In the flesh owner Robin (James) Hague is noticeably dapper for these parts – vivid striped socks and shirt, a sharp suit.
He turned to hairdressing 20 odd years ago, an unlikely career for a boy that was ‘into cars and rugby’ although maybe not so much when he admits the film Shampoo where Warren Beatty plays a lothario hairdresser was a major inspiration.
He seems to be a man who carves his own path, setting up the hugely successful spa at the Sherborne site 10 years ago when he realised that actually he quite liked facials and massages himself.
“I started having facials and massages before my mates did and I realised that if I was going to a spa I didn’t want to be in an environment that was exclusively for girls.’
Nowadays, of course, male grooming is the norm, and you’ll find men at Robin James glibly booking manis and pedis alongside their monthly haircut.
Robin was also one of the first salons in the UK to endorse Aveda, a brand and lifestyle philosophy he is passionate about.
He liked the company’s ethos, specialising in plant-based products and adopting a focused environmentally and socially responsible stance but wanted to check out its credentials for himself.
“I flew to their HQ in Minneapolis to see if Aveda really was all that it was claiming to be.’
At a conference there he was greeted by indigineous tribespeople from the Amazon rainforest wearing face paint, something he initially dismissed as some cringemaking gimmick. But he soon understood that Aveda had discovered the plant pigment they used (in a ritual to reflect the soul) would make a brilliant base for its make up. By working together with Aveda the tribe was able to purchase 80,000 hectares of rainforest so they could maintain a sustainable life.
He found Aveda's attitude life-changing.
‘I realised that you can be a capitalist and socially responsible at the same time.’
Pictured above: Robin Hague
Robin now has 4 salons in Dorchester, Poole and Bristol as well as Sherborne with a total staff of 80. He no longer cuts hair (a motorbike accident made this impossible) but spends a day a week overseeing each salon and staff training.
"I love the responsibility of developing people,' he says. 'Training people and finding their uniqueness, that's our social responsibility.'
Having recently checked into Robin James Sherborne for a colour and cut, I can tell you the attention to detail totally eclipses the normal salon experience.
From the Aveda detox tea on arrival (licorice flavour, delicious) to the post-shampoo pressure point head massage, to the hand and arm massage while waiting for my colour to take, there's a lot of wow factor going on here. The emphasis is on the whole experience being one of pampering time out. Once my cut was finished I was even handed an Aveda make up palette so I could spruce myself up to suit the new look. See what I mean about attention to detail?
I really liked my stylist Lynn, the senior colourist, who is one of those open-minded and skilled hairdressers who could clearly deliver whatever you wanted.
We went for an asymmetrical bob because bobs are one of the Robin James specialities (stylists train at the Vidal Sassoon school) and a warmer version of my own (mouse brown) colour with blonde streaks. Aveda colours are plant based and keep your hair in good condition unlike most brands which can cause damage over time. No wonder most salons in the UK are now queuing up for Aveda endorsement.
The end result, if I say so myself, was pretty thrilling.
When I first moved from London to the country I used to commute back to my old hairdresser and friends would comment: "Oh, London haircut."
I had that feeling when I left the Robin James salon with a sleek and shiny bob which would have fooled most die-hard Londoners for sure. I think the poster on Sherborne station has it right. Shopping, maybe, haircuts, no.