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‘Image is everything’: meet Sheldon Edwards, the England squad’s unofficial barber

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The south London barber Sheldon Edwards knows footballers who feel as if they haven’t prepared for a game if they haven’t had a haircut. “[It’s] like they left their boots at home; that’s how important the haircut is.” A good cut, he says, can lift a player’s confidence, on and off the pitch.

Take Raheem Sterling. “There was a time [a few months ago] when he changed his haircut,” says Edwards. He was “growing it a bit and he was having a bit of a sticky time at Manchester City”. When Edwards “gave him a new-wave look, a bit of a different fade”, the goals started to roll in, like Samson in reverse. Edwards says his inbox was full of people pleading with him to “please keep this lucky haircut” and while he concedes that Sterling creates his own luck, he likes to “think the haircut is just like an enhancer”.

It is no surprise, then, that Edwards takes his role as unofficial barber to the England football squad – he cuts the hair of Sterling, Jude Bellingham, Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden – very seriously. “I do feel responsibility,” he says.

Away from the national squad, he cuts the hair of so many Premier League players that he has had to give up being a Manchester United fan. He had his work cut out at the recent Champions League final, given he cuts the hair of eight Manchester City players and eight from Chelsea. “Who do I cheer on? I have to stay on the fence.”

Sheldon Edwards
Sheldon Edwards at work in HD Cutz. Photograph: Edward Spencer

But while he may be able to sit on the fence when it comes to Premier League games, international football is a different matter. “It has to come home. The atmosphere, the vibe in the country; when it comes to England, I can’t sit on the fence,” he says. “Although if it was Jamaica against England, I would beg to differ in that situation.”

Edwards is a third-generation barber who cut his teeth at the barbershop in Jamaica that belonged to his grandfather before it was passed on to his father. He was in the shop from as young as two, “probably just catching on to stuff without realising”.

He opened his first salon, HD Cutz, in Clapham Junction, south-west London, in 2016. The name is a nod to his style of barbering: “It is unique. It stands out. It’s got a high definition on it, so the finish of my cuts is next to none.”

It is, he says, his approach that keeps the footballers coming back. “With me cutting hair, it’s a session of fun, laughs and jokes … We share a lot of personal stories to do with family and I must say that most of my clients are like family to me.” If any of them are going through tough times “we share the moment together. We’re each other’s therapy through any kind of situation; it’s a friendly environment where people can unwind.”

That and the fact he clearly understands the importance of hair to young footballers, especially in the sponsor-dominated, social media-oriented world. “Image is everything,” he says. “When I’m cutting them, I know that I’ve got responsibility … I give them the look that will suit them and lift whatever they’ve got going on; it can make a brand look at them in a different way.”

Here, Edwards talks us through some of the cuts he did before the Euros.

Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring against Germany at Euro 2020. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

For Sterling’s Euros cut, Edwards went for “a low taper – that means we only take away from the sideburn up to the temple, from the temple up to the ears”. Then we “fade it in and leave his hair naturally with a bit of a wavy look on top”.

It was Edwards who opted for the look, rather than Sterling. “Me and Raheem are so close, he literally doesn’t tell me what he needs; I just do what I want to do,” he says. On most occasions, he walks off without checking on Edwards’ handiwork. “I’ll be like: ‘Look at this now,’ feeling proud that it’s really a sharp one today. Normally, he’ll be like: ‘I don’t need to look in the mirror,’ and he’ll walk off – that’s confidence.”

Edwards thinks this cut suits his personality. “We wanted to present him as the person he is,” he says. “He’s such a great person, warm and friendly; he looks after everyone around him and we wanted to portray that in his haircut.”

Phil Foden

Phil Foden
Phil Foden applauds England’s fans after the Germany game. Photograph: Kieran McManus/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

Edwards’ work with Foden has perhaps been the biggest hair story of the tournament so far. It started with a text: “Phil messaged me and was like: ‘I need to change my look, man.’ Phil is so shy. I was surprised. I was like: ‘What do you mean you need to change your hairstyle? That’s not you.’”

But Foden came to Edwards with a picture from the internet: “A normal picture [that comes up] if you Google “blond” on your phone. He wanted blond, but a bit dark, like grey-blond.” Edwards went away and studied. “It put a bit of pressure on me. I did the research, I got the right products for him.”

The reaction has been huge. When Edwards gave Foden his blond transformation, posting a picture on Instagram halfway through the dying process, neither he nor the player anticipated the reaction it would elicit. The post garnered 1,500 comments in about seven minutes; the do has since been the subject of press conferences and newspaper articles. “I thought it was going to go crazy, like Ampadu crazy – when I cut the dreadlocks off [Chelsea’s] Ethan Ampadu, that went viral – but it was nothing as big as what Phil Foden did.”

Comparisons to Gazza, who dyed his hair blond for Euro 96, poured in. But the reference wasn’t intentional, with neither realising the echo. But Foden was, says Edwards, excited by the comparison “as a person that really respects older players and legendary players”.

There is now talk that, if England win the Euros, the whole team will follow suit and go blond. If football does come home, Edwards jokes, he is going to be very busy.

Jude Bellingham

Jude Bellingham
Jude Bellingham after Ukraine match. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

“Jude has a low taper with a high top,” says Edwards. “We do the same fade with Jude as we do with Raheem,” then neaten up the top with scissors before moving a sponge in a “a 360-degree motion until it creates all natural curls” on top.

Again, the trust is there. “He knows I know what he wants, so I just start cutting,” says Edwards.

Jadon Sancho

Jadon Sancho
Jadon Sancho in training at St George’s Park in Burton upon Trent. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

“Jadon goes for a full fade, leaving a little sideburn going down into a little point and then leaving his little moustache and beard,” says Edwards. As with Bellingham, Edwards will then smooth off the top with scissors before using a sponge to bring out the curls.

Unlike the others, Sancho, who has just agreed a transfer from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United, is “very particular”, only trusting Edwards and one other barber with his hair. “If we’re not available and he’s in Germany, there’s occasions where they put him all over the papers looking a bit rough,” says Edwards, because in those situations “he’d rather not cut his hair – he’d rather ride it out”.

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Chanel suit finds new fans in Gen Z channelling 90s nostalgia

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The Chanel suit, an outfit typically associated with ladies who lunch, has an unlikely new set of fans – Generation Z.

This month Olivia Rodrigo, the 18-year-old singer of hits including Driver’s Licence and Good 4 U, chose a pink and black vintage version for a visit to the White House to meet the US president, Joe Biden. Global fashion search platform Lyst said that following the appearance, searches for vintage Chanel rose by 200%.

Chanel suits have also been worn by Simone Biles on the cover of WSJ magazine, and by the cast in the Gossip Girl reboot. Jennie from the band Blackpink, meanwhile, wears the luxury label so much that she is sometimes called “Human Chanel” by fans.

Scene from Gossip Girl
The reboot of Gossip Girl. Photograph: BBC/PA

Rodrigo’s choice was a nod to First Lady style – its most famous wearer being Jackie Kennedy Onassis in the 60s – but the 90s are the focus of this revival. The singer’s suit is from Chanel’s spring/summer 1995 collection.

The references being made by the suit’s new Gen Z fans are more likely to be a young Helena Christensen on the catwalk in a Chanel suit and bikini top, Hilary Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or Cher Horowitz from the 1995 film Clueless. Instagram account @chanel_archives is a popular source for Chanel catwalk images from this era, whose high-profile followers include Ariana Grande and Tavi Gevinson.

Clueless
90s inspiration: Cher and Dionne in 1995’s Clueless. Photograph: Alamy

Chanel is, of course, a luxury brand and therefore expensive. Vintage suits on sites like Farfetch have prices starting at about £2,000. Those without rock-star budgets get the look with Chanel-like pieces on Depop, the resale app that Rodrigo uses herself, for as little as £25.

Depop’s global curation lead, Viviana Attard, who studies trends for the company, pinpoints the style as part of the rise of preppy look. “[Rodrigo] visually expressed a vibe that’s been gaining more traction lately – we’ve seen an increase in interest in listings and searches for the typical preppy look, recently brought back into fashion with the Gossip Girl reboot.”

Lyst’s content editor, Morgane Le Caer, argues that the different associations of the Chanel suit – the fact that it can signal preppy, first ladies, the 90s and the 60s – is a concept that appeals. “Gen Z style is … about creating a very personal world – or mood – through the juxtaposition of visual elements,” she says.

Ryan McMahon, who runs @chanel_archives, says he particularly likes the “kitsch” collections that Karl Lagerfeld produced for Chanel between 1990 and 1997.

“I think we’re in a generation of nostalgia, and everyone seems to be obsessed with looking back in fashion and remembering a time when fashion wasn’t so serious. Chanel in the 90s is a perfect example of this,” he says.

“Hopefully from my account people are discovering ways to style the Chanel suit in a fun and fresh way that can be youthful, which a skirt suit isn’t always assumed to be.”

Both Le Caer and Attard argue that the sustainability factor of vintage is important – and Rodrigo represents her generation here too. “[She] is a huge secondhand and vintage fan and makes environmentally conscious decisions with her fashion choices,” says Attard. “It’s no surprise she chose to wear vintage for such a high-profile and momentous occasion like visiting the White House.”

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Brows beaten: 10 of the best brow gels

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Some people are blessed with naturally full, exquisitely shaped brows, the kind of luscious gift that keeps on giving – . If that’s you, come back next week. Everyone else, keep reading. Brows frame your face, but getting the right size, shape, colour and density demands skill. Too thin or thick, wrong shade or shape, and your face looks off kilter. Thankfully there is help. Professional threading is great for keeping brows tidy. If they are sparse, a brow tint will provide an illusion of fullness. Alas, it doesn’t last very long. For longevity, head to Daxita Vaghela, aka “The Lash Queen” who now also does microblading – the tattooing technique that adds hair strokes to your brow. It has a realistic finish and lasts up to 18 months. If you don’t fancy anything permanent (or have a low pain threshold) stick to products. Many swear by brow pencils, they are great for filling in gaps and creating sharp outlines, but for a natural finish, you need a steady hand and a light touch. An easier option for great volume and density is a brow gel. You simply brush the product on to your brows and you’re done. For a full but natural and glossy look, try the clear variation. For a bolder brow, try colour – the Anastasia Beverly Hills range is excellent. Brow gels are fail safe. Just don’t waste time trying to make them look identical. Remember, brows are siblings, not twins.

1. Hourglass Arch Brow Volumising Fibre Gel £27, spacenk.com

2. Benefit Gimme Brow + Volumising Eyebrow Gel £22.50, benefitcosmetics.com

3. Anastasia Beverly Hills Tinted Brow Gel £23, cultbeauty.co.uk

4. L’Oréal Paris Unbelievabrow Long Wear Top Coat £10.99, boots.com

5. Chantecaille Full Brow Perfecting Gel £34, libertylondon.com

6. Too Faced Brow Wig £18, toofaced.co.uk

7. Charlotte Tilbury Brow Fix Sculpting Gel £19, charlottetilbury.com

8. BareMinerals Strength & Length Serum-Infused Brow Gel £18, bareminerals.co.uk

9. UOMA Beauty Brow Fro Volumising Brow Gel £23.50, beautybay.com

10. Kevyn Aucoin True Feather Brow Gel £22, lookfantastic.com

Follow Funmi on Twitter @FunmiFetto

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Let the Games begin! Tokyo 2020 kicks off with manga-inspired opening ceremony

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After a one-year delay, several scandals, and with the spectre of the COVID-19 pandemic hanging over it, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games finally kicked off on Friday.

Athletes from around the world not only stepped foot in the Olympic stadium during the opening ceremony but also into the world of Japanese comics and graphic novels.

An orchestral medley of songs from iconic Japanese video games served as the soundtrack for the parade of countries at the ceremony.

The first song played on Friday was “Roto’s Theme” from the Dragon Quest series. Dragon Quest was enormously influential as the first console role-playing game, launching a genre. The parade also included the main Final Fantasy theme and “Victory Fanfare,” the song that plays when a player wins an encounter.

Another well-known song that was featured was “Star Light Zone,” from the original Sonic the Hedgehog. In addition to appearing in the original game, a remixed version appeared in the DS version of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.

Additionally, the placards for the country names for the parade of athletes used manga speech bubbles, and the costumes for the placard bearers and assistants had manga touches in their design.

No spectators for the 11,090 athletes

This kick-off marks more than just the beginning of two weeks of sporting feats, it is also the end of a long and tiring marathon for the Japanese organisers who have been waiting for this moment since 8 September 2013 and the designation of Tokyo as the host city of the 2020 Olympic Games.

But the 11,090 athletes making up the 206 delegations — which for the first time include as many women as men — ventured out to parade in front of a near-empty stadium.

In the grandstand of the venue, which can normally accommodate 68,000 spectators, stood Japanese emperor Naruhito, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, French President Emmanuel Macron and US First Lady Jill Biden.

These dignitaries and a few thousand other privileged guests will witness the lighting of the cauldron by the flame alighted on 12 March 2020 in Olympia, which traditionally marks the start of the Games.

But in a surprise move, after months of polls indicating hostility to the Games, Tokyo residents gathered in their hundreds around the Olympic Stadium before the ceremony.

They watched the Blue Impulse air patrol fly over the Japanese capital and sketch Olympic rings in the sky. They then posed next to the Olympic rings, carved on the stadium’s forecourt: “I’m delighted that the Games are starting, it’s a source of pride for me,” one Tokyo resident explained.

Tests, masks and a ban on families

To reassure the Japanese public, most of whom would have preferred another postponement or the outright cancellation of the Olympic fortnight, Japanese authorities took drastic measures: daily tests for athletes, compulsory masks for all, gatherings limited to the strict minimum in the Olympic Village, a ban on foreign athletes’ relatives and families coming to Japan and, last but not least, the almost total absence of spectators, something never seen before in the history of the Olympics.

Still, anti-Olympics protesters marched from Harajuku to Sendagaya ahead of the Olympic Games opening ceremony, criticizing the Japanese government for what some say is prioritising the Olympics over the nation’s health.

About 23% of the population of more than 120 million has been fully vaccinated, a number that has picked up since May but is still far short of where Japan’s government had hoped to be before the Olympics.

Japan has weathered the pandemic better than many other countries, logging about 853,000 cases and 15,100 deaths since the pandemic began. But infections have been surging, with Tokyo hitting a six-month high of 1,979 daily cases on Thursday.

The organisers of the event also have had to deal with several scandals including the resignation of the president of the organising committee, Yoshiro Mori, last February for sexist remarks, or that of the artistic director of the opening ceremony on Thursday for a bad joke about the Holocaust made more than twenty years ago.

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