ldfw4: rebel pin upBack
“I love art,” says Craig Christon of Rebel Pin Up. “I love music, I love drinking, I love eating, I love having my hair cut. So it just makes sense to do it all under one roof. We’re actually sat in my dream here.”
That dream is the combined home of Rebel Pin Up’s salon and Outlaws Yacht Club’s bar on New York Street, a place that isn’t like any other venue in Leeds, but has a lot in common with more familiar spaces.
“We designed Outlaws so it’s comfy like a front room,” says Craig. “Most of my friends have got kids now, and there’s nowhere to take them, so I wanted to make a place that was child-friendly and more laid back. It just sits nicely with the salon.”
The salon itself doesn’t look or act like any other salon in Leeds, but then a lot of those salons still bear Craig’s imprint from the eighteen years when he ran Box Creative Hairdressing on Call Lane and then Lower Briggate.
“Box was ahead of its time back then – everything was about natural light, really crisp and minimal. Then all the salons in Leeds turned out looking like that, and we had to reinvent ourselves.
“Rebel Pin Up now is quite close to my personality; I was a punk rocker when I was a kid, so I was never conventional. I wanted a creative space where people could come and get their hair cut and listen to cool music, with a rock ‘n’ roll attitude towards hairdressing.”
Changing tack so completely from the normal idea of a salon was a risky strategy, but after three years – and eighteen months since Outlaws opened – Craig can sense that Rebel Pin Up is becoming established.
“At first everybody thought the salon was a tattoo parlour! When you do something different it takes a while for people to click on. I had a massive word with myself about a year in, because I thought it was just too forward thinking for Leeds.
“We weren’t busy at all. We were struggling for a year wondering if it was going to work and if I had done the right thing.
“But I’m not one to conform – I won’t just fit in. The only way to succeed is to create a niche, and go with what you believe in.”
The combination with Outlaws is now bringing worldwide attention. A gig by Tim Burgess of The Charlatans was sold out almost straightaway, and the Joe’s Bakery event on the afternoon of the Grand Départ will be broadcast live worldwide on the Boiler Room website, which is featuring Leeds for the first time.
“Over a million people watch sets on the Boiler Room,” says Craig. “So that’s going to be massive for us. We’re trying to put Leeds on the map as a creative place.”
A focus for that creativity, of course, is the hair, and as with the design of the salon itself, Craig is determined that Rebel Pin Up should be different.
“I don’t believe in being ‘on-trend,’” he says. “If you look in a book and say, this is what’s on-trend, this is what you should be wearing you hair like, this is what your clothes should be like – I just don’t believe in it. Basically everybody then looks the same – so what’s the point?”
Craig himself is regarded as one of the best hairdressers around, helping out with period cuts for actors at West Yorkshire Playhouse, styling Jude Law in his breakthrough film Shopping, and doing sixty cuts a day for the film The King’s Speech.
“For the crowd scenes filmed at Elland Road, there were about 280 extras and I cut the hair of every one. For four days I got there at eight in the morning and didn’t leave until eleven at night. It was a great experience, I met Helena Bonham Carter and Colin Firth and the whole crew was really nice – but I was just a machine for four days!”
Rebel Pin Up is a much less mechanical operation than that, developing instead a family atmosphere where individualism and creativity can grow.
“We’ve just added Michael to the family – he’s the new kid on the block for me. He reminds me of what I was like when I was 21, he’s buzzing. He’s got his head screwed on and he’s a little creative genius, and I want to take him under our wing a bit because I think he’s going to be massive.
“It’s not easy to get a job with me,” says Craig. “You have to have something about you. All the hairdressers are hand picked and we have a great team. At the height of Box I had 26 stylists and maybe 13 juniors, but now I’ve got a smaller team I’ve got less stress. It’s more like a little family – we’re a family rock ‘n’ roll hairdressers.”