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Nicky Clarke — a stylist who could outshine his celebrity clients

Say it ain’t so. Nicky Clarke, the hairdresser who comfortably outclassed many of his women clients with long, thick glossy hair, has hung up the hairdrier, at any rate in Mayfair.

His salon in Carlos Place is closed, with immediate effect, and with it is gone something of the glamour and fun of hairdressing in the Eighties and Nineties. There may well be younger genius hair dressers, but they lack the celebrity of Nicky Clarke, he who did Sarah Ferguson, Sophie Dahl, Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher and, once, me.

It was he who insured his hands for a million quid, who was more often than not at the same parties as his fabulous clients, who charged £650 for a haircut – the hairdressing equivalent of the Eighties supermodel. His latest partner, his wife, Kelly Simpkin, 40, a former stylist in his salon, is 23 years his junior… a fashionable age gap popularised by Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.

His salon had glamour, a gold name plate, orchids everywhere and lovely lavatories. And now… it’s gone. Except for his base in Birmingham, which, frankly, doesn’t count.

In an upsetting announcement on his website, he says that “the last two years have been the toughest we have ever experienced with Covid enforced long-term closures, rising rates and overheads making the salon no longer economically sustainable… we have spent months exploring alternative solutions to keep the salon in business but unfortunately these have not come to fruition.” 

So, beside the Covid horror which meant that salons couldn’t operate and then not at full capacity, there were no rich Americans staying in Claridge’s and the Connaught. And then there’s the problem of unaffordable rent and rates in posh London. They’re pitched at a level only affordable for showcase shops by luxury brands selling to overseas buyers, not the traditional rich of Mayfair. And Mayfair isn’t a residential area any more, as his business partner and ex-wife, Lesley Clarke, observed. It’s been hollowed out by the sheer sterile expense of the place.

It’s some years since I had the Nicky Clarke blowdry, but it was hugely enjoyable. The great man is affable and friendly, with his aura magnified by the flutter among the junior staff preparing the client for the master. But there’s actual heft to Clarke as hairdresser. He belongs to the pedigree stable of hairdressers who trained with a really great man, Leonord (Lewis) of Mayfair, who was with Vidal Sassoon one of the transformative hairdressers of the Sixties and Seventies (he gave Twiggy her cut and invented the Pageboy). 

It’s sad that Nicky Clarke’s Mayfair salon is no more. I should just like to say that if he would like to do one last valedictory haircut, he knows where to find me.

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