Out of the five gents I photographed for the Brooks Brothers campaign, Mr Natty has got to be the most memorable. Never before has a nickname so perfectly summed up one person before with his quirky traditional style, peppy personality and wicked sense of humour, he is out-and-out Natty. Shooting in his old house boat, we got through too many cups of tea and had a proper chat about hair, London and taking your own road in life.
Matt Raine aka Mr Natty, Gentlemans Barber
Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I grew up in South London and now living between Kent and New York. I'm making the move to NYC full time this year.
What's your star sign? Gemini – I'm a complete Gemini. I had my sign done by a professional, a real hippy. She said she'd never met anyone like me. Someone so perfectly Gemini in the rising sign, moon, all that stuff. That means I'm very happy, really up. I'm a busy boy. I love to talk and be interested in life.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a farmer. I spent my summers working on a friend's dairy farm. It was a traditional mixed farm in Devon. I went to agricultural college when left school and everything.
Describe yourself in 5 words? I'm not sure what I'd say for that. I asked my wife and even she didn't know. What do you think?
I'd say something like "curious, interested, people-person, energtetic...and you make a good cuppa tea". That's way beyond five but fits you well.
That'll do me nicely!
Where did your passion for grooming begin? Do you have a great first memory of a grandfather shaving or anything like that? I was really fascinated with cutting hair. I used to cut my friends' hair when at school as everyone wanted a flat top. At the time I thought 'that doesn't look too difficult' so bought some clippers and started to make some extra pennys. I used to go up to London when I was much younger and walk around Jermyn Street and stare through the store windows, utterly intrigued by the world that was there.
My Dad used to take me to a barbers in Elephant and Castle. It was really busy, buzzing with blokes all day long. They used to have dirty men's magazines - 'blue mags' - in reception, and it just felt like a grown up world. It was men's business and I liked it. The smell was contained within the space. You'd never smell that other than there. The clippers, the men with with combs in their top pockets. It was mad and I thought 'I want in on this'.
Living on a canal boat has got to be an adventure. There's something quite “London” about that image in my head – how did it shape you? Oh I have so many fantastic stories from my boat days. Some of those memories are for me only, but there are a few I can share. I remember one day I was going down the canal and looked down the back of the boat where, to my surprise, I saw a guy hanging on. He was a local homeless man, a drunk dude, basicallly grabbing onto the boat as he was dragged with only pants on and a can of beer in his hand. It was a feat of balance. There have been so many chuckles over the years from cyclists flying off the edge and straight into the canal.
As a born and bred Londoner you'll be more than qualified to give some insider knowledge. Where's the best place for...
a haircut? Me of course. Contact me through ONE Represents or my website. I don't cost an arm and a leg, I like to think I'm there for the working man. My barber shops tends to be in Albam, Spittalfields so you can also find me there. Although I have been known to set up shop in a canal boat, down the a pub...really wherever there are people.
a coffee? In bed with the Missus. She makes the best coffee. It's alchemy. I don't know what she does but it is unbeliebale. Sunday morning, her coffee.
a walk? I like around Smithfield Market as it's still real. And you can't beat the walk through Greenwich Park.
a drink? I love the Coach and Horses in Soho but really The Phoenix Artist Club, off Charing Cross Road is superb. It's only £16 to be a member and you find it filled with out of work thespians doing drag.
music? The Jalopy Theatre in Red Hook, New York. Sorry London, my sights set Stateside already.
Speaking of which, you're planning a move across the pond to New York this year, what attracts you to the Big Apple? I'm a country boy at heart but the energy is electric. It feeds me. Everyone there seems excited or at least they pretend to be and that becomes infectous. London people are doing things but they don't like to talk about it. You can't feed off that. It's difficult here because everyone wants to go to Uni instead of doing an apprentiship. People should get a proper trade so they don't have to depend on working for a conglomarate. It's like you, you're not a photographer, you see that there's more to what you do and you've seen the trend. You've turned your interest into a paying job. Having a passion that you can make money out of. If you're in work but you want to make tent pegs out of wood then do it. Follow your passion. Use your hands, create! There are people who are doers. My children know they want to create and are able to think "how can we make money out of this." That's quite an American attitude I think and something I love.
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You're a digitally savvy chap – how has the internet changed your business? Without the interweb I don't think I'd have this opportuntiy to speak with you. There's a chance for people to create a business, you don't need bricks and mortar. I've used social media to prepel myself. 13 years ago I wouldnt be able to do this. I'd need to go in the Yellow Pages. I was asked to speak at a conference recently where I met all these bloggers in New York and spoke about how I started my company. There were big brands in the audience and I was thinking 'really? you can't be that thick! I just do what I do" but corporate culture just doesn't understand this revolution.
You’re wearing Brooks Brothers which is a classic American menswear brand, what d you enjoy about wearing their designs? I love that they still have the family business. There's a big element of American tradition. They have excellent essenitals and the location of the London store on Regents Street is perfect. From child to adult they have it sussed. It's good quality gear, isn't it? Well made. Essential kit for your arsenal.
Who are your style influencers? I love William Gilchrist. I like his energy. Edward Sexton and his partner Tommy Nutter used to come in get their hair cut in my salon. Edward is incredible, beautiful. He's a big influence.
What blogs or magazines are you currently reading? I love yours. I like Backyard Bill, like Ragged Glory tumblr.
What's on your horizon? Got some new products, completely paraben-free. No petro-chemicals. We're opening a cheeky barbershop...top secret but coming soon. And I want to buy a pony in New York. Upstate! Not in the city! I ain't Bianca Jagger.
Finally, leave us with some words of wisdom... Be humble, be kind.