The Constantinou family have been cutting Cardiff’s hair for three generations. Reporter Joe Smith talks to Simon Constantinou about winning multiple hairdressing world championships, the next popular hairstyle in Cardiff and keeping the family business going.
“I’ve been cutting hair for 48 or 49 years. Mind you I started very young, 14, but that’s the way it was. At the age of 16 I was running a salon on Cowbridge Road,” Simon Constantinou, 63, tells me.
“I’ve had some clients for 40 years, it’s ridiculous, I’m doing the next generation of my clients now. We used to give the first haircut for a child free, we’d take a photograph and give them a diploma, ‘first haircut certificate’ – well, those children have now got married and they’re bringing their children along for their first haircut. It’s tremendous. But it’s staggering when you think about it.”
We are sitting in the back room of Simon’s family Salon on Crwys Road, surrounded by plastic heads wearing assorted wigs. The tools of Simon’s trade, a comb and a sharp pair of scissors, peek out of his top pocket and he smiles as he recalls his family’s long-standing relationship with Cardiff’s hair.
“My father came here with my mother in 1953 and us three children joined them in 1955,” he said. He worked for a gentleman in Caroline Street by the name of Chris Asprou. He had the top barber’s shop at the time and he used to sponsor Cypriot hairdressers coming over here, my father was one of the ones he sponsored. He worked for Mr Asprou for five years or so and in 1958 my father won the Welsh championships, it was called the Brylcreem Challenge Trophy in those days.”
After his first championship win, Simon’s father, Odysseas Constantinou, opened up his own Salon on Crwys Road behind a tobacconists and in 1960 he moved the business across the street to the building where we are now sitting. This shop holds a lot of memories for Simon. “It was in this salon that I was apprenticed and my brothers were apprenticed, my brother Stavros and my brother Tino, we were all apprenticed here and we trained with my father,” he tells me.
Not long after moving to this salon the Constantinous started to win trophies. It became something of a family speciality. Simon is reserved but visibly proud as he reels off his family’s wins
“My father in 1965 won an international competition in Paris, and then he won in Belgium as well in 1967. In 1979 we won the British championships. My father was very much our trainer, it was his hobby as well – he liked the fact that we were his team. We won the world championships for the first time for Britain in 1980.
“Between 1980 and today we’ve won several competitions: ‘82, ‘84 – all gold medals, ‘86, 1990. We’ve competed for a long time.
“My nephew Dody, he’s been British champ so many times, he broke my record. He works with me here now, it’s a bit of a family thing. I don’t know of any other family that’s won as many championships as we have but that’s by the by.”
Simon does some quick mental arithmetic and calculates that there are currently nine Constantinou hairdressers working in Salons across Cardiff. It is most certainly a family affair. Although Simon’s father passed away in 1989 the sign above the door still reads ‘O. Constantinou and Sons’ just like it did over 50 years ago.
“City Road was the flagship salon for many years and we decided last year that we wanted to come back to here – we felt that Crwys Road was right,” he said. “We kept the name ‘O.Constantinou and Sons’, my mother still lives upstairs, it’s one of the things we wanted to do and she insisted on it too, so we kept the old Constantinou name there.”
In his 50 years of cutting Cardiff’s hair Simon has seen many styles come and go – and come back again. “My father used to do short back and sides back in 1950,” he said. “Now they call it the fade, it’s what all these footballers have, it’s basically an adaptation of the short back and sides.”
“The bob comes and goes all the time. People say, ‘there’s this fabulous new hairstyle, it’s called the bob’ well excuse me, Cleopatra had it! How far back do you want to go? Hairpieces were very popular in the late 50s but now you see them on X Factor, all the judges have different hairstyles every time. It’s the same sort of thing, just an adaptation.”
Apart from those timeless, recurring styles what does Simon see as the future? What’s going to be the next trendy hairdo on the streets of Cardiff?
“I think men will start growing their hair again because it goes through phases. Inf act I remember when men started growing their hair in the 70s my father was gutted because he used to have clients coming in every two or three weeks and then suddenly they went for months without a haircut. He didn’t like that at all!
“It went from short back and sides to longer hair – you probably remember the styles in the 70s and 80s – long hair and blow-dried styles for the men. Of course then it went back to shorter hair and now it’s gone to extremely short hair so I can see them growing their hair again.
In women’s hair I can see waves coming in, as in permanent waves, soft perms. Perms back in late 80s were very popular – Kevin Keegan perms if you like – and the ladies had the curly styles. Then perms went totally out of fashion, nobody does perms, we do hardly any perms – it’s started picking up again now but a different type of perm. Instead of perms for curl we’re doing perms to give volume and maybe soft wave, with the new products we’ve got now I think I can see that happening.”
So who will it be trimming Cardiff’s hair in the future? Simon is content to continue snipping, at least for the moment.
“I’ve got no intentions of retiring, I’m 63 now and I said when I was younger I would retire at 40 but now I’m 63 and I’m still going, I don’t want to retire. I might take it a bit easier, pass it over to the family and let them do a bit more. The next generation is still young so we don’t know who’ll come along next. My granddaughter is doing a bit of plaiting at the moment on her Barbie dolls so she might but she’s only 10, so it’s a long way off.”