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12 September 2019

Smoddy Sharp — Redefining the Norm

By Jason Kee

Recently, I popped along for a chat and a coffee with Marie Robertson and Rohan Spencer, the owners of Smoddy Sharp at 33 Dartmouth Road. Smoddy Sharp is a fairly new addition to our high street, bringing male grooming and tailoring to Forest Hill.


On entering, my first impressions were just “Wow!” Clients enter into a luxurious lounge/waiting area with plush leather seating and rich colours. Decorated by Marie herself, the entrance area is a well-thought-out eclectic mix of furniture from the early 20th century to modern retro. Unashamedly masculine, it greatly benefits from her collector’s eye. As beautiful as the furnishings are, the room draws you through to the magnificent bar that guards shelves of tempting spirits. Marie offers me a coffee, but I would prefer a cocktail ... except it’s only 9:30am.

As we sit down in the rear garden for coffee, my first question is, “What is ‘smoddy’ and why is it sharp?” Rohan answers rather quickly, as I suspect the question may have come up before. “Smoddy is a Jamaican word. Someone who is smoddy is an extrovert: they stand out and they like to look good, have sharp outfits, so they can be ‘smoddy sharp’.” The follow-up question is obvious. “How to pronounce it?” Rohan answers, “It should be smoddy, like body, but the Jamaican accent makes it sound like smuddy, like muddy.”

Now entering its second year, Smoddy Sharp has become a favoured destination on Dartmouth Road by men-folk in Forest Hill and beyond. Past the grand entrance area is a lower level, with bi-fold doors opening onto a small garden, where traditional barbering services are provided for hair and beards. Upstairs are treatment rooms where clients are pampered with facials, massages, manicures and pedicures. And, along a corridor, a bespoke tailoring service offers made-to-measure suits for all occasions.

While not SE23 natives themselves, they are both South Londoners. Although neither Rohan nor Marie have a background in the beauty or grooming sectors, Rohan’s grandfather had expertise in tailoring. Marie worked with a shipping company, racking up air miles from trips to Asia and the Middle East, while Rohan was working around the clock in business development and local government.

However, a few years ago, things changed for them. Around the same time, both Marie and Rohan unexpectedly lost their fathers and, before that, Rohan had tragically lost his brother to suicide. These experiences led them to believe that London, or South London in particular, needed a space for men: “A safe place, where men could relax and get some pampering,” adds Marie, “a place where men could be looked after and be okay with that, and basically de-stress and lose the toxins we all collect in our bodies.”
Creating a haven for men is a difficult concept to discuss sometimes, particularly in today’s #MeToo climate. While the male suicide rate is at its lowest since the 1980s, the rate among men is over three times the rate among women. Whereas depression affects women at greater rates, men are much less likely to seek help for it. Rohan notes, “These treatments — looking and feeling better — can help with depression, with stress, and bring many positive health benefits.”

Suddenly, the name makes sense. Smoddy isn’t just about looking good, it’s about feeling good. Barbering, facial and other treatments, and great suits are just the foundation for this business.
Unsurprisingly, it is while discussing the future that Marie and Rohan are most animated. During our chat, Rohan and Marie often speak about redefining the norm for men, about creating a ‘space’ that allows men to look after themselves. In the next few months their business will be expanded to include yoga, meditation, and discussion groups on de-stressing and balancing home-working with home-life. Since the two of them have already hosted whisky and rum tastings, it will also include socialising events, such as local meet-ups for men who have moved into Forest Hill to help them build new, local friendships. For families, Marie and Rohan already offer 'father-and-son Sundays'.

While unspoken, their ethos is clear: Men who look after themselves — their mind and body — are better fathers, sons, workers and friends. It’s ‘redefining the norm’.

So now you know what Smoddy Sharp is. If you, or a loved one, want to be ‘smoddy’ too, then just knock on their door when you’re passing by. Either Marie or Rohan would be happy to tell you about their exciting adventure planned for Forest Hill and beyond!

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