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Brit barber cultivates traditional, personal feel

The British are coming, the British are coming to the Jewel.

In fact, they’re already here.

But not to worry: It’s a friendly takeover, courtesy of men’s hair cutter and stylist Irv Wolff, originally from London, England.

“I don’t treat a client like a client, I treat them as a friend,” promised Wolff, who has occupied Suite N in the Crosby Center in La Jolla at 7742 Herschel Ave. since July 2007.

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What you will get at Wolff’s establishment is the human touch because, as he said, “Getting a haircut is more of a personal issue. What my shop here represents is a comfortable feeling. I don’t want people to feel like this is surgery.”

Wolff’s shop, Headway Hair Studio of London, is nothing if not cozy, as well as distinctively British, right down to its Union Jack-upholstered barber chair.

Tucked away in the Crosby Center with its avenue-like central courtyard, Headway Hair offers clients an enviable view of the world strolling by through its ample window space. Yet the interior space is insulated, private, sharing the outside world while cutoff from it, resplendent in its simplicity and practicality.

“I designed it myself,” said Wolff, “had this made by a place in San Diego that specializes in doing hair equipment. This location here was nothing like this whatsoever. It had a popcorn ceiling and ugly brown paint and was absolutely gutted. It was a nail salon for 17 years and it was very old, very grubby, needed a lot of serious attention.

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“I didn’t want your average, mundane barber shop, but to have a whole different look. A place of business needs to be comfortable and inviting because, if a place is not comfortable or inviting, the person doesn’t like it and they’re not going to go back.”

The son of a tailor, Wolff fulfilled a lifelong ambition in coming to the United States in the early ‘70s along with the rest of the “British Invasion” which captured, cultivated and held the attention of the world on a number of pop culture fronts.

“People in Britain started to discover America,” recalled Wolff, “and it was the British invasion with the Beatles, and when England was leading the world in music, fashion and hair. It was a golden opportunity for me to come come to America. So I took a job in Maryland working with two guys who had opened several hair salons and wanted British people to work for them.”

Wolff resettled in San Diego in 1980 after first vacationing in California to visit friends. He started out cutting hair for the Navy Exchange at the Submarine Warfare Base in San Diego before moving up to North County where he did his cutting-edge creative hair cuts for the next 25 years in Carlsbad, Solana Beach and Sorrento Valley.

Alan Langhorn of Encinitas has been a customer of Wolff’s for many years who has followed him down from North County to La Jolla. He talked about why he has remained a loyal client. “I like the style of hair cut he gives,” Langhorn said. “There’s also the personal touch. Irv is one of those real old-fashioned barbers, and his shop is a lot like that, where you can come in and have a chat. It’s not just a hair-cutting factory. It’s more of a personal adventure.”

How Wolff found his retail space in La Jolla last July is an interesting story.

“After working for someone else for well over 16 years, I was looking around for a space,” said Wolff. “My wife was getting her hair done and she was talking to another woman there who was a commercial real estate agent and she mentioned I wanted to open up my own hair salon and this lady said, ‘Oh, I might have the place for him.’ ”

Wolff only cuts men’s and boy’s hair. He also has another novel specialty - working with hairpieces. Wolff recalled how he first got the idea for doing that. “I remember Tony Bennett was wearing his hairpiece and it was too much hair for his age,” he said. “Then I saw him a few months later and it was cut down and it looked a lot better. I specialize in men’s hairpieces - cutting and styling them.”

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What are men looking for these days in their hairstyles?

“It depends on one’s profession, lifestyle,” noted Wolff. “It has a lot to do with maturity. But history repeats itself. What we’re seeing today may not be in next year, or wasn’t in 10 years ago.”

Hair style, like fashion, is cyclical. “It goes back and forth,” noted Wolff, who pointed out, “bell bottoms, they’re back again. You see, history repeats itself, with different variantions.”

Wolff is often called upon to be a hair consultant by his clients. “Without a doubt there are people out there who don’t know how to wear their hair,” he said, “or they’ve had the wrong type of haircut for themselves. I don’t just cut hair, I make a client look and feel as good as they can regardless of their age.”

Wolff prides himself on being affordable. You can get your hair cut at Headway Hair without getting your wallet clipped. Wolff said:"I just had a client in here this morning, and he asked me how much I charged and I said $20. He said,'That’s too cheap.’ There are some beauty supply places that charge $55 or $60. I’m not going to charge them some ridiculous amount of money.”

Wolff exhorted men of all ages to come by and check out his barbershop. “I want to get more people in here, let them know that I’m here,” he said. “Give me a try. I need their head in my business.”

Haircuts at Headway Hair Studio of London are by appointment. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The shop is closed Sundays and Mondays.

For more information call (858) 456-2938.

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