As soon as I was allowed in bars and clubs, I started working in them. It probably wasn’t where my mum and dad saw me, and my lifestyle got to a point where my dad sat me down and said, “Listen, no more fucking about now.” I got introduced to a hairdresser named Mark Wooley shortly after that, and the moment hit. I looked at him, realised he was fucking cool, owned a Porsche, had four salons, was super-creative, and had everything going for him. I thought that was the way I wanted to go.
Vinnie Morey owns The Proper Barbershop in LA. He gave me the chance to work under him, and it changed everything. He’s a mentor and a good friend. My go-to guy.
What sums up my teenage years? Joyriding around the suburbs, in my tiny town. I thought I got away with it, until I was about 30. Turns out, my parents knew the whole time.
Having to tell you wife you’ve pretty much lost everything is not cool. I’d invested all that I had into this one summer event in Brighton. The day we set up, we got hit with one of the worst storms on record. That almost destroyed AONO. It was a fail even before we opened. Amazingly, soon after our first big international clothing order came through. It was big enough to cover everything we lost. That made it better.
The streetwear side of the business started in 2011. Put simply, I couldn’t find anything that I really wanted to wear, so made my own.
When I was younger, I’d get a new pair of Jordans every month. Back then, you had to be ‘in the know’ to find all the right stuff: books, trainers and kit. I’d have to make my parents drive up to the proper dodgy parts of London to get them. A little kid from the suburbs of Southampton shouldn’t have been there, that’s all I know.
In my late teens, I had a job stripping wire out of cables. I lasted a week.
The real show-stopping tattoos came at 26. Y’know, the full sleeves, chest and hands. That was always going to push me further and further away from getting a 9–5 office job.
I own loads of skateboards. And foam hands. And a giant whoopee cushion outfit. And other shit that my wife really hates.
I employ people who have a will to learn. They must have the right attitude and a good work ethic. Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill taught me how to get rid of the negative and see everything positively. It’s a big thing for me. You need to stay positive or everything will fall apart.
A long time ago, I started losing my hair. Hence the head tattoo. I also have a fine array of hats. One of my hats once caused a four-year-old kid to ask me if I was a sheriff. Of course, I told him yes.
Getting the top of my head tattooed was the most horrific pain I’ve felt. It’s kind of like getting tattooed through your arsehole, out of your eyes and on to the top of your head. It broke me. It took 11 hours to finish it.
Fatherhood changes your entire outlook. The selfishness disappears like a lightbulb being switched off. You realise you’re there to make your kids survive. Being a dad is a fucking full-on, awesome job. But nothing will ever prepare you for having your first child. No books, no nothing.
At about 6am, I get up with the kids. Then I walk to work, start at 9:30am, go through to 8pm, walk home and then get into bed by midnight.
Stay the course, be happy, look after your family. I learned that from my father. He’s always bloody right.
I’ve heard some incredible stuff from people while cutting their hair. We’ve had drug dealers sat next to top criminal lawyers. We’ve had scruff bags who turn out to be multi-millionaires. We’ve had musicians I’ve never heard of, musicians I have heard of, pro skaters, special forces, models, directors… You don’t know who’s coming through the door. I’m waiting for the day I cut Jay Z’s hair, though.
Long hair is coming back in 2015. Trust me, I know that for a fact.