From ‘teddy boy’ to Joey Essex perm – Guido celebrates 60 years as a top barber
From the stuffed boy and mule to the streaks of George Michael, Guido has done them all.
Its Princes Road men’s and women’s salons are as synonymous with Middlesbrough as parmo and The Riverside.
He has styled thousands of people on Teesside over the years.
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And a few famous faces including Tony Mowbray, Gianluca Festa, a host of other top footballers and former mayor Ray Mallon.
And now he is celebrating 60 years in the business.
These days it’s his children Mauro and Nicola who run the two shops – but he shows no signs of putting down those scissors just yet.
Guido Barrista opened his first store in 1961, in what was then Russell Street.
But there was not always his name above the door – the store was simply called “Italian Hairdresser” at first.
“There were a few ‘Italian hairdressers’ in town and the postman was getting confused,” laughs Mauro.
“So dad changed it to Guido’s.
“There was no one else who was called that.”
“I must have been around 26 when I first opened on Russell Street,” says Guido. “A haircut cost two shillings and three pence [about 12.5p in new money]. Then it went up to two and six.
“A shampoo, cut and style cost five shillings. All of our styles were numbered on the board, people would come in and ask for a number one.
“In the 1960s, the teddy boy was in fashion.
“And Elvis, of course.
“We used to do the bob for the ladies, then it was popular to have a pageboy cut.”
Mauro added: “People were asking him for a Perry Como or a Tony Curtis, and everyone was using Brylcreem, dad said he was going crazy about it because it was so greasy.”
Princes Road opened in 1973 and the salon began to attract more and more female customers, eventually opening a dedicated women’s salon across the road.
“Guido’s ladies shop was once a Victorian salon,” Mauro says, “it was amazing, I wish we had kept half of it.
“Years ago, unisex lounges were popular.
“In the 70s, before the women’s store opened, a lot of men had longer hair. I remember boys coming in with very long hair. The women were at the back of the store and men in front. Men point and say “I want a color like his”.
“Then it was mullets and perms in the 80s, Bryan Robson and Keegan had the bubble perms.”
Nicola, who runs Guido’s ladies’ salon opposite, said: “Everyone wanted the highlights, like Wham. I remember getting a perm when I was ten, we’d say ‘no way’ now because of health and safety. But it was about Elisabeth Shue, her curly hair in Cocktail and Jennifer Gray’s hair in Dirty Dancing.”
Many adult men still remember the beautiful horse chair, which Guido bought at great expense all those years ago to amuse his youngest clientele.
And it’s still going strong.
The living room sees three, sometimes four generations of the same family.
Even some staff members have been with the company for decades; a barber is 38 and even met his wife when she started working there.
Guido has been as much a counselor over the years as a barber, with clients telling him their innermost secrets.
“People used to confide in me,” he says, “you more or less got their life story while they were sitting in the chair.
“Some people have been coming for 50 or 60 years, it’s friendly, it’s trust.”
Nicola agrees: “You build a relationship with your regular customers, you are a third party and you don’t know family or friends.
“It goes beyond vacation talk, small talk.”
“You’re not just a hairdresser, we even have to be a doctor,” adds Mauro, “you’re looking for things on the scalp, discolored or enlarged moles, alopecia.”
Nicola grew up around the business and knew no difference, coming on Sundays with her father to clean the floor on a Sunday or visiting the warehouse.
“Before, I came to get pocket money.
“Getting older and seeing my friends have to pay to get their hair done, that was the first time I was like ‘oh, I can just go get my own done’.
Guido bought her a Girl’s World doll head, which she cut off – expecting her to grow back – and a lifelong love of the hairstyle began.
Both siblings have worked in the family business for most of their careers.
And Guido’s wife, Pat, also regularly comes to help.
“We are both very proud of dad,” says Nicola, “he always comes and works because he wants to.
“I don’t think he’ll ever be ready to retire. He still enjoys it and he missed the social aspect during covid. He’s been into it body and soul, all his life.
“Sometimes he sees nine clients a day. The busier he is, the happier he is.”
“I’m still in good shape,” says Guido. “If I have a job to do at home, it’s fine, but I can’t sit and watch TV.”
And while hairstyles may have changed a bit since Guido welcomed his first clients, there are some that will never go out of style.
“Perms are back for men,” Nicola says, “thanks to Joey Essex.
“For girls, the classic bob will always be in style. And coloring, balayage is popular.”
“It’s all good with men right now,” says Mauro, “but skin fades are popular and a lot of clients still like to have their hair cut short.
“Curtains and red mullets return, but more so in London.”
Guido politely declined a few offers from people wanting to take over the business over the years.
“Covid has affected us,” says Mauro, “but we are still here.
“It was tough, but we weathered the storm.
“All we hope for now is to grow and be busier.
“We have a lot of regulars and we are getting new customers.
“We always get people we haven’t seen for a few years because they’ve self-isolated.
“People come from all over Middlesbrough, Darlington, Redcar, we have customers who only come to Middlesbrough to have their hair cut here.”
“If you take care of your customers and give them good service, they will come back.”
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