Colourful characters

Photo:Coopers in Baker Street, unknown date. Click on the image for a large version.

Coopers in Baker Street, unknown date. Click on the image for a large version.

From a private collection

Photo:The shop is still a hairdressers owned by Julian who kindly posed for us

The shop is still a hairdressers owned by Julian who kindly posed for us

Photo by Tony Mould

Coopers for Haircuts

By David Bramwell

Wind your way down Baker Street in Brighton, and, believe me, nostalgic, syrupy saxophone melodies will be furthest from your mind. This noisy little thoroughfare, off the London Road, is home to a shoddy selection of shops and a cheesy tattoo parlour, and would be as insignificant as it is unglamorous, were it not for being home to one of the hairdressing world's best-kept secrets.

Not in the universe as we know it
Having been frozen in time for the last forty years, 'Coopers for Haircuts' no longer exists in the universe as we know it, but instead skulks in those dark shadowy corners normally reserved for nightmares, fevered visions and sketches from the League of Gentlemen.

Disturbing dolls' heads
I first stumbled across Cooper's many years ago by chance and remember gazing in the window in awe at the strange and disturbing dolls' heads sporting lopsided grey toupees, and the peeling and faded black and white photos of haircuts that would frighten your granny. A hand-written sign read 'haircuts 100p', and just inside I could make out the silhouette of a man who passed more than a casual resemblance to Mr. Burns from the Simpsons. I was, naturally, intrigued.

Mr Cooper is interview shy
Nine years later, the price may have gone up by 20p, but otherwise nothing seems to have changed. Unable to seduce Mr. Cooper into an interview, I met instead with aficionado to the cause and compere of the Comedy Dairy, Dave Mountfield, and asked him how he first became initiated into Mr. Cooper's lair.

A haircut there or a pudding bowl at home
It was about eleven years ago, it was a haircut there or a pudding bowl at home. The price was right, though I admit I was pulled in like people get pulled in by Devil worship: half out of fear and half out of curiosity. I guess I was seduced by his style hints from 1971 Vietnam war magazines, random press cuttings, cat wee-wee smell, and those strange, sinister dummy's heads.'

Colourful language
On the topic of Mr. Cooper himself, Dave expounded: 'He's just like any other 203 year old desert rat war veteran barber who charges a pound, offers an endless stream of invective about anything, and who cuts bits of your hair actually out of your head. And he swears like you wouldn't believe.'

Did he cut Montgomery's hair?
Two stories I had heard about Mr. Cooper were that he had once chased someone out of his salon for asking for a 'Mick Jagger', and that he had also cut Field Marshall Montgomery's hair in World War Two. I quizzed Dave about this. 'Well the bit about Montgomery is definitely true, he even has cuttings from the Evening Argus to prove it. It's ironic though, as many of his political views veer towards the away team on that one, if my memory serves me right. If you study photos of Rommel, the 'trim' looks eerily familiar. And yes, he does seem to take personal offence at hair that touches the collar, which he regards as 'long'. I also seem to remember him dribbling on a client's head once, but that could be just a malicious memory.'

Mr Cooper is camera shy
Having relayed a story of mine about being chased off by Mr. Cooper when filming a super8 Sci-Fi spoof outside his shop, I was not surprised when Dave revealed similar experiences. 'I once tried to make a film called 'Fishboy' with my friend Colin Fernandez. The theme of this now sadly deleted film was a young man evolving back into a fish to avoid an imminent nuclear war. In one climactic scene, Colin had to go and get his hair cut as a precursor to his dramatic reversion to fish form. High level talks were entered into with Mr Cooper and, after some tough bargaining, it was agreed that we could film in the shop, on the proviso that Colin actually had a haircut, and paid for it. A stiff price, but this was a labour of love for Colin and very much part of his cinematic vision. So, with some trepidation, Colin entered into his side of the deal. We got some lovely exterior shots through the window of Colin being subjected to Mr. Cooper's craft. However, we hit trouble as soon as we entered the door with the camera. Maybe he'd forgotten the deal we'd struck some three minutes earlier but when Mr. Cooper saw the camera enter the shop, he reacted a bit like a drug dealer being confronted at home by Roger Cook. He swore, he put his hand over the camera, and in no uncertain terms told us to desist and leave his place of business. But he insisted Colin stay for his gentleman's styling session. What really hurt is that he charged Colin an extra twenty pee as his hair was touching his collar which classed him as a "F..... hippy".'

Waiting for Hollywood to call
But on reflection he conceded: 'I think perhaps we just weren't good enough to do him and his establishment justice, and so he threw us out like the frauds we were. He's waiting for Hollywood to call, and he's probably got Scorsese or Stone at the top of a very demanding wish list of directors. You can't fault a man for having high standards.'

And finally, I wondered, if his hatred of anything below the collar was to be believed, whether the fairer sex played any part in his esteemed establishment. Well it's usually the more mature gentleman that go for the chop, but he does cut ladies hair according to his sign. Now that would be interesting...

Any takers ladies?

This is one of a series of articles by David Bramwell published in the Insight between 2001-2004. David Bramwell is the author of the Cheeky Guide to Brighton.
Added to the site on 12-05-05 
This page was added on 13/08/2007.
Comments about this page

Newly arrived in Brighton in 1986, I had long, straight hair which from time to time simply needed its split ends chopped off rather than any fancy styling. Cooper's faded scale of charges did not include ladies' cuts so, somewhat gingerly as the place looked distinctly spit-and-sawdust blokey, I popped my head around the demon barber of Baker Street's door. "Do you cut womens hair?" I asked. A shocked silence instantly fell amongst the elderly Brylcreemed male customers. Mr Cooper's hackles visibly rose and battle-ready outrage was unambiguously conveyed through his taut upper body and facial expression. I did not await the invective which was clearly about to be unleashed but turned tail pronto.

By Ninka (23/05/2005)
Growing up in Brighton,Cooper's was always part of the urban landscape. It was a place that schoolboys of the Sixties were apt to loiter outside as the window carried copious faded signs for Durex! Aged about 17 I worked nearby and needing a haircut I went in one lunchtime....when I returned to work someone said "What happened to your hair? Did you go to Coopers?" I was then told that everyone went there..but usually only once. Over 35 years later I was able to buy at a Brighton Festival Open House a collage of images by Cutis Tappenden which contained amongst the London Road valley vignettes....pen and ink sketches of Mr Cooper. A real brighton character.
By Geoffrey Mead (11/10/2005)
My Dad must have been one of the few people who had his hair cut by Mr Cooper more than once. He always had his hair cut there. I think the main reason for going there was the fact that it was cheap. Bit of a skinflint my Dad!! I seem to remember the shop being there quite recently. ie in the last 10 years. Does anyone know when it actually closed?
By Marilyn Coates (15/12/2005)

My Mother took all six of us children, five girls and one boy, to Coopers for our hair cuts from the 1950s to late 60s. Mr Cooper would always say we had the wrong kind of hair to be long and all of us would leave with a short back and sides. It seemed to be the only way he could cut hair. Bless him.

By Marina Holmes (14/12/2006)

Sadly Mr Cooper is no longer with us. But he used to come over the open market or lean over the wall at the back of his shop which faced the open market, and used to ask the boys that worked there if they required anything for the weekend. I was never brave enough to enter his salon, but I had a relative who went there all the time. At the time the price was £1-00 which was always paid with a £1-00 coin and a 50p tip.When the price went up to £1-20 the same coins were tendered. Andy (Mr Cooper's name) remarked that the price had gone up to which the reply was that the tip had gone down. I did notice that the next few times he had a hair cut it was even stranger than usual!

By Neil Underhill (02/01/2007)

It was in fact 'Eisenhower' hair that Mr Cooper cut. It was during the war around D-Day.

By David Maynard (03/02/2007)

I had my hair cut ONCE at Coopers. I had lovely long hair and wanted it shaved off,(a girl just so you know) I was 14 at the time, I went to all the hairdressers and they would not do it, so being determined I went to the barber shop, Coopers, and said I want my hair shaved off. He did it without question, number 1. I loved it. My Dad however freaked out, I'm not too sure if my Dad went and tore a strip off Cooper or not.

By Fiona (25/03/2007)

I was the one who was expelled from 'Coopers For Cuts' but it wasn't a 'Mick Jagger'. I asked for a hair cut like 'Brian Jones' (it was the early 90s), he asked 'who?' I said 'you know, Brian Jones, from the Rolling Stones'. At which point a red mist decended over him, and he said 'GET OUT, I only cut MENS hair'

By Oliver Gili (10/05/2007)

In 1961 I lived over Cooper's, at 27 Baker Street; it was the only flat we could find at the time, £2-10 shillings a week. The radio would go on from time he got in at 0830am and would not go off until 0900pm. Yes we had some good times and bad time like all newly wed's do. One time we picked Mr Cooper up off the floor because his clippers would not cut as fast as he thought they should go and go a shock from them. Also the time when he painted the shop front pink; he painted the curtains and carpet pink as well and did not see anything wrong with that. Poor Mrs Cooper tried to wash the pink out. The big thing that people did not know about him was that he was a very kind man in his way. Yes he did perm women's hair in the evenings at the back of the shop. He told me that he started to cut hair in the army and he was over eighty when he past away.

By Tony (29/07/2007)

My great Aunt Alice (she won a competition for the fastest shave) was the first lady gentlemens' barber who owned a shop in Queen's Road, Brighton where she cut hair and shaved men with a cut throat razor.

By Chris Hunt (09/08/2007)

Once a month, on a Saturday morning, my father would drag my brother and I down to Cooper's 'salon' for a haircut. Most boys with an ounce of self-respect would have rebelled, but the bribe was a fish and chip lunch in the place just across the road from Cooper's (was it called Bardsley's?). Cooper's shop was the original haircut house of horrors. Crammed to eaves with condoms and curling photos of the same hairstyle, Mr. Cooper would shear his way through the day, asissted by the son that he endlessly bossed about. Cooper's was a legendary experience, we called it character building in our days. Nowadays they would call it insanity!

By Vernon Page (23/09/2007)

Ah - Coopers! I lived in the only house in Baker Street - student digs, between 1991-1992. Coopers always held a huge fascination to me - I was actually quite afraid of the place as it seemed to be stuck in some kind of timewarp. Faded yellow haircuts from the 1950s were pictured in the windows and yet we never saw anyone leave the shop with their hair anything like the styles depicted. My housemates and I used to walk on the other side of the road (even though our house was just a few doors down from Coopers and on the same side) as Mr Cooper used to fix us with a stern stair and slowly snip his scissors at us in a mildly menacing manner if our gaze should linger too long through his window. On the odd occasion I would be able to grab a few seconds of a good look, I would always be amazed at how shaky Mr Coopers hands were - and pray he didn't offer wet shaves to his customers. . . .. and customers there were - I never saw his barbers chair empty. How I miss little shops like this.

By Jo (10/08/2008)

Yes I remember Coopers. I had my hair re-styled in a Beatlestyle at a expensive hairdressers, couldn't afford to go there again when it wanted cutting so in a moment of madness I went to Coopers. Of course I came out with a short back and sides, never again. Everybody had a good laugh. This was about 1964.

By Ken Chick (24/08/2008)

I love to hear about real haircut stories from the past and Cooper's sounds an interesting shop, indeed he sounds a real character. How many chairs etc did he have in his shop? Was it purely a barber shop for men and boys or did he also cut women and girls. I'd love to hear any stories.

By John (30/08/2008)

I can concur with much of the above. As a youngster in the early 70s I liked my hair long, especially to cover my big ears. One summer holiday Mum took me and two of my brothers to Coopers. She told us we could have it cut how we liked but, once inside, he asked her and she replied "nice and short". It was hell, no escape and any movement of the head led to a rap with the scissors. I left there, on a hot day, with my anorak hood up over my head.....hey, maybe I was just ahead of my time as a hoodie?

By Ken Valder (06/09/2008)

As a boy growing up in Brighton of the seventies it was a choice between "Hair By Steven" in the Broadway (a subject worthy of mention in the Brighton archives alone), being attacked with sharp scissors by an "auntie" (a generic term for female friends of the family, usually blessed with a vicious sense of sadistic humour) or dear old Mr Cooper, (may the gods welcome him into whatever Valhalla they deem appropriate). The results were consistant in any case, Rod Stewart for the girls and Mr Spock for the boys.
My father would take me, my whimpering protests met only with painful tugs on my lily white arms. I would have to wait in the above mentioned time capsule which was dated even then and resembled, to all the senses, a diseased lung. I would be raised aloft onto a torn PVC upholstered plank over the chair which would be further pumped to the necessary elevation point. Only the curious distraction of looking up at Mr Cooper's wart could ease the terror (it was either that or looking at the heads, the wart always won). After the ordeal he annointed my head with what I suspect to this day was a mixture of chip fat and onion vinegar. Those indeed were the days.

By Brian Combe (11/10/2008)

Great stories of Coopers from the last two guys. Can anyone tell me how many chairs Coopers barbers had? One, two maybe three. What colour barber capes did he use, white, blue, black? Was hair cream always applied after a haircut?

By John (11/10/2008)

I can't believe that I used to go to Coopers voluntarily! He did a mean Hitleresque short back and sides (whatever style you asked for) and the stench of the shop was so overpowering that you had to hold your breath when you went in. Weeks (or maybe years) worth of hair clippings were swept into snowdrifts in the corners which must have been used as a cat toilet too. I saw him chase a few potential customers out of the shop on some occasions when he just didn't like the look of them. That place should have been preserved intact, it would have made a great set for a horror movie!

By Sean Chapman (26/11/2008)

My dad used to visit Coopers regularly (in his 70s now) for many years, we could always tell he'd been as his hair looked liked it had been sclalped. He told me that he was there once when a young woman came into the shop, for a scalping of her own. When it was time for her to pay, she took out a five pound note only for Mr Cooper to tell her he didn't have any change. He was a cheeky devil. My dad had a laugh telling us about that one. I looked after him when he was in hospital once, and he was a very lovely man.

By Julia (16/12/2008)

My dad always had his hair cut at Coopers, he was fascinated by the guy, he used to say that he would have no problem just sitting there all day just for the entertainment value. When my brother and I were made to go we dreaded it. I remember trying to work up enough courage to ask for a "Tony Curtis" it was around 1959. I was thirteen, he grunted, and proceeded to give me a short back and sides. I could not wait to leave school, so I could pay to go somewhere else!! I also remember he would stop in the middle of cutting someones hair, rush upstairs or wherever to carry out some other hairdressing requirement on a woman, then return five minutes later, no explanation. I don't think anyone ever dared to ask where he had been, under the fear of having their ears cut off. Yes! he F'd and blinded, he was a real character, but Baker Street is just not the same without him. My father did actually manage to take a couple of photos of him and the shop. I am willing to email these to anyone that would like them.

By Barry Plank (24/01/2009)

Hi Barry, I'm quite interested in hairdressers and barber stories etc from the past would love to see the photos very much.  If you mark them barbershop photos I'll look out for them. This guy sounds a real character.

By John (25/01/2009)

Does anyone know if Mr Cooper's wife cut hair? A friend of mine has often related the story of going into Coopers for a "trim" and whilst having his haircut, Mrs Cooper appeared with Mr Cooper's lunch on a plate. Mr Cooper proceeded to sit down, plate on knees, and eat his lunch whilst Mrs Cooper completed the haircut - which was incidentally, worse than ever. Never had my hair cut there but did once loiter outside with a camera hoping to get a pic or two - but Cooper saw me off with a verbal broadside.

By Michael Keay (20/03/2009)

For many years in the late 60s and early 70s my mum used to take my brother and I to Mr Coopers barber shop. I remember sitting waiting for my haircut, I would mine the pile of magazines to find copies of a popular weekly comic book of that time called TV Century 21 (known as TV 21 from September 1968). It mainly promoted the many television science-fiction puppet series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's Century 21 Productions. The comic was published as if it were a newspaper from the future, with the front page usually given over to fictional news stories set in the worlds of Thunderbirds, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, Star Trek and many others.

By Asheem Sharma (31/03/2009)

I took both of my sons to have their haircut at Mr Coopers over a period of many years when they were young. It was quite an entertaining hour (we would all keep very quite and just listen), he regularly spoke about his mother-in-law, who he used to say he saw the night before out on her broomstick! (insinuations of her being a witch). Mrs Cooper was a very sweet, quiet woman and a dutiful wife, who suffered in silence and brought Mr Cooper's lunch every day for him on a plate, carried inside of a basket, which she produced for him without even a word of thanks on his part. But still she smiled. On seeing me she would always smile, and if it was possible, would strike up a conversation. Once or twice she resumed the haircut of my sons, whilst Mr Cooper ate his lunch. They had two children including a daughter who Mr Cooper thought a great deal of. I saw her once when she came into the shop, she took no nonsense from her Father and he respected her for that. I think he pushed his boundaries to see how far he could go, but respected you if you were brave enough to stand up to his onslaught of verbal abuse. His son at one time, who was of the same nature as the Mother, worked by the side of his Father under strict scrutiny at every snip he made during a haircut, with a barrage of criticism, it was quite sad to witness.
The shop and Mr Cooper were definitely in a time-warp and obviously has made a lasting impression on many souls. Who would have thought that so many of us would be writing this blog about him so many years later!
Let's send the whole family many blessings, I know the positive vibrations will reach them, wherever they may now be!

By Maureen Sharma (Asheem's Mother) (31/03/2009)

I can't quite remember, but it was either three or two barber chairs and the capes I believe were blue. It was a choice at the end of the haircut between having water sprayed on your freshly cut hair or hair cream. He did ask!

By Maureen (31/03/2009)

Thanks Maureen for the info on his shop the chairs capes etc and haircream, I was quite interested to know. I never liked haircuts as a boy at school. I dreaded the whole process and used to wonder why you couldn't just have a trim rather than the short back and sides that every schoolboy got. If you were lucky, you had a barber who didn't scalp you but most clippered you to the skin at the neck and cut your fringe quite short too. Then Brylcream or hair oil was applied to the hair regardless of if you wanted it or not. Going home on the bus after the barbers, I looked and felt totally different from the boy I was earlier and being a quite shy type, I hated the attention a short haircut brought to you. Coopers seemed to be every schoolboys nightmare from what I've heard and I wonder too, was every neck shaved bald by him too? It says on here he even cut girls hair, surely not! I can't imagine how a girl must have felt getting cut in his shop. Maureen were you in his shop with your father or brothers to witness Mr cooper at work? I don't come from Brighton, but I find this man very interesting from the stories I've heard so far and would love to hear more. Feel free to email or chat to me on yahoo if anyone wishes.

By John (01/04/2009)

Goodness! If Cooper criticised his own son for haircuts I dread to think what those haircuts were like! You'd probably have a case for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) these days.  The guy who cuts my hair these days (being a barber himself for some 30 years in Brighton) has had many a "Coopers for Hair" story from his customers over the years. I will tap him next time.  I wonder what became of the son and daughter - does anyone know?

By Michael Keay (07/05/2009)

I wonder if the son and daughter both suffered haircuts in Mr Cooper's chair as he sounded a demon with the clippers and the scissors. Does anyone know what styles they had in their years growing up

By John (21/05/2009)

Two points (small rememberances really). I'm pretty sure the gentleman's first name was Andrew. Also, I think (but this might be some form of selective memory also) that he had an accent and probably wasn't originally from the U.K. Can anyone enlighten me?

By Andy Walker (28/06/2009)

He definitely had an accent - maybe Polish - and there were lots of 'Durex' adverts.

By John Walker (30/06/2009)
Yes I can confirm what was said in the last comment.
By Ken Chick (30/06/2009)
I was last in Brighton 40 years ago and used Mr Cooper as my hairdresser. I have a horrible memory of Mr Cooper's son drowning when he went to somewhere like Spain for a holiday. Sorry for such news.
By Des (13/07/2009)

Yes I went in there once in the early 70's. I was there with a mate, Steve Martin, who was a great young boxer and kept his hair very short. Mine was fashionably long at the time and it was as much as I could do to get out of the door without being forcibly scalped. Steve in Whitehawk Road was definitely a disciple of Cooper but shall we say a little more "creative" in his outlook? Lighter on the loafers.

By Paul Hubbard (18/08/2009)

I needed an excuse to get into Coopers to do some drawing, and the only one I could find was a haircut. Mr Cooper had just refurbished, well, painted all the cupboards bright pink - a sort of salmon to match the smell of the cat's fish which hit you as you entered the shop. You did not have to look too hard to see that he had painted all the hair cuttings from the floor onto the surfaces too. My hair was curly in 1987 (still is) and I asked for a suitable style. 'Short back and sides is all I can do,' his beligerent, gruff reply. So I was hacked about the head in between long rests, as Mr Cooper stooped precariously over my vulnerable barnet. The result was NOT short back and sides, but short fringe, long crown and hacked sides. Never again. Susanne had to try her best to rescue the mess, but to this day I maintain that it was all worth it. The drawings caught a clipping of Brighton which has now passed into posterity.

By Curtis Tappenden (23/08/2009)

When I was about 4 my mum told my dad to take me for a haircut. She'd let it grow since birth into a curly mullet, and had decided that now was the time to get it cut. I remember my dad taking me into a hairdressers, and I remember the razor going over my head but nothing else about the experience. I remember that when my dad got us home, my mum exploded into rage as not only had he taken me to Coopers, but he'd also had my hair cut practically bald and I looked like a 4 year old thug! I was born 1985, so this would have been about 1989 this happened? My mother has told me that she took my uncle in there one time to get his hair cut (he was young at the time) and after Cooper seating my uncle down in a chair, he just stared at my mother for a few seconds before telling her to "get the f*** out." When I was in High School, roughly 1998/1999, my Grandad came down to Brighton from Hastings to visit us, and on his way from the station he popped into Coopers for a haircut. When he showed up at our house, his hair was chopped to bits! My father has mentioned something to me about one of his sons dying in a tragic accident, and that there was some trauma in this guy's life. Just thought I'd contribute what I could. I find the story of Coopers fascinating.

By Tony (27/11/2009)

I used to go to Coopers as a lad in the early sixties when Mr.Cooper and his son Billy worked there, a quiet lad. Mr Cooper was always telling everybody what a good barber his son was in what I thought was broken Italian. the last time I went there was in the about 1986 and I asked Mr cooper how his son was keeping and he alleged that his son was poisoned whilst in Spain,I have no idea if this was true or not.

By Tony Lidbetter (26/12/2009)

I first went to Coopers in 1960, until 1973. I was in my teens in the 60s. I rememeber there were two chairs in the shop, and my hair was cut by his son at times who sadly died. I remember his son was very shy, and hardly said a word through out the cut. I got on well with Cooper. Being a motor mechanic, I worked on his old car a few times. I can't remember what model the car was now. You sure went back in time going in to his shop, god bless him. Does any one know if he is still alive?

By John Henry (12/02/2010)

Mr Cooper died about 10 years a go. What a strange but very nice old chap. Sadly missed.

By Julie (27/06/2010)

How did you come to know him Julie?

By John (02/07/2010)

Hi John. My husband used to go there many years ago. My husband and I were just walking past his shop one day and just popped our heads in the door - we said hello the usual, but he told us that he took over the shop in 1947. He did not seem to want to talk too much. He was just sitting in an old chair with his black cat. He did not seem to be very well then.

By Julie (04/07/2010)

Sitting at work this saturday afternoon, I just stumbled across this piece about Mr. Cooper. I moved to Holland more than thirty years ago, but Mr. Cooper is just one of my childhood nightmares. Short back and sides for five bob each. The old sod. Me and my two younger sisters, (one of them being Marina from above) left his shop in tears, praying for our hair to grow ten inches before school on monday. And yes, I always thought he had a slight Italian accent. I remember it to be like a scene from the film 'Angela's Ashes'. Ah well, another piece of childhood nostalgia gone for good. May God rest the old sod's soul.

By Donna van Golden-Holmes (08/08/2010)

Donna, it's hard to imagine a barber doing that to a girl. It must have been terrible. I'm interested in old haircut stories and experiences from the past. I'd love to hear from you by email.

By John (10/08/2010)

I am horrified and disgusted that Cooper's was not kept as it was for future posterity - it was such an iconic Brighton shop and should have been preserved, just as the cork shop was. Just read all the memories here - what was a place of nightmares for all boys! And of fascination for us girls (where else were there so many Durex signs?)!

By Jax Atkins (06/02/2011)

Yes, shame the shop hasn't been kept, I agree. It seemed a really scary place to get a haircut. I dreaded barbers myself, as a school boy they seemed to love clippering you bald but this guy seemed even worse. It amazed and stunned me that he actually cut girls' hair too. I just can't imagine him giving a girl a short back and sides with clippers yet I've been told he did do it. Thank you to the people who did email me your stories in 2010. I'm interested in old haircut stories especially from this shop.

By John (09/02/2011)

In the mid 70s my dad took me to get my haircut in there, I was about 11 then, and when asked what I wanted doing to it around the ears (whilst he was cutting away), my dad said "cut over the ears" and I said "no, below the ears" by then Mr Cooper had cut over the ears and I started crying. To his horror he started moaning with me and my dad and ended up walking out with me having short hair over the ear on one side and long over the ear on other side. I shall never forget that embarrassing moment walking down the street. And I still remember all the screwed up tissues on the shelf when walking past it years afterwards. I don't think he had a bin, bless.

By Rich (18/05/2011)

I completely agree that Mr. Cooper had a fine business. He was truly a Brighton icon. I bought the shop after Mr. Cooper had passed away and now run a barber's shop at this address. The tradition is therefore continued. I feel that I am addressing the needs of the neighbourhood and clients just as Mr. Cooper used to do. Admittedly prices have gone up but the same quality cutting and consideration are still the central themes.

By Jools (31/07/2011)

I have loved reading the comments about old Mr Cooper, I used to have my hair cut there when my mother took me while I was at school. After leaving school I only went there in emergencies. I am sure my love of cats was encouraged when sitting waiting for my haircut as his cat always made a B-line for my lap and sometimes refused to get off when it was my turn. Mr Cooper surely was one of the icons of Brighton life.

By Roger Davis (28/08/2011)

After reading some of these 'Hair Raising' stories I have to admit it has raised faint memories for me also. My mother was a hairdresser and took on part time work in various salons in Brighton at different periods in my school years. It now vaguely dawns on me that Coopers may well have been one of them. Mum was trained in both ladies and gents hair cutting but from the stories above I feel certain she would have been employed to only work in the ladies section. What seems to consolidate my faint memory is one Christmas time. I clearly recall a very nice china shop several doors up from Coopers on the same side. They always had interesting things there. This one particular Christmas I remember mum coming home with a lovely oblong glass cheese dish which she had seen in the window that week. It was announced it was for the bosses wife and was promptly wrapped in all the usual fancy paper and delivered to work close by the Christmas eve. On return from work that day mum arrived at the house grinning from ear to ear and carrying her return gift. It all looked very familiar and we all guessed the mystery from the shape of the packet. So on Christmas morning when all packages were finally opened there it was. The identical oblong glass cheese dish, bottom and lid, all shiny and sparkling with it's little handle on top. Both ladies had seen the same dish in the window and bought it for each other. I don't think any of us minded. It was a lovely dish and was in our family for as long as I can remember. So I feel more and more certain it was the Mrs Cooper of the Baker Street 'Coopers' that lives at the heart of this story. Interesting how the memory lights up when jogged a little. Sandra.

By Sandra (29/08/2011)

After my comments about the Coopers another funny hairy hairdressing story has come to mind. Our family name was Baldwin and one of the other part time jobs my mother took on was at a hairdressers at the bottom of New England Road at Preston Circus. It was memorable because the lovely young woman my mother worked with there had the surname Wiggins. This tickled them rather, as hairdressers, and so they referred to themselves as Wiggy and Baldy.

By Sandra (29/08/2011)

Whilst you are all going back down to Baker StreeT, does anyone recall a pet shop run by a man possibly called Alan Canary? He would have been there during the early 50s.

By Alan Taylor (18/09/2011)

Yes I do remember very well, the pet shop, and having my hair cut at Coopers..mid 1960s and later in the 1970s..I liked his honesty

By Lee Rolf (26/12/2011)

My dad (Dennis) went to 'Coopers' in his youth and used to tell us stories of how he used to ask for a 'Tony Curtis' with a 'DA' at the back followed by hot candle wax waived over the hair ends to seal them. He said he used to have hot towels on his face followed by a wet shave and was always pleased with the outcome. My brother and I always went to 'Youngs' which was near the Ditchling Road end opposite 'Bardsleys', does anyone remember George and Bert? They always used to finish the haircut by plonking masses of either Brylcreem or Vitalis on your hair!

By Paul Clarkson (08/02/2012)

I was raised in Bognor Regis and remember a mate telling me in the late 80s about a barber that did flat tops for £1 in Brighton that was so popular there would be a queue going round the corner on the street on Saturdays. When I moved to Brighton in 95, I remembered this story when I saw Coopers and went in. I asked for a grade 8, which is what my mate usually did for me, the same guy that had told me about the £1 cuts. Mr Cooper hadn't heard of it and asked me who did it, I said 'my mate, he's a hairdresser', to which he replied 'hair messer more like!' He than proceeded to give me the most patchy haircut, while moaning on about his wife/mother in law can't remember which. Also, being on my own in there, I was slightly scared, like anything could happen! Funny thing was, some of my mates had gone in on my recommendation before I'd gone in, and later I discovered it wasn't the barber I'd heard about! (The actual one is just off Western Rd). On facebook a while back, a friend of a friend uploaded loads of pics of 70s and 80s Brighton, and everyone had stories to tell about Mr Cooper, just like this page! Great reading, thanks! Dont you just miss all those strange little shops that used to exist before big chain stores took over?

By S. Mack (29/02/2012)

I'd love to see the link to the facebook that has stories of Mr Cooper. I'm interested in haircut stories from the past and his barbers is totally facinating.

By john (04/03/2012)

I'm in the process of writing a short story about Coopers, to be included in a graphic novel about Brighton to be published next autumn by QueenSpark Books. It's been so useful reading this forum! If anyone who had first hand experience of Coopers would be willing to contribute more details/memories/photos I'd be very grateful, and I'm particularly keen to meet one or two regulars or people who knew him well. My email is mpembrey@gmail.com. You can read more about the graphic novel project at: http://www.queensparkbooks.org.uk/theme/46.html

By Mark (03/04/2012)

I think my partner must have been one of his last customers as he came out looking like a scarecrow! He was never one to discuss what he was doing, just got you sat down and away he would go. I think health and safety would have closed him down now!

By Jan (08/04/2012)

I knew Mr Cooper, I done a small amount of work for him in his flat above the shop. He was a very quiet man he told me his son was going to take over the shop when he retired, but sadly died in Spain at the young age of 20. I think he never got over his son's death - very sad.

By Tony Brachman (24/04/2012)

I remember Mr. Cooper stooped far over the barber's chair, going about his work, year in and year out. I never ventured into the shop, but my Dad (who would have been 105 this year), had him as his barber for as far back as I can remember, for many years. Dad always came out with a smart haircut; very short back and sides, but very neat and even, and he never had a bad cut. I seldom saw his shop empty and it was very popular. I think it must not have just been the cheap price which drew the customers in - he was a real one off! Just look at the amount of comments for this article! He must have cut most of Brighton at one time or another! There again, London Road was the centre of our universe in those days, as a thriving shopping centre for this part of town!

By Mary Funnell (29/06/2012)

What a wonderful idea, a tribute to Andrew Cooper and his barber shop. I have many memories of visiting there on my trips to Brighton from Worthing in the years before he passed on.

By John Walter Skinner (16/09/2012)

I cant remember when I exactly started to visit Andrew's shop, must have been in the early 1990s. For a while I was intrigued by the Brighton Trunk Murder case of 1934 and perhaps made an expeditiion to Park Crescent (where the notorious Toni Mancini lived) near The Level and stumbled on Andrew's premises. The first thing I noticed was how CHEAP his haircuts were, ideal for a baldie such as myself. I got the impression that at one time he had two chairs going for business and made the fatal mistake of asking if he had staff or an assistant - he told me his son was with him and left the business and he never saw him again, I cant remember that he said he had died....his black and white mog used to perch himself precariously over the shop doorway, though it was some time before I noticed. Andrew (who was a deadringer for Pablo Picasso) always cut hair with a large razor and I never saw him use scissors. During busy spells he would disappear for a few seconds to a dingy rear room and swig a bottle of water. On one occasion he proudly handed round a letter from the Council who was ticking him off about the state of his premises stirred up no doubt from some busy-body customer. He did have a few write-ups in the Evening Argus over the years which mentioned his wartime experiences, though it mentioned Ike as a customer, not Monty. I have nothing but fond memories of trips to Andrew - he was definately a one-off...

By John Skinner (17/09/2012)

What a shame there's no new stories of this amazing barbershop. I love reading them as I'm interested in old haircut stories of the past.

By John (17/02/2013)

As a child my father would take me in there for regular haircuts and you either had a basin cut (which was generally for girls) or short back and sides. To a youngster he was quite frightening, if you were in the chair he would grunt and if you didn't move your head the way he wanted it, you would get stabbed in the head with the scissors to ensure your head was where he wanted it. Everyone I knew always called him Killer Cooper, not because anyone had any stories of him killing anyone, but purely because anyone who had experienced a haircut by Mr Cooper was sure to have been stabbed in the head with a sharp implement many times. The treat afterwards was to have a bottle of coke with a straw whilst standing outside one of the many pubs in the area (while Mum and Dad were inside) and then a trip to Bardsley's chip shop. When I met my wife she told me that she had suffered similar experiences as a child at the hands of Killer Cooper. God rest his soul.

By Geoff Johnston (25/03/2013)

Great story Geoff, sounds an amazing, interesting place - so what haircut did you actually get done usually? I'm totally amazed that this barber cut girls' hair too, I can't imagine any barber in my time willing to cut girls' hair. Any idea what cut your wife got and what age she was roughly when he cut her hair? It seems amazing that even though he was rough and ready everyone kept going there.

By John (29/03/2013)

I heard that Cooper's claim to fame was that he cut Eisenhower's hair! Apparently it was in North Africa during Operation Torch!

By Richard J. Szypulski (06/04/2013)

What a shame there hasn't been any new  stories of this amazing  barbershop, I  love reading them. I'm very interested in hair cutting stories from the past and anyone who wishes  to tell me their story directly I'd love to hear from you  if you went to this barbershop.  I  find it incredible  he would cut  women  or girls hair too as I don't recall  barbers  doing that  when I was young.

By John (23/03/2014)

I went here a few times in the early '90s. Mr Cooper was a nice old chap, hair-dressing was his life and he was a crucial part of what constituted, and which we don't seem to have any more, a local community. This was an old school man who believed in service to locals, for a cheap price. I always always have him a fiver and even bought him a half in the pub along the road near the Co-op. There was a picture of Eisenhower on the wall, it wasn't Monty, by the way, and he re told this story with zeal, because he was asked by his customers, and there were many of us.

By Cam Vallance (14/10/2014)

John, Mr Cooper was a legend!

I moved back to Brighton in 1994, and even though I live in Kemp Town I was happy to trek across town for 30 minutes to go and have my hair cut by him. I mean, obviously the biggest appeal was the price, but it was also a unique experience - the swearing, the grumpiness, the shabby interior.

It's been interesting reading the comments because I had no idea he was married nor had family, so he was obviously a very private man in some ways.

I also thought his haircuts were great, nowhere near as hack and slash as some others have experienced. I thought he was actually very skilled and quite methodical. I also found him to be completely no-nonsense and he respected you if you were straight with him. I always told him quite clearly what I wanted and didn't back down, or maybe he just mellowed with age in some ways.

I was a regular up until his death. There was no announcement or no prior warning, I just turned up one day (you never needed an appointment) and saw that the shop was shut with a handwritten notice on the door.

The current owner is doing well and good luck to him, but no one could replace Mr Cooper and part of Brighton's uniqueness and quirkiness sadly died with him.

By Derek (05/01/2015)

I used to holiday in Brighton before moving here at the start of the seventies, so it was sometime in the sixties when my wife and I took our two very smart, long haired  boys for a haircut in Baker Street. We took them to Bert and Bruce, where those skilled gents  gave them a trim. Despite telling them to take more off, we left dissatisfied, and took them to Cooper's in the same street, where the famous man had no hesitation in giving them a short back and sides. The boys were too young to object, but they never returned.

By Joe Reid (06/01/2015)

In the mid to late '50s I had my hair cut at Coopers then spent time looking in the window of Strudwicks cycle shop a couple of doors up the road with the wish that I had a wealthy family! Bob Munro

By Bob Munro (01/07/2015)

I took some pictures in the shop in the late '90s. He moaned that students were always coming in to take pictures, always promised to give him prints and never did. But he let me in and then retired to the back of the shop. The only photos I have of him are his back or in mirrors. I did give him copies later that week which he accepted with a grunt. I also gave a couple to Jules who took over the shop for the sake of continuity, I think after several years they appeared on the wall at the back, but I'm not sure. Will have to check next time I'm in Brighton. 

By Richard Paul-Jones (23/03/2016)

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