CUTS was founded in 1980 by James Lebon, as a laid-back antidote to the conventional salons of that time. Offering classic street cuts, it influenced many of the iconic looks of the early 1980s, with staff styling the classic Eighties Levi’s ads and Ray Petri’s Buffalo shoots.
Having operated in four different venues on two London streets for 30 years, CUTS has remained at the forefront of London street style fthroughout its existence.
One of its lasting legacies to the hair industry was a new and innovative business model introduced in the 1980s. Individual chairs in the shop were made available to be rented by freelance hair stylists, who kept the profit they made. This now-familiar concept, revolutionary at the time, immediately ensured a flow of new ideas, and it was soon copied across the UK. It created one of the crucial pre-conditions for the rise of the new celebrity hairdresser in the 1990s.
However it is not just the stylists that have made CUTS a London legend. Its hugely diverse crowd of customers generate a famously convivial atmosphere and an openness typical of Soho. “With its customer base of artists, creatives and media people,” wrote the cultural critic Ekow Eshun in the Noughties, “CUTS buzzes in a way that is more like a club than a hairstylist. It is unquestionably a staple of Soho.”
That clientele and atmosphere helped CUTS to become a hang-out and clearing house for information and people in the creative industries. All customers, however famous, (there have been ridiculous amount of home-grown and international stars cross the threshold of this shop) receive the same egalitarian service, which fosters a mood of warmth and friendliness. As the musician and entrepreneur James Lavelle says: “If you wanted to know what was happening, that’s where you went.” CUTS stylists themselves have gone on to become high profile musicians, jewelry designers, models and film makers, and featured in media titles from Vogue to the Oprah Winfrey Show.
CUTS has also been invited to work with several art institutions, including the London’s Photographers Gallery and Tate Modern. Most recently it was part of the 2016 Return of the Rude Boy exhibition at London’s Somerset House, running a pop-up salon at the venue for two months in collaboration with ex-staff member Johnnie Sapong.
THE CLAY marks another new chapter in the CUTS story – a chapter that will be continued with at least one other new product line in the months ahead. As such, it will help CUTS to build on its remarkable longevity – a longevity that’s a testament to the continuing laid-back creativity this unique business has maintained in a notoriously fickle and transient industry.