leaving home so it’s only natural that they would be looking to having their hair styled in the comfort of their own house. It’s inevitable that this aspect of the hairdressing business will boom. I will be part of that revolution.
What are some of the latest hair trends for men?
While I keep across all the trends that are happening on the fashion catwalks around the world – I find that a lot of my clients favour chic, classic styles. Businessmen and others in the public eye are looking for easy care, honest styles that emphasise their personality and suit their face.
Even some of my more mature clients now expect haircuts with style and shape and are well aware of all the trends. Hair that was brushed back in recent years is now coming forward. Over the years, I have seen it all – from brylcreemed brush backs to buzz cuts. Hair is fashion, it will change year to year, but the classic styles will always endure. But, that said, the customer is always right and I will do my best to deliver exactly what they want. That’s what customer service is all about.
Would you prefer to get your hair-cut at home?
Check out what noted Brisbane hairdresser Todd Arndt has to say about high fashion hair and women’s hair styles.