PLACES: Chronicling a day at the London barbershop Diligence, which specialises in intricate patterns and shaping
Photography + Art Direction: Panos Damaskinidis
Video: Aris Akritidis
Diligence is at 111 Broadway, West Ealing, W13 9BE, London.
Diligence is a barbershop specialising in patterns and fades. Based in West Ealing, London, the shop was established 17 years ago by Stephen Sullivan and Pekka Ikomi. Over the years, it has become a much-loved local institution, which Sullivan attributes to the shop’s familial atmosphere. “It’s a community,” he says, “we’ve seen kids from the age of five turn into adults and have kids of their own”.
Both multi-award winning barbers, Sullivan and Ikomi have previously won Battle of the Barbers and Barber of the Year, allowing the pair to showcase their craft outside of the shop. Requiring a steady hand and an artistic eye, the intricate pattern work which they specialise in takes immense skill and patience. However, as Sullivan explains, it’s becoming something of a dying art. “There’s not much of a market for patterns anymore, which is a shame,” he explains, “we used to get four or five clients wanting it every day, now I’d be lucky to get four or five clients wanting it in a six-month period. But I love doing it, which is why I really like doing the competition work.”
Despite this, on the day of our visit, Diligence is buzzing with life, with both Sullivan and Ikomi rushed off their feet. “You could put me on another job, paying me five times at much and personally I wouldn’t want it,” Sullivan says. “I wouldn’t want to do anything else. We never look at the clock here, the day always flies.”
INFRINGE documented a day at Diligence, and spoke to Sullivan about how London inspires his approach to barbering.
“The most challenging patterns are probably faces. It’s about trying to get that symmetry right”
How would you describe Diligence? I would describe it as being firstly – the team. It’s family, we get on really, really well. And secondly – the work. ‘Diligence’ says it all, the name came about through a shop which Pekka and I had before, when one of our clients commented, “you lot are very diligent”.
How did you and Pekka meet? I’ve known him for a long time. I was good friends with his brother at school, I used to wind him up a little bit, so he didn’t really like me before we started cutting hair. But as soon as we got together – I went to work where he was – we just clicked straight away.
One of the things you specialise in is pattern work. How did you start with this? I used to practice at home a lot with a razor blade. Then I went to work in a shop in Southwold, and the gentleman I was working for there was very good so I learned a lot from him. When I started to work with Pekka, he was really good at patterns so he showed me a lot.
Where do you get the inspiration for your designs? I get a lot of ideas from tattoo books and black and white drawings. A lot of my pattern designs are based on things that I’ve seen that I’ll then recreate in my own way.
Are there any designs that are particularly challenging to create? The most challenging patterns are probably faces. It’s about trying to get that symmetry right, if you get one eye slightly off then the proportion is wrong. You really have to take your time.
A tattoo artist once told me that he feels honoured that people allow him to create art on their bodies. Do you feel the same way about barbering? Yeah. I definitely feel that creating my own work, and the client letting me do it is beautiful. They have faith in us, so I’m at the point where I can do what I want on their head and I don’t have to take it out. They want it left in and that’s really good.
How has London as a city inspired your approach to hair? It’s my city! I was born and bred here. The way that haircuts have changed from when I first started is really inspiring. It was predominantly black and now it’s so diverse. A lot of the styles now are really similar on all heads, it doesn’t matter whether you’re black, white or Asian.