NIKKY Okyere is the barber you need to know if you want a fresh cut.
The Ghanaian-born hairdresser regularly trims the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Danny Welbeck, Jordan Ibe and other Premier League stars.
And it’s the Bournemouth star who is in hot water, accused of flouting lockdown rules by getting a trim this week, even posting the haircut by Okyere (seen in an instagram video) on social media.
Originally from Accra, Nikky, 36, runs a business in South London called Slick Rick.
Before lockdown, SunSport caught up with Nikky at his barbershop to talk about hair and the trends in the beautiful game.
He told us about the time he was tipped 2,000 euros by one footballer when he was invited to Mario Balotelli’s 25th birthday.
But first, Nikki revealed where it all began.
When my friend came back from the barbers, his hair didn’t look good and I told him I could do much better. I’d never cut anyone’s hair at that point, I was about 12-years-old.
A STARTING POINT
“Back in Ghana, I remember a friend of mine got a haircut at a barber shop.
“At that time, there was no money. Our parents use to cut our hair, so going to the barber shop was a big deal.
“When my friend came back from the barbers, his hair didn’t look good and I told him I could do much better.
“I’d never cut anyone’s hair at that point, I was about 12-years-old.
“But I fixed his hair with a comb and blade, because we didn’t have clippers in Accra as we were quite poor.
“When I fixed it I realised I had a talent for cutting hair. Then all my friends started wanting me to give them haircuts.
“That was the beginning of where it all started for me.”
HIS FIRST FOOTBALLER
Nikky moved to London and opened up a shop in Camberwell, where he soon cut the hair of his first footballer, Yakubu.
“He said: “I use to cut the hair of Yakubu’s best friend.
“He said to me he didn’t like the way Yakubu styled his hair, so he sent him to me.
“It was the first time I’d ever cut a footballer’s hair, so it was a great honour.
“I wasn’t starstruck, because it doesn’t matter who it is, I’m just happy to cut hair.
“I wasn’t scared and there weren’t any butterflies either. It just made me very happy.”
“In fact, Yakubu actually gave me more confidence, I didn’t feel too much pressure.
Society judges footballers and celebrities and I believe many people think that they believe they’re above everybody else.
“Society judges footballers and celebrities and I believe many people think that they believe they’re above everybody else.
“But Yakuku said hello to everyone, he shook everybody’s hand.
“He sat on the barber’s chair and started joking with me, he was very nice.”
After trimming the former Portsmouth striker’s Afro, word of mouth spread among the Premier League’s African stars.
Michael Essien followed Yakubu into Nikky’s chair and the clients kept rolling in.
Soon, the likes of Mamadou Sakho, Bakary Sako, Jordan Ibe and Ahmed Musa all invited Nikky round to theirs for a cut.
However, the first footballer to open their doors to him was Crystal Palace wing-wizard Wilfried Zaha.
“Wilfried was the first footballer that invited me to come over to his home and cut his hair,” Nikky explains.
“He was at Cardiff on loan and when he invited me over I was so happy.
“I had sent him a direct message on social media saying I wanted to cut his hair. When he said he wanted me to do it, I was thrilled.
Zaha’s really like a brother to me and I enjoy making him look match-ready.
“Zaha’s really like a brother to me and I enjoy making him look match-ready.”
Because of his warm personality, it’s clear to see how Nikky manages to win the trust of normally private athletes.
He divulged: “With footballers, I think they can tell there’s a good energy around me.
“I think good energy attracts good energy. When I go to a footballer’s house I know I’m there to work.
“I’m not bringing anyone with me, I mean business. I cut their hair and I just go.
“That’s why they trust me and feel confident and let me into their home.
“There’s no trick to that, I just do my job and don’t hang around them.”
THE SHARPEST LEAGUE IN THE WORLD
Nikky believes Premier League stars have every right to look at their sharpest when millions around the wold are watching every week on TV.
I believe in personality and your haircut tells the world a lot about you. So I think it’s very important for footballers to look their best on the pitch.
Often, you’ll see footballers looking sharp for the cameras, but Nikky doesn’t see that as them being vain.
He believes that it helps the players express themselves better on the pitch.
“I believe in personality and your haircut tells the world a lot about you,” he said.
“So I think it’s very important for footballers to look their best on the pitch.
“The whole world is watching them, so they have to look good and presentable.
“And that’s healthy too, it makes you confident in your mind before you go on the pitch.
“That’s why I think it’s really important that footballers get a haircut before they go on the pitch.
“It gives them the right preparation.
“And I don’t think they’re vain.
“Most of the time, I cut my clients’ hair every two weeks. So it’s actually not every game they invite me to cut their hair.
“When there’s a big game though, they do want to look good so they have a shape up for the cameras.”
THE PRICE OF A CUT
For walk-ins Nikky charges punters ten pounds, while if you book an appointment in the barbershop it’ll set you back £20.
Usually I charge £100, but a lot of players give me more than that. The biggest tip I ever had was 2,000 Euros.
Footballers who ask for an in-house service pay a premium rate of £100.
But usually, Nikky admitted, they’re much more generous than that.
Nikky confessed: “Usually I charge £100, but a lot of players give me more than that.
“The biggest tip I ever had was 2,000 Euros.
“But this person was not paying me for the haircut, they were a kind person sowing a seed into my life.
“The haircut wasn’t worth that, but the person looked at me and said they were happy with the way I worked.
“They told me that I don’t try to be anyone but myself and I encourage young people to be positive.
“He saw into my life and showed me gratitude by rewarding me financially. I was very touched.”
Being the Premier League’s go-to barber, as well as British rapper Tinie Tempah’s hairdresser, definitely has its perks.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BALOTELLI
Nikky said sometimes a footballer will buy him dinner, if they book a late appointment in the evening.
He was even invited to former Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli’s 25th birthday.
“Sometimes I walk into a home when it’s dinner time and some footballers will invite me for dinner.
“Bakary (Sako) use to invite me when it was dinner time, so when it was times like that, he would invite me to eat with him.
“It made me feel more comfortable and welcome.
“I went to Mario’s 25th birthday, one of his good friends is a very good friend of mine.
“He also introduced me to Jerome Boateng, who I also did a haircut for.
“My friend called me to come over to Liverpool, so I had to go.
“They asked me to bring over some Ghanaian food and when I got there there was Mario, his cousins and my friend.
“Apart from that, everyone else I met that night was a footballer!
“Mario was such a sweet guy. A lot of people say a lot of things about Mario and I admit I wasn’t quite myself at first.
“But when I got to his house, he’s totally a different person to what people say.
“He was bubbly, he shook my hand and he made me feel very welcome.
“Mario also let me stay over in his house, which was really nice.”
Nikky understands that footballers have the option of so many barbers.
For that reason, he doesn’t have a favourite customer.
“My favourite footballer is the one at the time who is sat on my seat,” he said.
“Each and every one, the person on my seat is my favourite customer.
“I don’t do rankings. There are so many barbers, so footballers can choose anyone they want.
“But when you are available, you have to be there to cut their hair.”