Stockton barber hangs up scissors aged 78 after decades of mullets, bobs, fades and slick backs

David Fieldhouse, of Hair by David in Oxbridge, has retired after 55 years
David Fieldhouse, of Hair by David in Oxbridge, has retired after 55 years -Credit:Terry Blackburn

From mullets and bobs to skin fades and slick backs, there's one barber who's seen it all.

And after 55 years of cutting and trimming, David Fieldhouse has hung up his scissors at 'Hair by David' for the final time. The 78-year-old - who has been a hairdresser for several generations across Stockton - has been based at the Oxbridge Lane salon since he started as an apprentice in 1961, before taking over the shop eight years later.

But David, who was trained by Stockton hairdressers Vinnie Haywood and Lennie Robinson, has now turned off the lights of the popular barbershop for good as he begins his well-deserved retirement. He's now looking back on a career spanning over five decades - from favourite memories, customers, and cuts to those all-important connections with everyone who walks through the door.

It was a tricky decision to retire, David admitted, but he "just couldn't do it anymore." He told Teesside Live: "My body just wasn't capable of doing it anymore and the amount of customers that were telling me: 'Good God David can't you retire or what?' But when you've worked for 55 years, they stop becoming customers and they become your friends. It was very hard.

"When you think I have done four to five generations of people... it was a very difficult decision. When I was a kid I'd know them - I even had customers that had been coming to me during my apprenticeship still coming to me now!"

'It's not the haircut - it's the connection'

Winding back the clock to when David was a youngster, he attended St Cuthbert's School and knew he wanted a "clean job." That's why, when he started working at ICI, he decided "getting covered in chemicals" wasn't right for him.

He was actually born on the nearby Hampton Road - so little did he know that he'd eventually become an apprentice at the salon located just metres away in 1961. Then, in 1969, the opportunity arose to take over - something he simply couldn't refuse.

David Fieldhouse -Credit:Ian Cooper / Teesside Live
David Fieldhouse -Credit:Ian Cooper / Teesside Live

But it was always more than just chopping and styling for David: "The biggest thing I enjoyed was people walking away and smiling because you know that they were happy. All the people I have met in my lifetime and the friendships I've had with them - it's not the haircut, it's the connection with your customer."

With a career spanning 55 years, the hair maestro has well and truly seen the changes in life's hairstyle trends, from the mop-tops of the 70s and perms of the 80s to recent looks such as the skin fade or mullet (yes, they're back in, keep up!)

And David said one of the most memorable hairstyles he remembers was influenced by the late Princess Diana, when her popularity was at its peak across the nation: "She was the first one to come in with this look - and it started getting people talking."

But is there a style that David isn't a fan of? There is - a shaved head.

An old photo of David in the shop -Credit:Ian Cooper / Teesside Live
An old photo of David in the shop -Credit:Ian Cooper / Teesside Live

Nowadays skin fades are all the rage - but David says it's nothing new. "If you'd been in the Jarrow March during the wartime, what do you think the hairstyles were then? It was skin fades! But people think it is a new style! Everything goes in full circle."

It's fair to say that millions of customers will have poured in and out of Hair by David over 55 years, and he has probably cut enough hair to wrap around the globe several times. But one of his most memorable customers was an Australian soldier, who would visit the barbershop every two years when he would return to Stockton to visit his mum.

He was responsible for getting armaments out of Vietnam - and David said he was amazed that he could recall what he'd been up to after so long. I asked: "So you have a good memory?" David joked: "For my customers, I do."

David Fieldhouse with Rachel Armstrong-McKay
David Fieldhouse with Rachel Armstrong-McKay -Credit:Terry Blackburn

It's not only hairstyles that the dad-of-one has seen come and go - he's even had to battle with things such as Covid pandemic, when businesses were forced to close. But he admitted that it wasn't all bad having to close during lockdown: "It was a nice rest!"

Now David - who was married to Margaret for over four decades before she sadly passed away last October - has finished for good, he plans on spending his retirement relaxing and enjoying days out on the train with hairdresser pal Graham.

He said: "I am just going to enjoy it. At the moment it is the hospital, the doctors, and then putting my feet up!" And now his salon is closed, you may be wondering where David will go to get a fresh trim every once and a while. He'll be relying on former employee Rachel Armstrong-McKay, who worked alongside him for an impressive 22 years and is now based at another Stockton salon.