Kwami Lambert has been cutting hair ever since he came to London at 14 years old. We sat down with him to learn the story behind United Kutz Barbershop, a Downtown London business that has been uniting the community for the last 15 years.
On May 3rd 2007, Kwami Lambert celebrated his 28th birthday with an exciting present – the keys to his first brick and mortar shop at 147 King street. His father taught him that ‘you’ve got to do something that you love, because when you love what you do… that’s not work’. And Kwami has always loved getting a haircut. When he was younger he would save up his extra chore money to get his hair cut once a week. “I love what it did for me. My confidence would go through the roof and I love that feeling”. But it was all thanks to his aunt, who took him to buy a hair-cutting kit at Sherwood Forest Mall, that he started practising on himself and his two cousins – this planted the seed for United Kutz.
From running a barbershop out of his highschool locker room to owning two United Kutz locations in the London area (his second location on Trafalgar and Admiral), Kwami has always been in the business of bringing people together. “I wanted to open up something that I knew could bring the community together,” he says, “that is even why I called it United Kutz. I knew that even by cutting hair we could unite this community one haircut at a time”. Moving from Trinidad to Toronto at the age of 8, Kwami remembers going to get his hair cut with his mom only to realize they weren’t trained to cut Black hair. “I thought ‘How could someone live in Canada, call themselves a barber, and not be able to cut the hair of every Canadian?’ … That is what I am going to base my business on.”
As a teenager, Kwami felt like he needed to stick around London and find the good in the community, and later started United Kutz to “help bridge the gap between Black and white, Africans and Canadians”. Downtown London was the choice location for the shop. Dundas and Richmond was always the place to be growing up, Kwami says, and agrees it truly is the heart of the city: “I’ve always loved how downtown was the one place that brought all of London together – all the busses came there”. It also holds sentimental value. Kwami met the mother of his children, his high school sweetheart, at the McDonalds on Dundas and Richmond. He also worked his first job at Galleria Mall. “Downtown London made me feel like I was still in the city. It has that big city feel to it, but it’s also just small enough.”
United Kutz is built upon a vision of uniting the London community and motivating young people to do the same. Kwami feels he has successfully spread this through his platform. “You see the entire community everyday come through the barbershop; old white men in the morning talking about the war, business men on their way to the office, students from Western and Fanshawe, hockey moms, Black kids, women getting braids – you see the entire London community on a day to day basis. It is a reminder to me that I am doing the right thing”. Kwami wants young people to know that if you build something with the right attitude, it will be more than just a business. It will be a fraction of the community.
Our city as a whole, our community, our country, is going through something that we haven’t gone through in over a hundred years… Especially on the business front, it’s tough times that no business has ever gone through. So it is now more than ever that we need our people to work together. It’s very important that people within the city lean on each other and support each other and look out for each other.
- Kwami Lambert, United Kutz
Kwami doesn’t let customers feel like customers – he makes them feel like part of that community. “The way I created the shop, I want it to feel like a home. I chose red, white, and black because it represents Home. It’s the Raptors, its Canadian, its Trinidadian, its Fanshawe – it’s me in a nutshell and what I represent”. He believes it is important now more than ever that we show our strength as a city. “That is something huge, especially in Black culture, we always say ‘you gotta rep where you’re from’. You’re not nothing if you don’t have your city behind you,” Kwami says, “We gotta look out for each other – it has to be Forest City first.”
“We have to show people, and show our kids, that we can all work together. You can be Conservative and I can be Liberal and we can still have dinner together, go to church together. We can disagree, but we can work on stuff together. That was my motivation to start the shop. Bringing good haircuts, community, and unity all together.”
We are happy to see United Kutz uniting not only our downtown community, but London as a whole – one haircut at a time.
Visit their Instagram Profile: @united_kutz_official
Address: 147 King St., London, ON
December 29, 2021