Behind the scenes at Joseph Lanzante's Men's Room in Clitheroe
PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 February 2016
Joseph Lanzante is the demon barber of Clitheroe - so good, in fact, he has his own school. Mairead Mahon reports
Having your nostrils held tightly together while hot wax is placed over them, tensing and then waiting for it to be pulled off might sound like a method of medieval torture but men, celebrities included, happily pop along to Joseph Lanzante’s Men’s Room in Clitheroe to undergo the procedure.
That’s because Joseph, one of the UK’s top barbers, is also a male grooming expert and the wax method is the best he knows to rid oneself of the dreaded nostril hair. Joseph should know - as well as his Clitheroe Men’s Room, he runs a training academy for those who want to follow in his footsteps and students come from all four corners of the globe to be taught by him.
So, should men gird their loins before venturing to Joseph’s? After all, one of his specialities is the cut throat shave.
‘Well, barbers have always had a reputation. Sweeney Todd wasn’t based on nothing, you know! I think though it’s probably because they used to do a bit of surgery as well. In fact, that’s why a barber’s symbol is a red and white pole. The red symbolised the blood that you would often find on the barber’s floor,’ says Joseph.
There’s no blood to be found on Joseph’s floor, thankfully. In fact, it’s one of the smartest salons around, with state of the art chairs, Japanese scissors costing hundreds of pounds and staff dressed in striking black and white silk waistcoats. It’s no wonder that celebrities such as David Guest, ex-footballer turned TV pundit Kevin Gallagher and members of the Coronation Street cast have made their way there.
So, how did Joseph make the journey from being a little boy in Naples to becoming the Ribble Valley grooming expert with an international reputation? Well, his main motivation was that he thought it would be an easy life!
‘When my dad took me along to the barber shop in Naples, everyone, including the barber, sat about drinking coffee, looking at the papers and chatting. It was so relaxed and easy - a great way to spend a life. I still think it’s a great way to spend a life but would I describe it as easy? No,’ says Joseph.
He forged a very successful career in the south of England and in America, building up a chain of several salons. He also began teaching the craft, designing salons, giving exhibitions and winning prizes. However, the Ribble Valley caught his eye.
‘I came up on a trip in the 1980s and loved the beauty of the place and what’s more, the men looked as if they took pride in their appearance. There was the occasional untidy brow or unruly nose hair but after all, it’s my mission to eradicate all that and I decided that it was going to be the place for me,’ smiles Joseph.
It was the right decision, as people come from far and wide to take advantage of Joseph’s skill. ‘The other thing about the Ribble Valley is that people here are very loyal. I’ve often got two or three generations of the same family in at the same time,’ he says. ‘Sometimes, if a chap is accompanied by his wife or girlfriend, they look a bit nervous when I begin to do a cut throat shave but everyone who comes in goes out alive and, what’s almost as important, well groomed!’
Joseph is certainly on a mission. So much so that he now has his own range of products and a Training Academy, in which he schools the barbers and groomers of tomorrow. The academy is based in Accrington and is the UK leader in offering hairdressing, barbering and shaving courses to pupils who come from Australia, South Africa, Canada and Europe.
Some want to better their skills and gain more qualifications and some have never even held a pair of scissors before. They may enter as brick layers or panel beaters but they leave with a skill that is never going to go out of fashion.
But does Joseph worry about the current trend for long beards - after all, what will happen to those who are skilled in that cut throat shave? Will their blades rust?
‘No. Not everyone wants a beard and not everyone suits one but you can’t just let nature take its course, beards need care. I have one but it’s not unkempt because there are few things worse than that. Who wants to get close to someone with a beard that looks as if it’s a hygiene risk!’ laughs Joseph.
He likes to keep abreast of fashion trends and his prediction for 2016 is that hair will start to get a little longer, not as long as the 1970s but maybe just touching the collar length. Will that be bad news for clients like businessman Steven Hargreaves who regularly pops in for a head shave?
‘No. Why would it be? Steven knows what suits him, as do most people. I advise them on what looks best and how to achieve it. People needn’t worry that they’re going to be rail-roaded into the latest fashion. I have clients from two to 92 and there is a hairstyle for everyone. Some people just haven’t met it yet,’ smiles Joseph.
It’s a good chance that if they visit Joseph they certainly will meet it. Although he doesn’t do ladies’ beards or hair, his wife Kuleep allows him to style her hair - the ultimate accolade. He does his son’s Callum’s too, although he isn’t allowed to do the family spaniel, Oscar. He has to go to a pet groomer.
‘Always get the right expert for the right job,’ laughs Joseph.