It was a very busy day in a London salon, and hairdresser Christopher Rollins had just finished highlighting a very good client, “Jill,” when he rushed off to his next appointment.
As Christopher explains, “We had an assistant, John, who unfortunately was not very bright. John’s task was to shampoo off the bleach when Jill’s timer rang.”
Christopher was in the middle of another cut when the hairs on the back of his neck stood up as a fear came to him: John had forgotten about Jill.
“I ran to Jill, who was thankfully reading a magazine, head down, and no glasses on. I quickly moved her to the (shampoo) basin and washed the color — and 90 percent of her new ‘bleached’ hair — down the drain.”
He said his immediate thoughts were to kill John, who had appeared next to him stuttering something incomprehensible, and to just get out of this mess.
With threats to John to, “stay the h- -l away from me,” Christopher whisked Jill into his chair and raved that she was “about to receive the latest, most fantastic haircut that was going to make her the envy of all her friends.”
“The good and the bad fell to the floor, my hands moving like lightening, and I kept up an incessant chat of how fabulous she’d look while simultaneously mouthing to John, who stood just out of range, that I would kill him,” Christopher says.
“The result was a great haircut — way ahead of its time — an enraged husband, and John running for his life.”
Christopher’s come a long way in his profession, especially for a guy who left school at 16 with the aspirations of being a beach bum — not an easy thing to do in London. Instead, he happened to fall upon an apprentice position at the salon and, spurred by the idea of aggravating his parents, (who had envisioned him as a history teacher) decided to give it a try. Thanks to that little twist of fate, he discovered his niche.
Finding himself swept up in the hair and fashion craze of the late 1960s, when new trends were thrust into the spotlight by pop icons such as The Beatles, Christopher started training in 1967 and attended all the major product company education systems: L’Oreal, Wella, Schwarzkopf and Clairol, as well as the Royal London College of Fashion and Vidal Sassoon Academy, training in-house with their senior stylists.
After going as far as his could with his career in England, Christopher accepted an offer to work at a salon in the United States — in Connecticut — called British Hairways, which featured English stylists. So, in 1977, he packed his hairbrushes, combs and scissors, bade goodbye to his family and friends, landed in New Haven, and never looked back.
He came for a new opportunity and stayed to expand his ideas and capabilities. It also helped he met a “beautiful woman,” whom he married 11 months later. A wife, two kids, two granddaughters and 35-plus years later, Rollins not only owns a salon, but also co-owns a cosmetology school, too.
The decision to open his own salon came many years after stepping foot on American soil. After the English-run salon went bust, he left and got a job at another salon in the area. A few years later, he decided to challenge himself and move a step forward by opening Christopher’s on April 1, 1982, in the Westville section of New Haven. Exactly four years later, again on April 1, he opened a second location in Village Walk in Guilford. He moved the Guilford salon to its current space at 1575 Boston Post Road in 1996. The Westville salon burned down after the building was struck by lightning in 1990.
The 4,000-square-foot salon offers services for every facet of hair care needs — colors, cuts, chemical services, extensions — and also spa services including manicures, pedicures, face and body waxing, makeup and spray tanning.
Today, Christopher’s employs 10 stylists, a nail technician, two assistants and three receptionists.
The key to the salon’s longevity, Christopher says, has been its ability to evolve with the changing trends. There is always more to learn, and that opportunity can come from anywhere around you: workshops, things on the street, from kids experimenting and even from seeing what bigger companies are espousing as the trend.
“I am continuing to find better ways to operate the salon, motivate the staff, and attract new clients,” Christopher says.
So, the only question left is: What did ever happen to John?
“I think he’s still running,” says Christopher.