Top hairdresser Adee Phelan shot to fame after he gave the English football captain a Mohican before the 2002 World Cup. His life has been a mix of stunning highs and dismal lows, but now Brummie-born stylist is now back in the city with a top salon at The Cube
Meet Adee Phelan, the celebrity stylist and one of Birmingham’s unsung heroes. He’s the bad boy of British hairdressing. He’s Marco Pierre White in a beauty salon, or the Ronnie O’Sullivan with a pair of scissors. Both of the aforementioned are friends, and Phelan has recently moved into The Cube following a call from the acclaimed chef, who has control of the top floor.
“Marco and I share a lot of the same qualities, we both like to break the rules,” says Phelan. “People have this misconception about us both going to be rude, arrogant, bolshy and dismissive, but I am million miles away from that. But I think it’s better for people to have an opinion about you than to dismiss you from the start.”
Brummies can now get their hair snipped by the man who has styled the likes of David Beckham, Lisa Minnelli, Max Beesley and many others. But the expansion into Brum has been emotional for Phelan and about far more than business. “It was a massive, massive thing for me to go back to Birmingham. I am proud of it and when people ask me where I am from I always say Birmingham. I wanted to do something for the city, I hope that’s how it’s perceived.”
A SPIKEY START
Phelan’s life has been a rollercoaster. He left school with little to show for it and spent years around the margins of society. He worked as a painter and decorator, a slaughterman and spent much of his twenties in a bedsit in Essex, looking destined for nowhere. “It was the same old story,” says Phelan. “Bad schools, bad jobs, lots of drink and drugs blah, blah, blah.”
Eventually, his break came in the late 1990s when budding hairdresser Lee Stafford invited him to come and work for him. Soon after, he was on stage with his boss as Stafford was awarded Hairdresser of the Year Award. Two years later Phelan picked up the prize himself and things were looking up. However, a whirlwind romance led to a terrible marriage which collapsed and Phelan suffered a nervous breakdown. His hair fell out and briefly he looked to be heading back down again. However, in 2001 while at a party he met a close friend of the Beckhams and was soon he was taking a call from Victoria Beckham who wanted him to cut her husband’s hair. “She said ‘we love what you do, I’m a massive fan, and David’s looking for a new hairdresser’. Up until that point I had never even met a celebrity and the next minute I am working with the most famous man on the planet.”
The Beckham Mohican put Phelan on everyone’s radar and soon it was time to leave the Beckham fold and move into new areas. Reality TV shows such as The Salon further propelled his profile and his own real-life salon in Covent Garden became the place to be. The ultra-rich of London flocked to the cutter’s swivelling chair and Phelan began to morph into a brand. His company now has a range of hair products and accessories, which can be found in high store chains and stores. Of course, someone who reaches so far, so fast, tends to attract a touch of jealousy. “A lot of people in the industry are pissed off about the way I did it and that I don’t deserve it,” he says.
Phelan opened his Birmingham salon at The Cube in 2011 after investing £1.3m into the project. However, it is a slightly out of the way destination and business has not been as fast as he hoped. “It’s been slow but sure,” he says. “Being 100% honest it probably wasn’t the most intelligent move to expand during a recession. It has been the most difficult business to get going out of all the ones I have opened up.
“We spent £1.3m on the salon, but I don’t regret it a bit. People have a lot of loyalty to their hairdresser and take time to change.”
The salon’s location is also an issue. The Cube is one of the most high profile in the city’s redevelopment, however it is remarkable how many Brummies are yet to put a foot inside.
“Birmingham is totally different to London. If a new restaurant opens in London, everybody wants to go. In Birmingham people like to stick with what they know. They have their pub, their hairdresser etc. They don’t always want to try something different.”
THE QUIET LIFE
Phelan is hoping for more highs rather than lows and the 39-year-old is less interested in partying and socialising these days, and involved in quieter pursuits. “I like collecting old furniture,” he laughs. “Some of the things we got for the salon were from the House of Commons.” He’s also done enough drinking and other substances and by and large steers clear of the high life. “I am the most boring man, I pay my taxes, don’t do drugs. I like a glass of champagne, but that’s about it.”