Whether it’s making it as a musician or becoming an entrepreneur, a lot of the time, life can get in the way of some of our biggest ambitions.
For Andy Tough this couldn’t have been truer, until at 33-years-old he changed his life around and pursued his dream of becoming a professional barber.
Now 40, he owns The 33rd barber shop on George Street in Aberdeen, which has doubled in size this year alone.
As well as excellent haircuts, the shop’s comfortable, friendly atmosphere makes The 33rd so popular with its clients.
Although Andy may now be double the age of some of his youngest employees, to him, age is just a number – apart from when it comes to music taste.
“The boys in the shop don’t listen to my music because I’m 20 years older than them,” Andy laughs.
“I might put on some Oasis or The Stone Roses, but it doesn’t last long before one of the guys chucks on Drake or somebody like that!”
Barber at heart
Creative as a child, Andy enjoyed art and was also the lead singer in a high school band with his mates.
However, his artwork with hair clippers was what his peers knew him best for during his school years.
“When I was 17, I decided to get my head totally shaved for the first time,” says Andy.
“But when I got home from the hairdresser, there was still long bits of hair everywhere.
“So, I went out to Argos to buy my own pair of hair clippers and sorted out my own hair from then on.
“Once my mates saw it, I started shaving all their heads as well.”
Various hairstyles including brickwork patterns were requested from Andy’s mates whilst still youngsters in the late 90s.
The whole academic experience at school “wasn’t for him” though and Andy later left his then hometown of Dunblane to Aberdeen to work in retail management training at Tesco.
“Once I left Dunblane to move up to Aberdeen, all of the hair stuff got sidelined so I could focus on working,” Andy explains.
“Different opportunities had taken me different ways, but I also think I was a bit naïve in my early 20s thinking that I was too old to do barbering now.
“It wasn’t until I was in my 30s when I met another barber and he gave me the push to do it – it was just one of those fateful moments.”
That barber happened to be Alan Beak, one of the UK’s leading figures in the barbering industry when Andy met him in 2014 at the age of (you guessed it) 33.
Andy’s enthusiasm for barbering shone through so much that Alan offered him down to his Manchester barber shop to train with his team for six months.
Upon his return to Aberdeen, Andy quickly set about finding his own shop, which first opened its doors in March 2016.
“In all honesty, the first day of opening the shop, I was so nervous!” says Andy.
“It sunk in that I didn’t have my support network anymore, but that day was just about gaining confidence in myself.
“After that, it became natural.”
Unlike a lot of barbers in Aberdeen, hair washing and blow drying are a standard part of The 33rd’s barbering services.
From fades to quiffs, cuts to suit all ages are at hand, but Andy feels that his clients come for more than just a haircut.
“It’s such a comfortable atmosphere in the shop and people come back because they enjoy the experience,” he explains.
“I’ve been working here for almost six years and some of the clients I had then still come back now.
“It’s chilled, comfortable and we’re all easy to speak to.”
Initially harbouring plans to open several barber shops, the birth of Andy’s daughter changed his grandiose plans.
Now, teaching other aspiring barbers is a central focus for Andy, having taught masterclasses and training two apprentices into full time roles in his own shop.
“I think having my own barbering school at some point would be a life goal,” says Andy.
“I really want to educate others and pass on the experiences that I’ve had over the last few years.”
In an industry that’s suffered greatly due to Covid-19 restrictions, the recent successes of The 33rd are all the more impressive.
Looking ahead, as well as further cementing his shop’s status in Aberdeen, Andy is hoping to keep the simple pleasures of barbering alive and kicking.
“The shop was just me when I started. Now I’ve got six guys and have doubled in size this year alone,” says Andy.
“At the end of the day, my job revolves around cutting hair and speaking to people – it’s great.
“I really enjoy what I do.”