A-Head of the Rest with Adrian J

Image source: Photographer Megan Gill

Changing your hair can really change your life. Deb Caruso meets the local hairdresser with almost four decades of experience in changing lives – and loving every minute of it.

There is a saying that if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. This is true for Adrian Payne of Adrian J Hairdressing. 

Growing up in the UK, Adrian would accompany his father to a men’s hair salon and with the innocence of childhood remarked “I think I’d like to do this one day”.

Today, Adrian loves being a hairdresser as much as he did more than thirty years ago when he moved to London to train with Vidal Sassoon, who were a global force in hairdressing at the time.

“As soon as I went to London at aged 19, I knew this was it,” he said. “I found my place. It just felt right and I’m as driven today as I was then. 

“It’s not a job to me. It’s my life and I love it every day. I still get as much from it as I did the first time I picked up a pair of scissors.”

Among the reasons Adrian lists for this love are the creativity, interaction with clients and the ability to give somebody confidence to create change.

“Vidal Sassoon were the architects of hairdressing – literally,” he said. “Everything we did started with a graphical element and fundamental shape which was architectural in form.”

This taught Adrian the importance of incorporating structural elements with a design methodology, an approach that has followed him through life.

“The start point is basically understanding what you’re going to create, what you’ve actually got in front of you and the method you’re going to use to get to where you want to end,” he said. “Client consultation is the most important part. We need to understand what they are looking for and then we consider the texture of the hair, lifestyle and their personal style – are they up for something that pushes the boundaries or something more classic.”

Adrian owned a large and very successful salon in Sheffield, England for eleven years before returning to his love of hair education. He moved to Australia nearly 20 years ago to set up a salon for a friend before taking up the role of Creative Director for one of Australia’s leading salon groups based in Melbourne. The group also had an Academy that provided education as global ambassadors for L’Oreal.  

For the next eight years, Adrian travelled Australia delivering a specialised cutting program in all major cities and working on the Fashion Weeks in both Sydney and Melbourne.

Accolades followed, including being crowned Victorian Men’s Hairdresser of the Year and being a finalist in multiple awards including the L’Oreal Colour Trophy.

It was in Melbourne that Adrian met his now-husband Alexander, who always planned to move back to Noosa after having lived here and spending annual family holidays here in the 60s and 70s. 

Kindred spirits with a love of design and architecture, Adrian said the marriage they have now with him hairdressing and Alexander working in real estate was good because we both talk to lots of people. 

“We also understand that buying a house and changing your hair can be two of the most personal, biggest decisions somebody ever makes,” he said.

While Adrian bought an existing salon, it didn’t come with clients which makes him even prouder of what he has achieved over the last nine years.

“In some ways it’s actually easier to start from scratch because you have full ownership and your clients choose you,” he said. “I found the salon on Gumtree, of all places! 

“I now have the most amazing team that have been here for a while. So I think that’s the testament to what we’ve built.”

The team (or Adrian’s Angels as I call them) includes Creative Director and Senior Stylist Hayley James, who has been at the salon for five years; Salon Stylist, Lana West who has been there for four years and is about to have a baby; and Deni O’Connor, who has been there for three years and is preparing to complete her apprenticeship. 

“As a team we gel nicely, it just works,” he said. “We’re like family.”

This is apparent on the salon floor where they actively seek each other’s advice and discuss options to achieve the best results for a client. Adrian gives as good as he gets with technical advice as well as friendly banter.

“We cater for discerning clients and we are here to make them feel good, that begins with listening to them and providing advice and insight,” he said. “Without that, you’re just cutting to what you know or what you want to do and not considering the client. 

“If we’ve got a new client or a client that is looking for a big change, we will do a dual consultation, so the client gets the full brains trust.”

Adrian encourages clients to share images of hairstyles they like as part of the consultation.

“It’s important to understand what the client wants as the starting point,” he said. “We still look at face shape and lifestyle, where their hair is at with regards to thickness, condition, natural or existing colour – and then we can offer the best professional advice.”

I can speak from experience where Adrian regularly greets me with a moodboard of ideas based off a discussion we have had earlier. 

“It’s a partnership and it’s about trust. And that shows in our repeat and forward bookings,” he said. 

Adrian says they do a wide spectrum of colour work, specialising in blondes and that they are actively looking for new apprentices to join the team. 

Clients are mostly local with a number of regulars who fly in from interstate or drive from Brisbane, even Roma. 

“We have an amazing clientele who have been so supportive, particularly the past few years and we can’t thank them enough,” he said.

After almost four decades in the industry, Adrian says retirement is far from his mind and as Adrian J Sunshine Beach enters its tenth year, expect a refurbishment and some new additions to the team. 

Adrian can’t believe how much the salon has flown and grown. 

“It’s all about things that make you feel good – and for us, making our clients feel good is the key,” he said.

About the Author /


Deb has 25+ years' experience providing strategic communications and brand reputation advice to clients in the government, business and not-for-profit clients. She is passionate about Noosa and is an active member of her community, providing PR to Slow Food Noosa and other clients. Her passion lies in working with small businesses to help them succeed. She is planning to release the Tastes of Noosa cookbook with Matt Golinski in 2019.

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