“A hard beginning maketh a good ending” was one of Willy “Uppercut” O’Shea’s favorite sayings. It’s an adage that grandson, Luke Newman, and Steve Purcell — co-founders of Uppercut Deluxe — still live by today and one that drives their pursuit of the perfect product. A modern, yet traditional approach to men’s grooming, the Australian brand delivers a core range of high-quality essentials for men, but without the fancy embellishments of salon brands. The fuss-free line includes styling products like the Deluxe Pomade, as well as shampoos, shaving products and combs that Newman and Purcell — both trained barbers — use every day in their shop. We recently sat down with the founders of Uppercut Deluxe to talk about traditional values and style, creating the perfect product, and the real value of grooming in our face-paced world. Read on for the interview in its entirety and be sure to visit the brand’s website here.
Introduction, what started them on grooming & where does one start when it comes to creating a grooming product…
Can you introduce yourself and your role at Uppercut Deluxe?
Luke: I’m Luke Newman; co-founder, barber, skater and designer for Uppercut Deluxe.
Steve: I’m Steve Purcell; co-founder, veteran barber, surfer and Uppercut Deluxe product developer.
What originally interested you about grooming?
Luke: I discovered the world of barbering while staying in Portland, Oregon with a friend building skate parks after my school years. Around the corner from where I lived was a cool old-style barbershop located next to a café where I’d get my daily coffee from. Every day I looked inside the barbershop and admired how barbering was such a timeless trade and establishment that really cultivated [the] community. I knew it was a job I could do forever. I came back to Australia, looked for an apprenticeship, and the rest is history.
Steve: I have been barbering for 13 years. I initially got into it because I hated school and dad told me I had to get a trade before I could leave. My brother was getting a trim and the barber happened to be advertising for an apprentice. I jumped at the chance to ditch the school books and give barbering a go. The trade immediately resonated with me as a result of my tight relationship with my grandfather who took me to the barber from an early age.
Where does one start when it comes to creating a grooming product?
Luke: Uppercut started through a frustration of using mediocre products that didn’t suit the vibe of our barbershop; products that were geared towards the man’s wife rather than the man himself fueled us to create something they would use and be proud of. We experimented with hundreds of different formulas alongside chemists for over a year before we were happy with our first product, the “Deluxe Pomade.”
“Uppercut started through a frustration of using mediocre products that didn’t suit the vibe of our barbershop; products that were geared towards the man’s wife rather than the man himself fueled us to create something they would use and be proud of.”
Luke Newman speaks about where one starts when it comes to creating grooming products
The process that takes place with the chemist, perception of men and grooming over the last few years & how Australia perceives grooming versus the rest of the world…
Can you define the process that takes place with the chemist?
Steve: The process in creating a product was a lot more complicated than we anticipated. We went through literally hundreds of samples, tweaking each time to make it perfect. We didn’t want to release anything until it was perfect. Luke’s grandfather Willy ‘Uppercut’ Oshea’s famous quote was “a hard beginning maketh a good ending…” this statement was never more true than in the formula production for all of the Uppercut products. We still hover over production to ensure the quality is perfect.
How do you think the overall perception has been between men and grooming — and generally taking better care of themselves — over the last few years? What do you think was its catalyst for change?
Luke: I think the perception is definitely changing with men and their grooming habits. Guys are getting back to traditional values and style. Guys are stoked to be getting outdoors again, fishing, tinkering on motorbikes, skateboarding, surfing and embracing simplicity.
Steve: I think this passes through to men’s grooming. The simple art of the straight razor shave and the daily ritual of doing your hair or reading the newspaper while you wait for a haircut. These are all small things that allow us to slow down the pace of life.
As an Australian brand, how do people perceive grooming? How is it similar or different from the rest of the world?
Luke: When Steve and I opened our barbershop we wanted to create a place for guys to come and just hang out… like being in a mate’s garage. At this time, barbering was at a low point in Australia and often misunderstood. Steve and I got hassled for being ‘hairdressers’ by our mates who didn’t get the barber scene and culture. Nowadays, Steve enjoys having a laugh with his mates of those old times who now wait in long queues to get a cut from their favorite barber. Guys realize that it is more of a community and daily ritual than just a service or a product.
“Guys realize that it is more of a community and daily ritual than just a service or a product.”
Luke Newman speaks about how Australians perceive grooming
Misconceptions about grooming that should be dispelled, daily/weekly grooming ritual, most difficult/rewarding part of the job & upcoming products…
Are there any misconceptions about grooming that should be dispelled?
Steve: I think grooming is coming full circle. In our grandfathers’ day it was considered manly to take care of yourself and look sharp. There was a stage I think that guys were hassled if they had clean, sharp haircuts or put wax in their hair. I think also the lines were so blurred with fashion and grooming.
Luke: The ’90s and early 2000s were tragic fashion eras, people were running around jumping on any style bandwagon but it seems like guys are finding a more defined stye.
What’s your daily/weekly grooming ritual?
Luke: My weekly routine is about keeping my hair short, clean and tapered and I always run a short beard for a bit of facial comfort. My favorite product is without a doubt our Deluxe Pomade.
Steve: My daily routine at the moment is to let my beard grow wild while I like to run a slick-back on top. I’ve just discovered that a tiny bit of our Matt Clay is great as a beard product to tame the wild edges!
What part of your job is the most rewarding? The most difficult?
Luke: The most rewarding part is bringing products to market that you know guys are going to be stoked on. The barbershop is the only place to perfect a product before it goes out to the market. This ensures that you know people are going to be 100% satisfied.
Steve: On the flip side of this it is always difficult to perfect a product. Hair wax and grooming formulations are all about the detail and is such a time-consuming process to even launch one product.
What sort of products do you have upcoming?
Luke: We want Uppercut Deluxe to be an essential range for guys, standard issue items that you can take anywhere with you.
Steve: I’ve got eight new products in the pipeline including men’s grooming but also some curve balls that every styled gentleman will want. Groom and Zoom!