“Finding that right balance between work and the rest of your life is the key”
In the first instalment of a new series, in association with the all-new BMW 1 Series, we meet The Fireplace Barbershop founder Luke Delaney to talk about work and life
“I took a spin out to Glendalough in the car. It was great to get out of Dublin, and an amazing drive. The big draw for me was feeling comfortable.” Photographs: Conor Mulhern
Perhaps there’s no better person to ask for an honest appraisal of how something looks than a barber. A keen appreciation of aesthetics is something that comes as second nature to someone with more than 15 years in the trade. Applying that same appreciation to the new BMW 1 Series, Luke Delaney, founder and director of The Fireplace Barbershop on South William Street, sums up his time in the car; “I owned a BMW before and there’s always something about them, you get that feeling of luxury, and a sense of comfort and weightiness.”
There’s an evident nod toward classic values in Delaney’s work, no doubt influenced by many years spent in Dublin landmark, Waldorf-Barbers. “The Waldorf is a real traditional barber’s,” he says. “A friend of my Dad’s owned it and I suppose I grew up there. I remember being in there from when I was 13 or so, sweeping floors. I was fascinated by the place and the people there. The shop was set up in 1929, and it kept that vibe.”
The road to setting up The Fireplace Barbershop came from a desire to marry classic values with a modern twist. “If you look at haircuts, you’ll see that the classics are still there; buzz cuts, side parting, and crops will always be around. Look back at pictures of Sinatra, or Dean Martin, and you'll see these haircuts are still around today, just modern variations of them.”
Since the BMW 1 Series’ inception in 2004, the car has evolved, with the latest iteration switching to rear wheel drive while still retaining its compact and confident profile. “To me it looks much sportier than the older BMW 1 Series,” says Delaney, “and it feels compact and great to drive in the city, but still keeps that feeling of knowing you’re in a BMW.”
Delaney’s recognition of quality is something that came about through hard graft. He left school at 15 to start an apprenticeship at the Waldorf, but a pioneering spirit was there long before that. “I think from an early age, I had an abundance of energy,” he says, “and I was always looking for ways to do things for myself.”
Growing up in Ballyfermot in the 90s, Delaney says an encounter with Bill Cullen’s book A Long Way from Penny Apples played a formative role in his youth. “I suppose I started little businesses early on, picking daffodils from the roundabout to sell them was one,” he says laughing. “I remember spending my confirmation money on a lawnmower, and I’d spend weekends doing people’s gardens in the neighbourhood and saving up the money. I’d also buy wool and make hundreds of headbands for GAA matches, and get my Dad to bring me along and sell them,” he says.
He saved money fastidiously from each venture to reach his goal. “I always wanted a horse, so that’s what I bought,” he says candidly. “In fact, I got two and that’s how I spent weekends then growing up, looking after them and going out horse-riding. And make sure to note that they were kept in proper stables.”
Delaney’s independent streak played out in how he operated in the world. “School didn’t suit me,” he says. “I found it difficult to sit still; my brain didn’t have the ability to focus on theoretical learning. When I went into teaching later in life, so I could train barbers, I found it fascinating to understand different learning styles. I’m very much a visual learner, if I read something I forget it in 10 minutes, but if I watch it being done, then I pick it up straight away.”
Part of learning how the world of business worked came through Delaney’s own observations of managers. “Even though I wasn’t in school, I’d go to businesses and tell them I was doing a project for a class, and I’d sit in with a manager and just look at how they operated and listen to how they talked. I was like a sponge just taking in the information that way,” he says.
The strong focus on intuition comes into play when sitting behind the wheel for Delaney. “When I sat down in the BMW 1 Series there was an instant sense of comfort,” he says. “There are features that are deeply direct and easy to connect to, like the BMW ConnectedDrive system. I just downloaded the app on my phone and then everything was done for me, so I could get my emails, calls, and messages through the display,” says Delaney. “And of course I could stream music, an essential part of any trip. The sound system was one of my favourite parts of driving the car.”
With multiple awards for its connectivity systems, this car also sees BMW roll out some impressive driver assist technology.
Navigating the city
“I was using the car getting in and out of work,” says Delaney. “South William Street is a very busy, very narrow road, and there are times I’ll need to get in and out to pick up supplies. The car felt perfect for the city, the sensors and cameras made me feel extra aware of my surroundings, and a massive game changer for me was the parking assist features.”
Tech such as BMW’s reversing assistant adds extra benefit for getting out of tight spaces, essentially remembering the route the car took in, it will automatically steer out of the spot. “It makes it very handy in the city, especially getting around car parks,” says Delaney.
The versatility offered by the BMW 1 Series seemed to be the ultimate appeal, especially for someone with a busy lifestyle. “Owning your own business brings with it a lot of stress,” says Delaney. “It has lots of highs and lows and often people only talk about the good parts - if you don’t look after yourself that can be a real problem.”
The graft caught up on Delaney last year and forced a change of priorities. “I was burning the candle at both ends,” he says, “working seven-day weeks and sometimes up to 16 hours a day. It all caught up on me and I took some time out to reset and prioritise what was important for me. Taking that time out was the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Work life balance
Resetting and connecting back to passions such as being outdoors in nature has been a big part of Delaney’s new year. “Finding that right balance between work and the rest of your life is the key,” he says.
“I took a spin out to Glendalough in the car. It was great to get out of Dublin, and an amazing drive. The big draw for me was feeling comfortable, you know you're going to be fine in the city and you also know if you're taking it out on a long drive or into the mountains that there's a lot of power there.”
Finding balance and connection is an important motif in life for Delaney, who remains humble about his achievements. “Looking back now, to leave school so young and go straight into work, seems crazy and I wouldn't advise anyone to do it,” he says. “But I suppose I learned from all those experiences and at the end of the day I just know what I do, and I do what I believe in. For me that is all about providing a nice environment and really just connecting with the people I’m working with. I think barbering is 50 per cent about providing the cut, and the other 50 per cent is providing that connection with the client.”
For more information on the all-new BMW 1 Series, visit discover.bmw.ie/models/bmw-1-series/