MUTZINE 03_London Calling: Yoseob, Hair Stylist
Yoseob was born in Seoul. After high-school he went to London to take an Illustration foundation course at Central Saint Martins. However, soon after in 2010, he was called to serve in the Korean army. Once discharged, two years later, Yoseob returned to London with an entirely different calling.
Photography & Interview by Ieva Blaževičiūtė
Could you please introduce yourself?
I’m Yoseob (@shinyo627) and I am a hairstylist.
I know that this project is about creatives working in London, but I don’t necessarily think that I am in the creative industry. First and foremost I am a hairdresser, in a way that’s just the service industry. There is of course a creative part to my job, but if I am happy with my creative work but the client is not, my job is not well done. There has to be a balance in that aspect. You have to have some sort of a connection with each client and gain their trust, because you are working right there in front of their eyes and they need to be able to feel that they are in good hands. Obviously as any other person I sometimes can be in a bad mood or tired, but I always need to act my best self.
How did you start working as a hairdresser?
I actually didn’t care about about hair before I started working in the field, which is a bit funny. Originally I wanted to become an illustrator. I did a foundation course at Central Saint Martins in 2009 and I got an offer for the BA course in illustration and graphic design. Unfortunately for me, I got conscripted to the army that year. It was 2010 and that’s when North Korea bombed an island in South Korea, so South Korea was recruiting more people than usual.
Two years is a long time. After I got discharged I just wanted to have fun and relax a little bit, so I was just doing part time jobs and going to various punk gigs in Hongdae. A friend of mine once recommended a cool barber shop to me. I went there, got a really nice cut and as I watched the owner of the shop work, the job seemed very interesting. After that I started posting messages in different communities online and worked as a mobile hairdresser for a while. I was self-taught back then and it worked for men, as it’s quite limited how much you can do with short hair. I wanted to progress, so I got a job in a salon, but the conditions weren’t good and I didn’t get the training that I wanted to get. Then I realised that maybe it’s best to just pay for proper training, rather that try to learn by experience, so I went to Vidal Sassoon in London in 2016, which was very intense but very good.
Did you come to the U.K. alone?
I came alone, but thankfully I had some friends here. I don’t have many Korean friends now though. I haven’t even been to the Korea town in London. I do want to go there just for the food because I miss it, but having gone through all the struggles to get to the U.K., what’s the point if I hang out solely with Koreans in Korea town? I won’t learn anything new.
What do you like or dislike about London?
Everybody always talks about how bad the weather is, but now that it hasn’t been raining for a few weeks, I miss the rain. The weather has been perfect, but somehow I miss it. It’s soothing to listen to the rain drops falling to the ground. Sounds like a British thing to say.
What are the main differences between Korean and British way of working?
Korea is very sensitive towards trends, whether it’s fashion, music or appearance. So if a celebrity gets a fringe, every girl wants to have a fringe too. It doesn’t matter if it suits them or not. Sometimes I’m surprised how Korean fashion has become so big, but I guess since it’s trend based and it’s fast, it’s also attractive to foreigners. Koreans are really good at catching what the next big trend is going to be.
However, one thing that bothers me is that there is no heritage in this trend based mentality, there is no story. That’s not only in Korea, it’s everywhere. The great thing about internet is that everyone is connected, but there are also disadvantages in all this accessibility and speed.
Do you see yourself working in the U.K. or would you like to come back to Korea?
If I have to come back it’s just the way it is. It’s inevitable because of the visa. However, I prefer working in the U.K. because people have more of an individuality. Overall though, I think deep down the human nature is all the same. Eastern or Western, there are only cultural differences in the way people were brought up. People in the U.K. also follow trends, but each person takes a different twist to match the trend to their own style and I like that. I enjoy taking my time to find what that little twist might be for each one of my clients. I talk to them about their favourite music or what clothes they like wearing, I try to figure out what kind of person they are. In Korea it’s more just a service, you need to do what the client asks you to do and that’s it.
Do you have a dream or a goal for the future?
I’d like to open my own business. You can never really be rich by being a hairdresser, but I don’t aim to be super rich. All I want is to sustain myself and enjoy the good things in life.
That’s a really healthy mindset.
Yeah...career is important, but looking after myself is important too. So I try to take time to rest and keep myself healthy and happy.