Brixton’s free-spirited Coldharbour Lane gave us the spark of inspiration to create Coldharbour Lager, a super-refreshing pilsner-style beer with Bohemian origins. Our content series, Characters of Coldharbour Lane, pays tribute to the people behind the street.
Kool Kut Barbers, with its unmissable lime green facade, is owned by Jamaican-born barber Oliver Williams, and has been based on Coldharbour Lane for five years now. Since opening, Oliver has made a name for himself by consistently applying what he describes as a “secret formula” for fresh trims to anyone who wanders by in search of a cut. We met with him for a beer and a chat to talk about the choices that resulted in him becoming a barber, moving to South London, and opening a shop on Coldharbour Lane.
Q: How did you become a barber?
My friend from primary school in Jamaica wanted to become a barber and I was the first guy who ever let him trim their hair. I believed in him and I gave him a chance. When we were older he had his own barbershop and I started practising there a bit, to see if I could learn the craft too, but I was no good at that time.
Then when I was 19 I moved from Jamaica to England. I went to a barbershop in London and said, ‘I’m a barber- can I work here?’ I was blagging, but the owner saw something in me and gave me an opportunity. I’m so grateful that he gave me that chance, now here I am 20 years later.
I remember my first trim there was so bad I wanted to disappear, but I knew I had to believe in myself and that I would get better. Now, barbering is what I love best, it hardly feels like a job to me.
Q: What do you mean when you talk about ‘applying the formula’?
It’s just a slogan I use to express what we do. When you see us or you come for a trim, you can see that these people are all part of my family. I’ve applied the creativity of my eye to your head- that’s the formula.
Q: When did you decide to open your own business? And what brought you to Coldharbour Lane?
I had spent 8 years working in somebody else’s barber shop. Eventually I thought, if I can do this for someone else, I can do this for myself. I had no track record running a business but I’m a self-driven guy- I’m not about bullshit and I enjoy my art. It was a small leap of faith and that’s how Kool Kut started- a barbershop of my own.
It took me two years to find a good location then this spot became available. It was a dream to work in Brixton, I’ve always appreciated that it’s a diverse area. I’ve cut some famous people’s hair but for me it’s not about that, it’s about executing my art and making people feel happy, particularly locals- they’re the ones who have made me who I am today.
Q: It’s great to see you rocking a mask today. How have things been since you reopened after lockdown?
Coronavirus has been hard on us. We closed even before the government told us to because I didn’t want to take any chances. Now that the business is back open it’s still a bit up and down, but my people are messaging me saying they still have an afro and they’ll be coming down soon! I’m waiting in hope that we can get back to normality quickly.
Portraits from our Characters of Coldharbour Lane series will be on display at the Brixton Brewery Tap Room from 23rd September or you can see them as they drop on Instagram @brixtonbrewery. Look for Coldharbour Lager at bars and bottle shops throughout London and beyond (or shop via our website here). Grab one and take refuge from thirst.