Betty Tigers, an art gallery in a hair salon

Elton Clough, the hair dresser of Betty Tigers

It’s a hair salon where you meet tigers and it’s more than a hair salon, it’s a hair dresser’s art gallery where people can be creative.

On Infirmary Road in Sheffield you can’t miss a small shop with a signboard painted with tigers. This is where Betty Tigers has been for nearly 12 years.

Elton Clough, the 57-year-old owner said; “The name of Betty tigers is in memory of my mother Betty who died 12 years ago and her favourite animals.” Elton also wrote a poem Why Betty Tigers? to explain the origin of the name.

Stepping into the salon is like entering a tiger world. On each of walls are various paintings and photographs of tigers including watercolours, oil paintings, Chinese paintings and murals.

Everything in the salon is decorated with tigers; the cupboards, sofas, cushions, cups, even the pen containers and mirrors.

If you pop to the bathroom in the backyard, you’ll discover wall murals covered with cartoon tigers sitting, lying and jumping all over the walls. They are painted by a local artist Patrick Amber, who has been Elton’s friend for more than 20 years.

“Elton has gathered a lot of tiger stuff. It’s really hard to find something not concerned with tigers here,” laughed Patrick. “He looks for them himself and his customers and friends often give them to him.”

More than a hair salon

Unusual, wacky and one-off are the words people use to describe the hairstyles designed by Elton. The photoboard outside the shop can prove it, you can see rainbow stripes, colourful leopard spots and even tiger faces hidden in the hairstyles.

Elton describes himself as: “The man for hair patterns, alternative and punk hair, and styles for individuals.

Tiger murals in Betty Tigers

“I enjoy being a hairdresser, because it’s good fun to transform people if they would like to be transformed. It’s nice to make people feel different, creative and artistic.

“A hair dresser has to be sensitive to what people want. But it’s really good fun if somebody wants to be dramatic and have an unusual and creative style.”

He added that some people come to him the day before they plan to go bald and let him try some crazy hairstyles on their last day of hair.

Elton is always trying to create new hairstyles for his customers and he even cuts hair for free if people are willing to let him be creative with their hair.

He explained if he just wanted to do a job which earned money, then he’d do something else, because Betty Tigers was not a very expensive salon.

“If we charged a lot of money, then only wealthy people would come, and then I might not have these interesting hairstyles. I do enjoy it and it’s not about earning money but about creating.”

Besides designing new hairstyles, Elton aims to explore and discover new and innovative ways of creating imagery, using hair, paint, photographs and video.

Inside Betty Tigers

Elton has been making slides to record his wacky hairstyles and published them on Betty Tigers’ YouTube channel.

Elton also invented a new way to paint using hair dye. The hair dye pictures look just like oil paintings, but are easier and more convenient to make.

Elton has also been filmed cutting his hairstyles: a fast forward hairdressing show.

A bit like a drop-in community centre, no matter whether you are Betty Tigers’ customer or Elton’s friend, Betty Tigers always makes a tea or coffee to welcome you.

Elton said: “Customers like it here better than the traditional places where they just sit down and don’t interact.”

“Betty Tigers is so much more than just a hairdresser’s art gallery, community centre, ideas shop… words really are inadequate for describing how special this place is,” said a customer on a review website.

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