#PrimarkMeets Joe Mills
Renowned for his photo shoot styling, celebrity clients and strong relationship with GQ and Esquire magazines, Joe Mills has cut the hair of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, from Jamie Dornan to Taron Egerton, Martin Freeman and Ben Affleck – and now he’s coming to Primark! Yes, you read that right. As part of our show-stopping new Birmingham, England store, Primark has collaborated with Joe Mills to create the barber’s first standalone in-store shop outside London. We grabbed a coffee with Joe to find out more about his new salon, MILLS, ahead of the launch.
Welcome to our biggest store in the world!
What's the most exciting thing about opening up your first MILLS store outside London, in collaboration with Primark?
A number of things! From a creative standpoint, working with a brand like Primark gives us flexibility, a different platform, and an opportunity to push boundaries. And from a business perspective, we wanted to find a way to meet a whole new audience and get them involved from a different angle.
Do you have personal ties to the city?
I know it quite well. Years ago I used to spend a lot of time up in the Midlands. I really like the area and the people – everyone is super friendly and warm! I remember when the Bullring shopping center opened, and spending time up there. And now to see the Pavilions turned into a Primark is really exciting.
What's your fave coffee place in town?
Mills Coffee Bar in the salon! Mills is a really simple, grab-and-go coffee bar, because we’re the first and last touch point on the Moor Street entrance. We’re not going to have tables and chairs: it's literally all about the quality of the coffee. The guys working in there are super experienced, and really into what they do. I think there’s eight or nine options: what we British call "builder's tea" (double-strong black tea), herbal tea, flat white coffee, all one size – you can have different milks, but it’s super straightforward. For us, it’s about doing things simply, and doing them right.
We've heard you're really into your music – Do you have a fave band from Birmingham?
There’s lots of obvious people to mention, but looking back, I think the band that changed it most up there were The Streets. For me, that was when that urban mood came in: it wasn’t hip hop, it wasn’t dance music, it just came out of nowhere! It struck a chord with a lot of people of all ages, and Mike Skinner’s got a great voice as well. But there’s also a new guy up there, called Sox. He’s insane! Really, really cool – his sound is quite raw, but really strong.
So will you be bringing this vibe into your playlist for the shop?
Yeah absolutely! We’re really lucky with our Primark in-store shop: it’s purpose-built with brick and windows, so we can have music. We currently have 9,000 tracks on the playlist! Everything from Led Zeppelin to the Rolling Stones to The Streets, and everyone in between – it’s a mashup. It really symbolizes the brand DNA and what we’re all about, and it’s fun!
How did you start your career in London?
I'm originally from Margate; I trained and studied down there. I knew I wanted something more, and I knew that the itch wouldn’t get scratched back home. Actually, how I got started is a funny story... I’d seen an interview in The Face magazine with the guy who owned a salon called Fish. He was in there talking about going out in London, so I cold called him and pretended that I’d met him in a club and he’d told me to give him a call. And that got my foot in the door in Soho, London! That was in 1991. I started at Fish and then my journey took off from there – it was a great opportunity. I got involved in shoots early on, worked with a lot of good photographers and it just grew and grew, until I opened my first salon, The Lounge in 1998 – I was only in my late 20's!
You’ve been in the business for over 30 years: what makes you a leading British expert hairstylist?
It’s about understanding what you’re there to do. Whether it’s being one-on-one with a celebrity or a salon full of clients, you’re there to advise and cut hair – but you also need to be passionate about what you do. Just as important is being interested in the fashion element of it, and where hair trends are going. I’ve been in the game for a long time, and I still spend hours online looking at images, catwalks, and researching. I know all the history of where hair trends come from and advise people who are doing films on period details – anything and everything to do with hair. I’m still really passionate about it! I also work with other brands from time to time, predicting and forecasting. You have to engage in that, you can’t just wing it.
What's your fave hobby, and why?
Outside of being a dad and spending time with my son, my biggest passion is cars. Old cars. I like tinkering! I’ve got an 1950's Hillman, a classic British car that I’ve had for years, that a few friends and I have done up and rebuilt. My dream would be to have a big garage with all the different cars and motorcycles I’d like to own – who knows? Maybe in the future...
You’re renowned for your clean, classic modern edge. So what can Primark guests expect from you?
For us it’s all about the consultation, finding out what the client wants and delivering that. It’s simple: it’s about taking classic haircuts and doing them really well, with a modern twist. Customers will get a great service and the price point is super competitive – for us it’s about catering for everybody. I'm happy to have your child in to get a haircut because he’s going back to school, or have your friends come in with you just to hang out. There’s a trend in barbering at the moment that it’s a male-only environment, and you can’t come in if you’re a women. That’s archaic, anyone can come in!
What are your top 5 hair- and beard-care hacks?
1. Make sure you use the right shampoo for your hair: don’t just use your partner’s in the bathroom. Buy one that’s specific for your hair. If you use a lot of product in your hair, your need a shampoo that can get rid of it.
2. Get your hair cut by someone you know really knows what they’re doing. You can’t change your haircut like you can change your shirt – so get it done properly!
3. If you’re going into a new environment to get your hair cut, go prepared. Know what you want, bring photos with you, and don’t be scared to ask. It shouldn’t be an intimidating experience: it should be somewhere that you want to hang out and get your hair cut.
4. Use a decent moisturizer, with an SPF in it – at least 20. Treat your skin well, and it'll look good.
5. If you’re going to grow a beard, take care of it. Shampoo it, clean it, then use a balm on it to keep it looking good.
And what are the upcoming hair/beard trends our guy customers should look for in 2019?
For years we were doing skin fades, hard parts, big long beards. Guys that have spent a long time growing their beard aren’t going to shave it off anytime soon, but there’s a move towards shorter stubble, and being clean shaven – over the next two years, this is really going to take off.
From a hair perspective, it’s either super short crew cuts, or skin heads with a very hard military feel. But the other extreme of that is guys growing their hair out. They’re getting kind of sick of short back and sides! We’re seeing a lot more long hair, a lot more mid length, with texture, working with what the hair’s got rather than overloading it with products.
What’s the best hair care advice you’ve ever received?
I think being shown how to actually style my hair. I'm remembering when I was about 15: back then I had this wedge haircut with highlights. It was really long and flowing, and I remember the girl who used to cut my hair teaching me how to style it, and actually showing me how to use a hairdryer and a brush, and then how to apply a product.
We guys don’t really communicate with each other, especially at that young age! So I think understanding what I was doing wrong, and how to do it right, probably was a touch point for me to get involved in the hair industry.
Joe’s Quick-Fire Round:
Anarchy or order?Order.
Wingtips or sneakers?Sneakers.
Day or night? Day.
Beard or mustache? Mustache.
Dressed up or dressed down?Down.
Morning person or night owl? Morning person.
Fave pizza topping?Pepperoni!
Last book you read?The autobiography of British comic Rob Brydon, "Small Man In A Book."
Last person you texted?Jody Taylor, one of my creative directors.
Biggest pet peeve?Men who don’t stand up on the Tube or subway when there’s a pregnant woman standing in front of them. Be a gentleman!
What’s your life motto?"Treat people how you want to be treated", and "It is what it is."
Fave emoji? Smiley face! 😁