I was first introduced to Champs the Barber last fall while attending the Las Vegas Barber Convention with the Squire team. Someone mentioned to me “Yo Curvel, that’s Champs… you have to fly out to London and do a feature on him,” and without thinking I said, “Fuck yeah.”
I finally made it to London a few months later; it was my first time visiting the city (big ups to Squire), and I was all in. I couldn’t wait to roam those London streets after years of hearing countless stories about how London is the European version of New York City.
Fast forward and it’s 7pm London time and my flight just landed. The drive to my AirBnB is a short one- I got settled and made a quick dash out to the absolute best Indian food joint in the city, Dishoom. The next day, I woke up to classic British weather: mostly rain with the sun occasionally saying hello. Exploring the city, it didn’t take too long before I almost got run over by the cars driving on the left. And believe me– the Brits don’t give a fuck; they will run you over. Aside from the weather and the driving, it really does feel like a Euro New York City.
The next day, I made my way over to Soho’s Champs Barbershop off a narrow one way street in London’s west end. It’s a shop for champions and full of dopeness. The second I step through the doors, someone shouted to me: “You lookin’ for my uncle? ” and I said “yeah… how’d you know??” As a family run business, I immediately felt like I’m hanging out with cousins, uncles and aunties.
Walking downstairs, I recognized Champs’ voice before even seeing him. Spend a few hours with Champs and you’ll be instantly charmed by his charisma and wicked British accent. His demeanor garners a level of respect and attention from peers and acquaintances alike. He’s chill, and offers you all his attention when you’re hanging out.
Having parents from Colombia, Champs is a Spanish speaking London boy who reps for the Latino population in England hard. Evident from the number of Latino barbers he hires, he wants to be sure that anyone who works in the establishment feels right at home. The benefit of creating this environment is that it extends to the clientele. Managed by family members, Champs and his staff is welcoming and warm. Angel spends her time grooming, and when she’s not grooming she’s all about “living life.” Meanwhile, Fluffy is the multidisciplinary barber– nightclub DJ, and resident “dope-ass rapper” with a flow that sounds like a modern day opera singer. And Fabian is the man alongside the Champ. The vibe and positive energy creates a constant flow of traffic in and out of the shop, allowing to be presented as the spot to be and belong.
As my days narrow down to the end of my trip, Champs wanted to hit the streets and check out the part of London he calls home: the one and only Brixton. After a few stops, we landed at Brixton Market. It’s all about food- so we pulled up to a Jamaican joint and went off on that good yard food. Being in Brixton evokes that old feeling of vintage Brooklyn before gentrification set in. The neighborhood is filled with that good local immigrant energy, one that I’m very familiar with being born in the Caribbean islands.
After spending a few days with the man the Locals have named as their champ, there’s one thing I can say for certain about Champs– he lives for his community. Whether it’s providing haircuts for the homeless or donating his time to the number of charities he’s involved with- including offering free barber workshops and education classes internationally- Champs finds a way to give back. From the streets to prisons, or from the shop to local high schools, he’s dedicated to empowering the next generation of young people by giving them a perspective of how to make it in London as an immigrant.
Meet Champs the Barber who is so much more than a barber; he’s a father, a husband, a motivator, and most of all, someone who takes the time to care for his community…”Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Muhammad Ali
Image credit: Wil Suarez
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