Header image by @acases_photography
Undercurrent: How did you find your way down to Brighton?
Jimi: I had come down for punk gigs and nights out from time to time as Camberely, where I’m from had nothing like it, like not even close, I’m talking proper small town shit hole. A few years in though a mate had moved here so I visited him for a whole week and even on those midweek days it was buzzing, I loved it, I knew I had to get down here, so I did.
Even before that though, I don’t know what it was but I just always thought that Brighton was special, that Brighton was a place where you had a fucking good time. You came to Brighton arcades as a kid and had a toffee apple and thought, fuck this is cool. Then you come back as an adult, replace the arcade with Volks and the toffee apple with pingers and think, FUCK. This is still cool.
So, I think a lot of people have similar memories of coming to Brighton with the family and it’s tied to positive stuff, pissing about in arcades and that. But then later in life they visit with freedom and money and that and you just see this whole other side, and that sucks a lot of people in. Especially if you’re from a small town, like I was, just seeing this heaving city full of people, nights out, gigs, and weird shit is so far removed from what you know and is so exciting.
It’s a familiar story innit, I’m sure there’s times when you can be in a pub here and not one single other person there is from Brighton. I mean in terms of the variety you get, you could do a case study just on our house. We’ve got myself and Liam, who are both from Camberley. He moved here for Uni and I moved down for the music scene, Ellie moved from New Zealand on the other side of the bloody world and then our other housemate is the odd one out, Brighton born and raised.
You put on shows with Apocalypse Dudes Presents and play in a number of bands, was the punk scene down here a key part of you moving?
Man, I knew I loved the punk stuff here before I even moved. I was coming to Brighton all through my teens for gigs. I remember when me and my mates were about 18, all proper punks and that; we parked up, jumped in a taxi and just said ‘take us somewhere where you think we’d like’ the guy took one look at us and went ‘yeah okay I know’ next thing we know we’re bundling out the cab at Engine Rooms and straight into a Stay Sick night, we saw a band and partied all night and just thought, shit, you don’t get this back home, you don’t get this anywhere.
After that we’d come down for Stay Sick nights at Hector’s House every now and again and I’d always get home and get sad and thought fuck it, why don’t I just stay here. Save some petrol innit.
You’re also the face, and the mullet, behind Jimi’s Barbershop on Upper Gardner Street, what made you set up your own place? There’s fuck all else like it in the town.
A lot of setting up Jimi’s Barbershop was the thin line between fate and coincidence you know.
After bumming around working in coffee shops and that, I did an apprenticeship, knocked about a load of different shops, from trendy ones, to more basic deals then super tourist-y mad ones, to then working as part of a tattoo studio, then just took the leap into opening my own just seeing a space was free to let.“I felt I had nothing to lose. I worked through all these different places and never fit in any of them.
There was some interview I think in The Argus with some goth that Brighton had changed and wasn’t weird anymore, and whilst it was a pretty snide thing to say, she did have a point. Just look at Gardner Street, it’s gone from a hippy record store to an artisan tea company, and old sex shop is now a sustainable wooden kids toy store.
There’s an element of that all over Brighton, there’s been a bit of out with the weird, in with the safe, but isn’t that progress? I mean, go back twenty years and there wasn’t fucking, Cyberdog in town, I’m sure people were raging when that opened. Things change, the city is always changing.
There are those where it clicks, and there’s nowhere else they want to be, that’s the cool shit, when they find that reason, be it music, art, friends, community whatever, but it just makes sense to them here.Jimi
The population of Brighton is a mercurial one, with thousands of people coming and going every year, do you think this has an impact on the city’s culture?
After years of barbering in the city, I’ve seen how people change as they move through life here, especially with Uni students. These people arrive super fresh faced, kinda straight laced, but there’s something down here that they liked the look of. Then second year, third year, some obviously stay and some go, but the ones that do stay, you see something change in them, they get that certain something that you can’t put your finger on, that thing that keeps people here.
People can come and go, I’ve known plenty that don’t last a year, but the ones that stay are resolute. Those that are kinda not fussed about staying after uni and that were never going to really ‘get it’ but there are those where it clicks, and there’s nowhere else they want to be, that’s the cool shit, when they find that reason, be it music, art, friends, community whatever, but it just makes sense to them here.
What do you think it is about the city that helps people find their ‘thing’ in that way?
I have tourists coming into the shop and always saying ‘this is so Brighton’ and I say, well like, what do you mean, what’s Brighton? And they say like ‘it is just shit everywhere, a weird chaos, and colourful’ and I think that’s kinda it in a strange way.
Being ‘very Brighton’ is being an individual within a huge whole of individuals, you know. There’s no one single thing. This mercurial nature, this transience. Being “Brighton” is just being weird. Sure it was different back in day, it was looser, wilder, but that happens. It’s about finding the underground still, it’s still there, it’s just not in the same place.
But then again, you know Brighton is like anywhere else, it has its rich parts and its poor parts. It’s got its scummy dickheads and its posh wankers, but somehow in the middle of this is this whole bunch of rejects from everywhere else that find each other.
Do you feel that saing ‘fuck it’ and setting up your own shop is influenced by this almost, outsider culture?
For sure. Everything from the start to now has been natural. None of our ideas of plans have been based on trying to force things to happen, to make a mint or whatever. Almost everywhere I’ve worked people have been so caught up in what other people are doing that they don’t just do what they want to do, so that’s what I’m doing. It says on the sign, Get It How You Want It and I’ve always liked that. We aren’t going to tell someone that the way they want their hair is dumb, and then we live by For Everyone and that’s another thing that I’ve always wanted to focus on. We understand that sometimes haircuts can be an imposing experience and we don’t want that.
It has always been important for us that no matter how people identify, no matter what they want us to do, to not make a big deal out of it, and just make it an accommodating low-stress environment where people feel comfortable asking for, and getting what they themselves want, regardless of judgement or trends of anything. This has come to fore a bit recently, well before all this lockdown. Our new barber Yo is from Brighton so knows how unique the people of the city are and how maybe people don’t want the super upbeat, chatty experience of myself and Buck, I mean, I can chat shit for hours. So we were talking and the idea of Safe as Monday came up, an entire super low-stress day. Yo is the only one in, it’s one person at a time, so it’s a safe space for everyone, that’s been a really important new thing for us.
Not thinking of moving any time then?
Maybe away from like the pure centre of town, I mean, that can get a bit hectic. Like, there’s a straight up crack den at the end of my road at the moment, people out on deckchairs absolutely fucked, shouting at passers by and that, it’s pretty mad. But I’ve gone all in here you know, I love it. Obviously I’ve got the shop and that’s as important as you’d expect, but the music scene is an equally massive part of it to me. Taking part in the music scene was the whole reason I moved here. We’ve got such a little community down here that I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m grateful to be part of going to pub, going to gigs and also putting on shows now, the kinda shows that I used to come and watch as a suburban reject you know. I mean, we’re all just fucking rejects, but we’re here together and that’s what matters.