Just five minutes into chatting with Justin Mackland and all my troubles have melted away.
Bubbly, caring and with an infectious zest for life, Justin is a rare gem of a human who doesn’t come around too often.
With an innate ability to make you feel like his brother or best friend, Justin’s vivacious personality – and creative skills – has not only rubbed off on me but also on the creme-de-la-creme of the British hairdressing world.
Shortlisted as Social Stylist of the Year at the glittering British Hairdressing Business Awards next month, it’s safe to say that the 31-year-old, born and bred Aberdonian, is blown away.
“I can’t quite believe it,” says Justin, who works at the renowned Ishoka Hairdressing salon in the city’s Albyn Terrace.
“I’m just a graduate stylist at Ishoka, I’m still really early in my career so it’s mental to think that I’ve been recognised for all the work I’ve done on social media and building my clientele.”
With over 5,000 followers on his Instagram page (justin@ishoka), it’s hardly surprising that the fabulously flamboyant and super stylish hair colourist is fast becoming a bit of a hair icon in the Granite City and beyond.
“I just love my job so much,” says Justin.
“Seeing women smile and making them feel good is what I’m all about.”
Style and sass
Describing himself as a “social butterfly who can talk for Scotland”, Justin’s creative flair was apparent from an early age.
“I was really into art and drama so I’ve always had the creative juices flowing,” says Justin.
“But 10 years ago I would never have put myself in hairdressing.”
Justin may be a familiar face to many as the friendly fashion expert who always went above for his customers when he worked in Next at Berryden Retail Park.
“People come into the salon all the time and they say “how do I know your face” and it’s from when I worked in Next,” laughs Justin.
After about eight years Justin left Next to take up an office job but was sadly made redundant due to the downturn in the oil and gas industry.
But if anyone can turn lemons into lemonade, it’s Justin.
“I decided that I wanted to learn a trade so when I spotted hairdressing I thought, that’ll be easy – I was very wrong,” he laughs.
After being told he was “too old” at 26 for apprenticeships at a few city salons, it was Malcolm McNeil, Philip Bell, Kathryn Longmuir and the talented team at Ishoka who saw something special in Justin.
“They saw something in me and believed in me – they changed my life to be honest,” says Justin.
“I’ve always known there was something different about me”
Feeling a bit like a “fish of water”, the team at Ishoka, who he describes as being like family, quickly took Justin under their wing and have watched him soar.
“With Philip and Kathryn’s guidance and my salon manager Alison as well, they just really looked after me and just really nurtured me and they still do,” says Justin.
Behind his bubbly exterior lies a sensitive soul who just wants to make people happy in themselves.
His refreshing openness and honesty have certainly resonated with over 5,000 people who have lovingly followed his Ishoka journey online.
Sharing his struggles with Imposter Syndrome – the feeling that your work achievements are undeserved – is something Justin has opened up about.
“It’s a horrible place to be in but I’m glad to say I came out the other side smiling.
“I always think of my gran Margaret Thomson who passed away several years ago now but I often just think “I’m going to make her proud today” and it teaches me to be better than the person I was yesterday.”
Open and honest
Talking openly about his sexuality is also important to Justin who recently shared his story on How to Cut It, one of the hairdressing industry’s biggest podcasts.
“I’ve always known there was something a bit different about me,” he says.
“I didn’t actually come out until I was 22 – I don’t know what was holding me back.
“So I had that few years of coming to terms with who I was and what my life was and the path that I was going on.
“I’m now living my true self now which is incredible and it keeps me really happy.”
After sharing his story on the podcast, Justin was inundated with messages of support from listeners across the world.
“There was a man in his fifties from America who contacted me who said he had never had the courage to come out and he was asking me for advice,” says Justin.
“It’s really important for us to talk about it.
“I’m very fortunate that I’ve never experienced any violence towards me because of who I am but I feel awful for anyone who has but I’m always here to chat if anyone needs support.”
Family is a massive part of Justin’s life as even when he isn’t working he’s likely to be found doing his mum Lynne and his sisters’ Jemma and Jodie’s hair at home.
And with the British Hairdressing Business Awards on July 4 in London, the future looks extremely bright for Justin.
“I want to inspire the future generation and show that with hard work and dedication you can get there,” said Justin.
To follow Justin’s Ishoka journey go to his Instagram page @justinatishoka