Hoping for a Good Hair Day; Next Month Gary Hooker and Michael Young Will Discover If They Have Been Crowned British Hairdresser of the Year, an Accolade Bestowed upon Hairdressing Greats Such as Trevor Sorbie, Nicky Clarke and Charles Worthington. LIZ LAMB Meets Them

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Byline: LIZ LAMB

THEY are some of the biggest names in the business with hugely successful international careers, their own brand of haircare products and worldwide celebrity status.

At the end of November two North East men hope to join the ranks of hairdressing supremos such as Charles Worthington, Nicky Clarke and John Frieda, after being shortlisted for the hairdressing world's top gong, British Hairdresser of the Year.

It is no mean feat to be shortlisted for the accolade in the British Hairdressing Awards and they are the only hairdressers in the region to be shortlisted. Their business Hooker & Young, which has five salons in the North East, has to compete with the multi-million pound budgets of the likes of Vidal Sassoon and Trevor Sorbie, who can afford the best models and photographers, to help secure the coveted prize.

Steadfastly loyal to their native North East, the pair have always refused to move to London and instead opted to build up their business in the region, employing more than 60 staff at salons in Gosforth, Jesmond, Wynyard, Seaham Hall and Darlington, where senior stylists can command salaries of pounds 50,000 upwards.

Over the years the couple have proved they didn't need to move to the capital to make a name for themselves. They have won North East Hairdressers of the Year seven times, been approached to style the hair on this year's X Factor show and the Seaham salon was named one of the best five hair salons in the world by a national magazine.

Gary says: "We are both from the North East and it's very important to us to be here and invest in the region. It is one thing I have always felt passionate about. People always feel like they have to go to London but why do I need to do that? "We wanted to stay in the North East. It doesn't all stop at London. We employ over 60 people and we are passionate about hair and about the people who work for us. People join the business after school and they never leave, which is quite rare. "We want to encourage young people to come into the industry. A lot of people see hairdressing as a dead-end job but we have stylists working for us who earn pounds 50,000 a year. It's not a dead-end job. It's a great industry to work in and we want to encourage and train people and help them achieve their goals." Gary and Michael opened Hooker & Young in 1996 after Michael won Northern Hairdresser of the Year and Gary was elevated into the hairdressers hall of fame. The first salon opened in Gosforth followed by Jesmond and Wynyard opened seven years ago. "It was the right time to branch out," explains Michael, who owned a franchise before developing Hooker & Young. "It evolved organically. We never once sat down and said 'let's create a salon group, we are going to do this and that'. "Because of the level of service we were offering we attracted clientele and most of it was word of mouth and we built it up. We have a fantastic following and clients and we became synonymous with style, exclusivity and wearable hair. We started winning all these awards, which put us on the map. "People think we have got so big now that we don't cut and style hair anymore but we do. We are very hands on." Gary worked in a bakery at Tesco after leaving school but left after two years to become a sheet metal worker. He was persuaded to become a hairdresser by two friends who worked in the industry. "I thought it was something that could give me a career," he says. "When we set up the business we avoided city centre locations as there were already so many salons so we went to Gosforth and Jesmond. "When we moved to Wynyard, it Durham and Harrogate. For the past two years they have been in the process of developing their first haircare range which they hope to launch early next year. Michael says: "What we have achieved didn't happen overnight, we have built it up over the years. …