By Andy Hirst

A Huddersfield hairdresser who began work shortly after Harold Macmillan became Prime Minister is retiring after 64 years.

Stuart Hinchliffe’s phenomenally long career began as an apprentice back in September 1958 and since then the 80-year-old reckons he’s done well over 300,000 haircuts.

One of his clients has been with him ever since he was doing his apprenticeship at a barber’s shop in Almondbury.

Stuart has run his own business – now called Headlines – in Huddersfield town centre since 1973 where his son, Russell, has worked with him since 1981 and his daughter, Tracy, worked in the business for several years.

Stuart, former president of Huddersfield Hairdressing Federation, said: “I’ve been very lucky to have a career I’ve enjoyed so much and I’ll really miss it but everything has to end at some point.

“There have certainly been some memorable times – customers tell hairdressers secrets they wouldn’t tell their husbands or wives so we have to be the soul of discretion.

“It’s a really sociable job and I think everyone is happy chatting while having their hair done but we’ve learned to steer clear of politics and religion. My old boss told me, though, that when he once asked a customer how he wanted his hair done, he replied: ‘In silence.’”

When it comes to hairstyles, Stuart has done them all with people’s tastes vastly influenced by film and pop stars.

He said: “The first one people really started to ask me for in the 1960s was Tony Curtis and then we had Elvis Presley quiffs, everything from Kevin Keegan-style perms to Mohican punks in the 1970s, mullets in the 1980s and then highlights and crazy colours.

“Styles have changed massively though. In the 1970s everyone wanted it shoulder-length. Now they want it cut short.”

Stuart revealed that ladies’ hairstyles suddenly changed in the 1970s from the weekly traditional shampoo and set to far more cutting and styling.

He said the craze was triggered by Joanna Lumley playing Purdey in TV spy series the New Avengers in 1976 and 1977.

“Everyone suddenly wanted a Purdey,” said Stuart. “The women’s hairdressers were not used to cutting so they turned to traditional barbers who were experienced in wielding the scissors. Princess Diana became a huge influence for ladies’ hair in the 1980s.”

Stuart was brought up in Lepton where his family ran Hinchliffe’s bakery on Wakefield Road from the 1940s to the 1970s and has lived at Hopton near Mirfield with wife Marlene for 59 years. The couple have four grown-up grandchildren, Stephen, Zoe, William and Molly.

Stuart in his salon in around 2005.

Stuart’s career began on September 1, 1958. He admitted to being ‘academically lazy’ during his years at Mirfield Grammar School but liked fashion and hair so had a go at cutting his friends’ hair at home.

He went for an interview at Lancelot Bell’s barber shop, Bells, in Almondbury which simply consisted of Stuart cutting his own brother, David’s hair.

Mr Bell saw the potential, hired Stuart as an apprentice and on the first day he walked in found the salon full of boys desperately needing haircuts as school was about to reopen the following day after the summer holidays.

“Mr Bell handed me the clippers and said ‘see what you can do,’” said Stuart. “I was a little taken aback as I had never even held a pair of clippers but got stuck in and did my best. It really was a baptism of fire.”

His apprenticeship included three years at Bradford Technical College where Stuart was top student in two of the years and even did a year’s teaching as he qualified as a hairdresser.

In 1962 he joined Beaumont’s barbers in Imperial Arcade in Huddersfield town centre before the salon moved to Dundas Street and was with them for 11 years, spending a further two years at Bradford Technical College learning ladies’ hairdressing.

But Stuart always wanted his own salon and so set up Stuart’s on St Peter’s Street in 1973. The business thrived so in 1979 expanded into the vacant sweet shop next door and changed the name to Headlines. The business expanded again in 1985 when it had seven seats.

Stuart’s final day at work will be this Tuesday, August 30.

* Written by former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting.