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Secret Shopper: Gymshark's mental health barbershop pop-up

Tom Shearsmith
15 July 2022

To raise awareness of male mental health, sportswear brand Gymshark opened its Deload Barbershop pop-up in London this week.

The space is a non-judgemental safe space for men to open up, offload and have a chat with professional mental health trained barbers who are there to listen, all while getting a free trim.

Research by Gymshark found that whilst men find it difficult to open up about how they’re feeling at home or with friends, they often open up at the barbers.

Open until 17 July 2022, the barber shop is open for pre-booked appointments between 10am-2pm, with walk-in appointments from 2pm-5pm. 149 Shoreditch High Street, London. took a trip (and trim) to the store to see how the experience translated from press release to physical pop-up.

The Street View

The store has been freshly painted in black paint, with the Gymshark logo visible but noticeably smaller than the Deload signage, potentially highlighting how the brand itself is not the main focus of this campaign.

When looking at its presentation on the high street, it is clear that Gymshark has taken inspiration from nearby businesses who also have boldly painted storefronts and open windows. The exterior has also been fitted with a barber's pole in Gymshark's colour palette. To the average person walking down the street, it looks like an authentic barbershop - and they'd be right.

The Store-fit & Displays

For a pop-up location that is only open for one week, I am very impressed with the execution of the store-fit and level of detail that has gone in to the space. Everything has been branded with the Gymshark/Deload logos.

It can be argued that pop-up spaces often have minimal work done internally in order to help deconstruction and restoration - I genuinely do not believe that has been a consideration for the Deload pop-up. For example, walls are covered in mental health awareness posters, which encourage visitors to make a donation, and all the fittings and furniture are custom built for the space.

Visible in the window of the store, Gymshark is also selling limited edition barbershop merchandise, with all proceeds going to CALM. CALM run a free, confidential and anonymous helpline as well as a webchat service, offering help, advice and information to anyone who is struggling or in crisis.

Deload barber shop

The Service & Experience

Despite turning up for a trim on one of the hottest days of the year, the entire team was happy and positive from the moment I stepped into the barbershop. Greeted by people from the Gymshark team, customers are briefed about the purpose of the location, offered a drink and seated in a relaxed waiting area, filled with promotional information and games consoles.

Barbers from Curfew Grooming provide the trims for free across the whole week, including the one I experienced. After a short wait I was introduced to my barber, who very quickly put me at ease and asked me about how I'm feeling, what I did for a job, what I thought of the weather - anything to help engage with me positively and help me relax.

An important thing to note is how the barber actively engaged in conversation about what they were doing to my hair. Every step was communicated to me and every question was answered regarding the right length and style.

According to a Gymshark representative, the barbershop sees approximately 40 customers per day on average.

The Ambience

The ambience in the store was always kept calm - I never felt rushed and always felt catered for. The volume level of the music and the choice of songs helped keep the atmosphere relaxed - opting not for your typical 'lads' or masculine music but recent pop hits alongside some classic 90's. For a brand that has previously presented itself as very binary in terms of masculinity, it was so refreshing to realise that they were trying to break down those stereotypes with things as simple as music.

In Conclusion, it was clear that this pop-up has no financial return for Gymshark - but that was never the point. I could imagine that never was even a consideration. The pop-up gives all men - regardless of assigned sex, age, ethnicity - the opportunity to relax, have a free trim, worry slightly less about the world and talk about what matters to them.

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