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Costakis Costa, Barber At Mario’s

May 7, 2024
by the gentle author



‘ Me, I’m a barber’ – Costakis Costa


All readers are invited to a free screening of a short film about Mario’s entitled PROBABLY NOT THE HAIRCUT by Idea Space, tomorrow Wednesday 8th May 6:30-7pm at Mario’s Gents’ Hairdressing, 562A High Rd Leytonstone, E11 3DH. Drinks will be served. No need to book.


Mario’s has been a friendly landmark for over half a century, a beloved barbering institution where generations have sought consolation and renewal amidst the rigours of life in Leytonstone.

One quiet afternoon, after Costa – the presiding master of ceremonies – had finished his final haircut of the day, we sat on chairs in the empty salon and he regaled me with his story.

‘Me, I’m a barber. Although my grandfather was a carpenter, two of my grandfather’s brothers were barbers. My dad, Mario, is a barber and my aunt is a hairdresser. My cousin is also a hairdresser and my nephew cuts hair for a living. When I was a toddler, the front room of our family home in Leytonstone was a salon run by my aunt.

This shop was opened by my dad who came from Larnaca, Cyprus, in 1962 to work at his uncle’s shop on Moorgate Station – it doesn’t exist any more. Dad got the business here in 1967 and I joined him in 1980.

I never had any interest but, when I went to my careers officer, he said, ‘Your dad’s got a business, have you considered that?’ So I had a chat with dad and he said ‘It’s up to you. son.’ He never pressured me into anything but I came to the salon and realised ‘This is nice, I can chat to people. They come into the salon willingly, are happy with the result, give you money and you talk bollocks all day.’ It was right up my street, though you don’t realise that until later do you? The careers officer got me a place to learn hairdressing at the London College of Fashion and I never looked back.

When my grandfather said to my dad, ‘Go to England,’ his brother already had a shop here so that was an opportunity. Cyprus had recently got its independence and he could come without a visa. But my dad said ‘There’s this girl.’ My grandfather asked, ‘Whose this girl?’ That was my mum. She came over with my dad and left her family in Cyprus. My grandad, the carpenter, and his three sisters came too. He made the fittings of this salon.

I think about people that migrate today and I wonder how they do it. I could not. My dad could not even speak the language. When he first worked for his uncle, the customers used to say what they wanted and one of the other barbers would translate. He did some evening classes but mostly he learnt by reading newspapers. He retired in 2010 and went back to Cyprus where he still reads British newspapers online.

I’ve got two children but they are not involved in hairdressing, it was never a thing. You bring up your kids to follow their own paths. We used to live in Leytonstone until 1980 when we moved to Enfield in North London, so the business was not in close proximity. If it was, perhaps they would have been influenced? I used to walk past this shop every Saturday morning with my mum on the way to do our shopping.

In my job, you get vibes from customers. People tell me their troubles. I’ve had a few heartfelt moments and they have approached me years later to thank me for helping them through difficult times, just for giving them somewhere to sit.

I enjoy the daily conversations with people. I have three or four generations of families that come into my shop. It is a relationship. They ask me, ‘When you retire, what am I going to do? Where am I going to go for a haircut?’ I don’t know the answer to that question. I still have a great relationship with my wife and I hope to retire one day. We may be older but we are still the same people. We want to spend long weekends in the garden and go on holidays together. I don’t have any regrets. Regrets can destroy you. It’s earning a living, it’s bringing up a family.

There’s developers. But if I have got two or five years left on the lease of this building then happy days. As long as there’s enough people that want me then that’s all I need. This is my place.’


‘My grandad, the carpenter, he made the fittings of this salon’

‘I have three or four generations of families that come into my shop’

‘They come into the salon willingly, are happy with the result, give you money and you talk bollocks all day.’

‘As long as there’s enough people that want me then that’s all I need’

‘I enjoy the daily conversations with people’

Photographs copyright © Zak Crafer

You may also like to take a look at

The Barbers Of Spitalfields

Aaron Biber, London’s Oldest Barber

At Cleo’s Barber Shop

Lew Lessen, Barber

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Katrin Langewellpott permalink
    May 7, 2024

    What a lovely story and I’d really like to be around and watch the film. Such a pity it’s too far…

  2. Gareth permalink
    May 7, 2024

    We lived in lovely Leytonstone for 20 years, and Costakis was the only barber I’d trust with my beard and what remained of my hair. Lots of great chats about E11 and beer. Great bloke, and long may he continue in his shop. A constant in ever-changing East London.

  3. Jane Jones permalink
    May 7, 2024

    Great shirt. Great guy.

  4. Cherub permalink
    May 7, 2024

    I love the fact that local businesses like this still manage to keep going. I’m also loving the shirt!

  5. Annie S permalink
    May 7, 2024

    What a cool looking guy!
    Unfortunately I can’t make the film show, what an interesting family story.

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