Barbershop culture is on the rise in Dublin. Barbershops are becoming cultural hotspots. Places you can go not only for a haircut, but for music, design or even a whiskey.

By taking the best of New York’s barbershops and adding a touch of creativity and an Irish welcome, Sean Bryan of Cut & Sew has built his business from one chair in the basement of a record shop to four stores around Dublin city.

And he isn’t finished yet. Dublin.ie caught up with Sean to hear about the story behind his success.

Starting Cut & Sew barbers

Sean left school after third year and started a carpentry apprenticeship. However, that didn’t work out, so he turned his hand to hairdressing.

“That sounds a bit mad. From working on a building site to go to hairdressing,” Sean laughs.

black and white portrait of sean bryan

Sean Bryan of Cut & Sew

Yet, go inside any of his barbershops – which he designs – and it’s easy to see how the two have come together.

Cut & Sew shops are instantly recognisable. Pared-back, industrial, monochromatic and decorated with a combination of the rediscovered, the salvaged and the modern.

Sean qualified at some of the best salons in Dublin, cutting and colouring women’s hair.

After a while, he also started to build up a male client base. He was sceptical at first, but he soon came to enjoy the “instant gratification” that comes with cutting men’s hair. “Within half an hour, a lad could look ten times better,” he says.

I think people thought it was meant to look like that.

It was during the recession that Sean started to question what he was doing. “I wasn’t staying anywhere longer than six months. I had no money or savings,” he says. “People were getting creative, because they had no other choices available.”

One day, he was casually chatting with a friend. “I said I’d love to do a barbershop. And he said he’d love to do t-shirts,” Sean explains. And so Cut & Sew was born.

From one chair to four shops

It started in the basement of All City Records on Crow Street in Temple Bar. Sean had gotten to know the owner, Olan, from buying records and spray paints in his shop. Olan gave him the opportunity he needed.

“We didn’t need that much capital,” Sean says. “Using the carpentry, I built things from wooden boxes that Olan had lying around. I painted the walls turquoise green, got a piece of sh*t chair, the cheapest gown I could get and a back mirror. I think people thought it was meant to look like that – kind of ‘Berlin-y’, like it looks a mess but it’s cool.”

Cut & Sew Wellington Quay

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It started as a whisper. ‘Go down and see this guy Sean in the basement’. Soon, however, it reached a point where his worse-for-wear chair couldn’t keep up with demand.

So he moved upstairs to the back of the store, making room for his second chair and hiring his first employee.

It had started small. “You couldn’t swing a cat in it; the till was in a cupboard,” says Sean. Then, all of a sudden, it blew up.

I was earning less than minimum wage.

“That was the turning point,” he says. “Was I going to stay doing work that I had no love for at all? Or would I take a risk and go full-time into Temple Bar? I realised this was my dream, but I don’t think I recognised how serious it was. All of a sudden, I registered the company, I had a logo, I got an accountant. It all got a bit crazy.”

Sean would reinvest whatever he made back into the business. “I was making so little that I was earning less than minimum wage,” he says. “In fairness, my mam didn’t charge me rent… Every week, I would buy something for the shop instead”.

Tiles. Then a mirror. Then chairs. He bought them one at a time. “They were so expensive,” he says. “I was storing them one by one downstairs, the first ones gathering dust waiting for the next.”

It has grown so much. I want to build on what we have, get the roots strong.

This went on for about a year. And then he headed to his local credit union, which was a huge help to him.

“It’s great, because you can borrow three times what you have,” Sean says. “It’s like going to Ikea for a bin and coming home with a home office, you know?”

With belief in his dream and capital in his pocket, he opened his second shop on Wellington Quay. Now, Sean has four Cut & Sew barbers altogether. The one on the quays, as well as one on Lord Edward Street in the city centre, one in Rathmines and one on Dundrum‘s Main Street.

Sean has even started hair cutting courses and online barbershop business coaching.

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So what’s next for Cut & Sew? “It has grown so much. I want to build on what we have, get the roots strong,” says Sean. That growth could come in the form of an academy or another new shop, but either way the business will continue to grow.

“When I was doing graffiti, I wanted to get my name in the most prolific areas,” he says. “Now, I want to get my name on everyone’s head – like ‘that’s a Cut & Sew cut’.”

To find out more or book a cut, visit Cut & Sew’s website.

Amy Sergison works in the advertising industry, creating social and digital content for brands in Ireland and the UK. The child of inner-city parents, Dublin is in her blood. When not writing you can find Amy screaming at a rugby match, Instagramming her dinner, or searching for solace in the quiet spots of the city.

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