Home   Medway   News   Article

Meet the Medway barber tackling men's mental health one conversation and a cut at a time


More news, no ads

LEARN MORE

The long months of lockdown and feelings of isolation have placed a strain on everyone's mental health in some shape or form over the last year-and-a-half.

But for men if there is one place where you can recharge your batteries and feel heard it's often in the barber's chair.

Jake Cox, owns and runs the No Bad Days Barbershop in Atlas Place, St Mary's Island. Photo: Bruce Middlemiss Photography
Jake Cox, owns and runs the No Bad Days Barbershop in Atlas Place, St Mary's Island. Photo: Bruce Middlemiss Photography

And while it is important to note hairdressers and barbers don't specifically treat or diagnose mental illnesses, a friendly ear can help break down any stigma.

Some in the industry have even undergone mental health first-aider training in a bid to stop men falling through the cracks.

One such individual is Jake Cox who moved from Bexleyheath to Medway to open his first cutting venture, The No Bad Days Barbershop in St Mary's Island in June.

The 27-year-old was keen to use his own experience grappling with mental health to encourage his customers to open up while having a fade or a taper.

He also donates 10% of profits generated by product sales to mental health charity, Mind.

Reporter Sean Delaney gets a new haircut from Medway barber Jake Cox
Reporter Sean Delaney gets a new haircut from Medway barber Jake Cox

And he must be doing something right with a star-studded clientèle list which already includes several Gillingham Football Club players, as well as Team GB Olympic gymnast Giarnni Regini-Moran.

So with a serious case of bed-head and a frantic Monday morning behind me I paid Jake a visit to see if I too could benefit from a trim and talk.

On arrival I'm ushered across a sleek, sterilised salon floor into his room for private appointments.

Like a lot of men I'm not necessarily good at opening up and sharing my thoughts and feelings – especially to complete strangers.

But Jake instantly puts me at ease and after taking my haircut brief – which is rarely adventurous – gets the conversation rolling with his most common ice-breaker.

"The biggest conversations start by people simply asking me why is it call 'No Bad Days'," he explains.

Jake Cox, 27, has opened No Bad Days Barbershop which aims to give men a safe place to discuss their mental health
Jake Cox, 27, has opened No Bad Days Barbershop which aims to give men a safe place to discuss their mental health

"It is about letting yourself have bad hours or bad moments but never bad days."

By this he says the aim is to encourage his customers to find something good about their day, even in their most darkest times.

And while mental health is at the forefront of the conversation, Jake hastens to add that he always lets the conversation flow naturally and at the client's choosing.

"I will never push it, I will usually let them say how they are feeling," he said.

So when I hint at another conversation piece, in the form of Jake's signature guitar which hangs in view, we wax lyrical about his own musical background.

As the lead guitarist in Kent-based Indie alt-pop outfit Glass Peaks the group enjoyed success and were even riding high in the charts, momentarily rising above Liam Gallagher.

Barber Jake Cox shares his advice for young people starting off in their careers

But as exciting as it was playing to huge crowds at gigs such as the Isle of Wight festival, the pressure to keep on trend and produce more hits took its toll on the barber's mental health and he often found it difficult to live in the moment.

That's why Jake is encouraging his customers to celebrate "every win" and "just soak it up and enjoy it".

"I just wish I could go back and tell myself that," he said. "I'm trying to envision that now and put that into practise.

"So when someone is getting their haircut I try and really be in the moment with that person and enjoy their company rather than think 'Oh I hope next week is booked up'."

Our conversation soon turns to sports stars and Jake explains how many have opened up on how they have picked themselves up from injury and drops in form while sat in his chair.

"It's been good to have elite players come in to talk about what they are going through as well," he said.

Team GB Olympic gymnast Giarnni Regini-Moran is a regular client. Photo: Bruce Middlemiss Photography
Team GB Olympic gymnast Giarnni Regini-Moran is a regular client. Photo: Bruce Middlemiss Photography

Jake counts Team GB gymnast Giarnni Regini-Moran, originally from Gravesend and who trains near Dartford, as a close friend and has a signed shirt from the Olympian hanging on the wall.

Conversations like these are important he explains because they normalize how people are feeling and remind them everyone is human.

Something he believes is particularly important in the age of social media.

One piece of advice Jake sticks to is unfollowing people offering "unhealthy" life expectations on platforms such as Instagram.

"Everyone is guilty of waking up and going straight on their phone," he says.

"But if we can wake up and look at good, positive things, it is only going to set us in good stead for the rest of the day."

"Whereas, if you wake up and go straight onto a Love Islander's page saying buy this t-shirt it is just going to make you feel down on yourself."

Jake Cox offers a range of cuts and treatments at his new barbershop focused on men's mental health. Photo: Bruce Middlemiss Photography
Jake Cox offers a range of cuts and treatments at his new barbershop focused on men's mental health. Photo: Bruce Middlemiss Photography

Jake also cuts into some other enlightening subjects during our session including his own experience of "toxic masculinity".

We share our own insights on how a "group dynamic" can quickly emerge that can prevent young men from saying what they think or feel in certain situations.

The conversation naturally swings to lockdown and the impact it has had on ourselves and those around us.

"I got out in nature a lot and just sort of asked myself what do I really want out of life," said Jake.

"For me it's about making people happy and making memories with people that they will remember forever.

Something he has tried to take into the workplace, adding: "You can have one conversation with someone and you can remember that for the rest of your life."

Medway Messenger reporter Sean Delaney gets a cut whilst discussing what's on his mind
Medway Messenger reporter Sean Delaney gets a cut whilst discussing what's on his mind

Lockdown proved the perfect time for Jake to take stock of his options and think about what direction he wanted to take his first business in.

With an ever-growing client list those decisions appear already to have paid dividends.

"The hardest thing was to stay focused," he said. "And I put all my attention and all my focus into this and making this as good as possible.

"I think just having something to focus on was really useful."

But as Jake explains, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to looking after your own mental health.

Despite his newfound focus, Jake is the first to admit not everything goes to plan and recognising that is often an important first step.

"I need to practice what I preach a bit more and take a few more breaks," he adds, after working relentlessly to get the business up and running over the last three or four months.

The switch from paid employment to self-employed has also been a steep learning curve both professionally and personally.

"When you work for someone else it is a bit easier to say 'sorry boss, I don't feel very well today I'm not coming in'," he said.

"But when it's on your shoulders you have got that burden."

Shortly after my time in the chair looking at the man in the mirror is up and I emerge feeling noticeably lighter.

It could have something to do with the large mop of red hair that is now spread across the tiles but there's no doubt I felt like I got a few things off my chest too.

No Bad Days Barbershop is open Tuesday to Sunday. Appointments are available via the Fresha app or online.

Read more: All the latest news from Medway

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More