Leather & lather: The Cut-throat Racer

By George Herd
BBC News

Media caption, Razor sharp: Conquering a cut-throat world

It looks like a barber's shop should. The scissors, the combs, the clippers and mirrors. Shelves of hair 'product' and jars of 'barbicide' disinfectant.

There's a theme going on too - it screams motorcycles. From the leather jacket hanging on the wall, to oil and tyre paraphernalia, and biking photos.

It's where men can come to relax. For a haircut, a beard trim, or even a full wet cut-throat razor shave.

Welcome to the world of Sophie Collins: 'The Cut-throat Racer'

She is a 25-year-old former hairdresser, who has swapped tints, blue-rinses and shampoo-and-sets in a small rural village in north Wales for the male-dominated world of barbering.

It is four years since she set up shop in the quiet, picturesque Gwynedd village of Llanbedr - a place whose claims to fame are a campsite on the coast boasting it is the biggest in Europe, and an ex-Raf airfield that wants to become an international space port.

But this spring, it is Sophie making the headlines in the village, in north Wales - and beyond.

She has just been named the best cut-throat shaver in Wales - the first woman to take the title.

It also means she'll become the very first female barber to make it to the UK finals of the competition, held in May in a boxing ring in Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre.

"I've always wanted to do it - be a barber," said Sophie.

"I was inspired by an old friend. A gentleman I trained with, he actually taught me how to shave.

"I thought, you know, when I took on my own place, I wanted to be like the other barbers - show myself off, show the shop - enter competitions - not thinking I'd get as far as have.

"I was quite shocked."

Perhaps she is being modest. She is no stranger to competing in traditionally male arenas.

Outside of the barber shop, you are just as likely to find her donning racing leathers and taking her motorbike out on the track.

She is spending the Easter weekend in a track competition where she will be up against her own father, who passed on his passion for speed and bikes to her.

"He's faster than me though," she laughed.

At the race meets up and down the country, Sophie is also known to set-up her own mobile barber's shop, offering hardened bikers and race enthusiasts a trim or shave.

It is where she picked-up her nickname: The Cut-throat Racer.

And now she hopes her success can be an inspiration to other women who want to get into the industry.

"It's actually making the women out there think: 'You know what - I've always wanted to do it'.

"Maybe seeing myself win something like that, maybe it will encourage them to actually do it themselves - and not have to worry about being a woman taking part in a competition alongside men.

"Yes - it is daunting - but you're just as good as them, and that's how I felt on the day."

But does the swaggering confidence translate back to the barber shop floor?

"When they come in and I get the razor out to shave their neck, they panic," confesses Sophie.

"They tend to have a gulp and grit their teeth, and I'm trying to tell them: '"Relax - it's supposed to be relaxing for you.

With a smile and a sly wink, she adds: "A lot of them do get nervous.

"A woman with a razor? No - really?"

Yes really, a woman with a razor who is on a mission to become one of the best cut-throat shavers in Britain.

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