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Checkmate, 1979James Lebon

The Soho salon that styled subculture

A new film tells the story of Cuts – the hairdressers that shaped three generations of London style

Boy George might have been referring to the area that surrounded cult Soho hairdressers Cuts as “a community centre for weirdos”, but, true to the spirit of the Blitz kids, the myth stuck. Kensington Market, in which the salon initially resided within a tiny basement stall, became home to one of British style subculture's secret spots – which, three decades after it opened, is now the subject of a film. 

“They probably all got their hair cut there if we’re being honest,” laughs film maker Sarah Lewis, referring to the Blitz kids and feminised men, masculine women and genderless in-between whom frequented the market in the late 70s, early 80s. Lewis has dedicated almost two decades of her life to bringing the teeming 35-year history of Cuts to the screen. “But Cuts was more than just weirdos,” she says earnestly. “It was a community.” The result of nearly two decades of work, Lewis plans to finish the film by December, gaining the final funding via crowdfunding site

Founded in the 80s by the late hairdresser-turned-artist James Lebon, Cuts salon was a pillar for London street culture, not just popularising but creating styles for club kids. It was a driving force for the Buffalo styling movement, and, depending on which source you believe, the first place to use sewn-in dreads in London. Cuts was a meeting of worlds, where regular clientele mixed with various icons of popular culture such as David Bowie, Tom Dixon, Neneh Cherry and the aforementioned Boy George. It was the place where Travis frontman Fran Healy went for his first ever haircut that was not done by his mother, resulting in that most late-90s of haircuts, the tufted-up fin. It’s also the place Goldie, one of the salons regular patrons, conceived the stripy bleached Armadillo. “I watch the footage back and it’s a community of characters,” says Lewis, “No two the same: there’s board gamers, chess gurus, fashion folk, famous folk, photographers. All united but no two alike.”

The starting point for Lewis was initially the salon’s effervescent founder Lebon, and his savvy slimming-machine-selling business partner Steve Brooks (“it was a non-sexual love story”), though she later understood that the real story was bigger than that. CUTS: The Movie is a fable about human connection. The barber is the person you go and tell all your secrets to, your deepest reflections, the things that you wouldn’t tell anyone else. One client told his Cuts stylist about his HIV positive status before anyone else. It’s a poignant anecdote from Lewis, as she touches on some of the myriad lives that have passed in and out of Cuts doors over the years “some transient, some long-lasting”. “Think about how personal this interaction is,” Lewis says, “not only are they giving you a platform to talk, they’re physically touching you, altering you physically, you’re vulnerable to them. There’s trust. This is a huge responsibility.”  

Head to to back CUTS now