I’ve made no secret on this blog over the years of my fealty to Rebel Rebel, Glasgow’s award-winning barber. Ever since that fateful summer’s day when master barber Gemma Willock-Smith made me look like the vintage vixen I’ve always dreamed I was in time for my brother’s wedding reception, it was love at first sight – and so there was no question that, when she returned from maternity leave only to become manager of their second salon on Finnieston, I’d be following her out west.
When I visited the shop for the first time a couple of Saturdays ago, sweaty and still a little breathless from the gym, I felt as though I’d stumbled into a fairytale. Located right on the corner of Argyle and Kelvingrove Streets, in gorgeous deep green and gold livery, Rebel Rebel Finnieston feels even more like a home away from home than its big brother in the city centre: think wood panelling, a well-stocked fridge and a real, blazing fireplace in the salon’s cosy reception area.
You know those people that you feel like you’ve known all your life? Well, meeting Gemma was like that. No awkward small talk (something that, you’ll remember, has kept me away from hair salons over the years) here: five minutes in the chair and we’ve usually already ticked off most of the things you’re not supposed to discuss in polite company. But it’s not (just) about the chat: Gemma took home the Best Female Barber award at this year’s Scottish Hair and Beauty Awards, and is a certified trainer for Kevin Murphy hair products.
On my latest visit, I was actually a little depressed about my hair. You’ll remember how happy I was with the two-tone hair Gemma’s colleague Chrissy had sorted for me on my last trip to Rebel Rebel: well, after the Olaplex ran out and the colour had (unsurprisingly) faded into something a bit orange-y, I was left with a bit of a bleach-damaged frizz at the ends. Having managed to go 34 years with healthy hair, having never once bleached it, I told Gemma I had decided to jack it all in and accept that I was destined to a life of boring colour. Not so, said Gemma, who told me that she was planning to cut off all the damaged ends anyway and that she had something called “flashlights” in stock, which she had used a few years previously in order to lighten my hair and make previous red highlights stand out. Did I want something copper in colour, or more of a reddy-purple?
After Gemma, ably assisted by Dionne (who I was chuffed to see had also made the move from Union Street) applied the colour – no easy task given my considerable mane – and while I was waiting for it to do its thing, I had a wee wander around the new shop. Like the city centre shop, Rebel Rebel Finnieston has this lovely community feel, and is packed with gorgeous grooming products from small brands such as OAK Beard Care and the Brooklyn Soap Company for sale. That night, the shop was opening late for a ‘Rebel After Hours’ event with more traders and a DJ, and Gemma told me it was the first of many they had planned for the space.
And, of course, there are the Kevin Murphy products that Gemma swears by which are full of natural ingredients and gentle on the hair but which still deliver premium results. This stuff is so good that whenever I cheat and use an over-the-counter home dye to tide me over between visits, Gemma can always tell from the residues left in my hair. Along with colourants, shampoos, conditioners and styling products, Kevin Murphy also offers a range of luxury hair treatments that are available at Rebel Rebel: strengthening, anti-aging, moisture and thickening masks. “You don’t need that,” Gemma said of the last of these, promising to let me try one on my next visit.
…and here’s the result! Although the second photo is one week and a fair few washes later, taken at our post-boot camp photoshoot up at AG Fitness Training because I am crap and managed not to take a decent front-on photo that whole week. I’m so impressed by how well my hair has held the colour, and when I was getting my pre-photoshoot blow dry up at Bon Vivant Salon they kept commenting on how incredibly shiny it was. Hair confidence = restored, thanks to the legend that is Gemma Willock-Smith.
Have you visited Rebel Rebel’s new salon yet?
Obligatory disclaimer: Gemma offered me my cut for free if I would write about the new salon, even though I told her she was being daft and all she had to do was ask! All opinions are my own and unbiased, as ever.