#PrimarkMeets Joe Mills
Renowned for his session styling, extensive celebrity clientele, and strong affiliations with GQ and Esquire magazine, Joe Mills has cut the hair of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, from Jamie Dornon, to Taron Egerton, Martin Freeman and Ben Affleck – and now he’s coming to Primark. Yes, you read right! As part of our show stopping new store in Birmingham, Primark has collaborated with Joe Mills to create the barber’s first standalone concession outside of 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 in Birmingham, in collaboration with Primark?
There’s a number of different elements to it. 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 entice a whole new audience and hit the high street from a different angle.
Do you have personal ties to Birmingham?
I know Birmingham 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. For me, I remember when the Bullring opened and spending time up there, and now to see the Pavilions turned into a Primark is really exciting.
What's your favourite Birmingham coffee place?
Mills Coffee Bar in the salon! Mills is a really simple, grab and go coffee bar, as we’re the first and last touch point on the Moor Street entrance. We’re not going to have tables and chairs, its literally all about the quality of the coffee. The guys we’ve got working in there are super experienced, and really into what they do. I think there’s eight or nine options; builders tea, herbal tea, flat white, all one size, yes you can have different milks, but it’s super straight forward. For us, it’s about doing things simply, and doing it right.
We've heard you're really into your music. Do you have a favourite band from Birmingham?
There’s lots of obvious people to mention, but if I look 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 from nowhere. It struck a chord with a lot of people of all ages, and Mike Skinner’s got a great voice as well. But equally, there’s a new guy up in Birmingham called Sox. He’s insane, really cool - his sound is quite raw, but really strong.
So will you be bringing this vibe into your playlist for Birmingham?
Yeah absolutely. We’re really lucky with our store in Primark, it’s purpose built with brick and windows, so we can have music. We currently have 9000 tracks on the playlist and it’s everything from Led Zeppelin, to the Rolling Stones, to The Streets, and everyone in between – it’s a mash up. It really signifies the brand DNA and what we’re about, and it’s fun!
How did you start your career in London?
Originally I come from Margate, I trained and studied down there. I knew I wanted something more and I knew that the itch wouldn’t get scratched in Margate. 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 me my foot in the door in Soho. 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 its just grew and grew, until I opened my first salon The Lounge in 1998 - I was only in my late 20s.
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 it’s a salon full of clients, you’re there to advise, and cut hair, but you also need to be passionate about what you do. Equally being interested in the fashion element of it and where hair trends are going is important. I’ve been in the game over 30 years and I still spend hours online looking at images, catwalks, and researching. I know all the history of where hair trends come from, I 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 favourite hobby and why?
Outside of being a father and spending time with my son, my biggest passion is cars. Old cars, I like tinkering. I’ve got an 1950s Hillman that I’ve had for years, that me and a few friends have done up and rebuilt. In blue sky thinking, I’d have a big garage with all of the different cars and motorbikes I’d like to own, who knows maybe in the future.
You’re renowned for you ‘clean, classic and contemporary edge’, so what can the Birmingham customer expect from you?
For us it’s all about the consultation, finding out what the client wants and delivering that. It’s uncomplicated, it’s about taking classic haircuts and doing them really well, with a contemporary twist. The customer in Birmingham will get a great service, the price point is super competitive, for us it’s about catering for everybody. I don’t mind if you’re bringing your child in to get a haircut because he’s going back to school, or 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 tips?
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 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 imagery 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 moisturiser, with an SPF in it, at least 20. Treat your skin well, and it will look good.
5. If you’re going to grow a beard, look after it. Shampoo it, clean your beard, and then use a balm on it to keep it looking good.
And what are the upcoming hair/beard trends our male customer should look out for in 2019?
For years we were doing skin fades, hard partings, big long beards. Guys that have spent a long time growing their beard aren’t going to shave it off in the short term, 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 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 remember when I was about 15, and back then I had this wedge haircut with highlights. It was really long and flowy, 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.
Us 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
Brogue or trainers? Trainers
Day or night? Day
Beard or moustache? Moustache
Dressed up or dressed down? Down
What’s your favourite colour? Blue
Are you a morning person or night owl? Morning person
Fave pizza topping? Pepperoni
Last book you read? Rob Brydon’s autobiography ‘Small Man In A Book’
Last person you text? Jody Taylor - one of my creative directors
Biggest pet peeve? Men who don’t stand up on the tube 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.’
What’s your favourite emoji? Smiley face 😁