David Popham is the founding director
Much of the company’s culture is derived from his passion for our people and our craft, this is his story:
“As a fifteen-year-old school leaver, I was on my way home from a rather clipped meeting with the careers guidance officer, who on seeing I had no qualifications, recommended the factory-line. My Dad had told me “if you want to get a job, get a haircut”, so I dropped into the local Ma and Pa salon where the newest trainee told me what a wonderful time he was having. While I could not quite see what the attraction was, still, it seemed better than going on the line with everyone else at the packing factory – seemingly my only other option.
I got home and my Dad, upon asking me for the third time, “are you sure you want to be a hairdresser son”, suggested I should advertise myself in the Hairdressers Journal. My advertisement read “School leaver seeks apprenticeship”. I got one reply from a salon in the West End and took it, and that, in 1964, was how I became a hairdresser.”
“One day, I was looking through a job finding website, and I came across an advert for Popham. I attended an interview with Nikki, and although being there a very short length of time, I felt this was a space that allowed self development and improvement. I was delighted to be offered a job following a trade test, and couldn’t wait to start.
My first day, I was in for a big shock. I was used to being the big fish in a small pond, and now I was a minnow in the Atlantic Ocean. But even though I was absolutely terrified, the team were lovely and supported me throughout my wobbly times.”
“Now, after being here for almost 3 years and taking on role as Training Manager, I still feel incredibly lucky and enjoy every day of being at Popham.”
“From then on I stumbled through a few less than sparkling West End salons”
“Including a longish spell off Carnaby Street where a normal day included bands having to be locked in to prevent hoards of girls mobbing the salon for a glimpse of their pop idols, and my boss selling supposed locks of rock star hair to unwitting fans. I still wonder about all those now older women treasuring their own fragment of the swinging sixties stars, not knowing that it was just my boss’s slice of that new mad Swinging Sixties prosperity. I decided to move on, and was waiting for my interview at a posh West End salon. While waiting, I listened to the staff laughing about the front page news of some nutter on Bond Street who was cutting everyone’s hair off, suggesting they did not need to come back for six weeks! “He won’t last without weekly sets and mid-week comb-outs” For some reason I got up and left and applied with Vidal Sassoon, the so- called “nutter” in question.
I was told my work was “Rubbish, but we like the way you move”, I was given six months to retrain in the Sassoon precision cutting and geometry, and I got the job. The Sassoon passion for design, Bauhaus, and function-first, hit the zeitgeist of the moment. Women wanted freedom, and hair that was functional and sexy, I was hooked. I went on to work for Sassoon through the late sixties and seventies, in London, then Toronto, and New York.”
“I decided it was time to do my own thing and moved back to the UK and settled in Oxford for the eighties.”
“I opened my first Oxford Salon in North Parade in 1981. The business grew and we opened a second salon in the city centre on the crest of eighties prosperity. I married Shirley, who had worked with me for some time, and we sold up to explore the world beyond hairdressing, thinking that there had to be more! It took me some time to discover that the more I was looking for it, it had been with us all along, I just had not noticed. I was inspired to return to hairdressing, not least by Lars Christiansen, our children’s orthodontist. I was envious of his ability to provide a space for being with people, where they got more than just straight teeth. We opened the second North Parade salon, just next door to my original one, where it remains my passion to help change the way our clients feel about their appearance. At best, hairdressing is like cosmetic surgery without the knife! We change the way people look, even transform how people feel about themselves, and then offer reinvention every six weeks! It is still a gift to do this every day.”
“I had been so lucky to have my time at Sassoon, the opportunities to learn and develop there were exceptional. So it now gives me a real kick to provide a space for our young people– to grow, develop careers, be well paid, have fun with their creativity, and most of all to be fully self-expressed! I hope this comes through in the craft, creativity and service we now offer”.