Harborough's longest-established hairdresser is retiring after 53 years in town

Linda Porter started out working in the business in the town on a Saturday as a 13-year-old schoolkid way back in 1967 and has run Shape Hairstyles for almost 50 years

By Philip Hibble
Wednesday, 4th November 2020, 5:04 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th November 2020, 5:08 pm
Linda Porter.
Linda Porter.

A legendary local hairdresser is hanging up her blow dryer in Market Harborough after a staggering 53 years.

Linda Porter, 66, started out working in the business in the town on a Saturday as a 13-year-old schoolkid way back in 1967.

The longest-established hairdresser in Market Harborough, she’s now finally calling it a day after proving time and time again that she really is a cut above her rivals after over half a century.

The team at Shape Hairstyles.

Evergreen Linda, who has run Shape Hairstyles on Adam and Eve Street, Market Harborough, for almost 50 years, told the Harborough Mail: “It’s absolutely incredible.

“I can’t believe that I’ve been hairdressing since I was a young girl back in the 1960s!

“I feel totally blessed – it’s been an absolute privilege.”

She added: “I’ve worked hard for more than 50 years spanning five decades.

Linda having her hair cut by Princess Di’s hairdresser Joshua Galvin in 1991.

“But in my heart of hearts I really do feel that I have never done a day’s work.

“That’s because hairdressing has been such a massive passion for me.

“It’s never felt like going to work – I’ve been so lucky and I could never have even imagined doing anything else.”

Linda, who’s lived in Houghton on the Hill for 44 years, fell in love with the job when she was just 13.

“I started working a salon in the town after we moved here from Nottingham.

“My dad Ron Clarke ran Connaught Road Post Office in Market Harborough.

“He was very Victorian and wasn’t happy at all that I wanted to leave school at 14 to go into hairdressing full time,” said the mum-of three.

“But I hated school, I wasn’t in the least academic, I was determined to leave even though I was naughty!

“I was a rebel and I was committed to going to work – and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

“I did an apprenticeship before helping to set up the Wild Boar, purely run by ladies, above a shop on Church Street here.

“I went on to set up my own salon during the three-day working week in 1974 above a haberdashery run by Mr Coles on St Mary’s Road.

“I was only 19 at the time.

“And that’s when I really launched my amazing adventure in the rollercoaster world of hairdressing,” said Linda, who also has three grand-daughters and a step grandson.

“It really took off and I moved to our current premises in Adam and Eve Street in 1975.

“And we’ve never looked back.

“There have been hard times as well as good, of course, but I wouldn’t change what I’ve done for the world.

“I also ran a salon, also called Shape Hairstyles, behind Sainsbury’s in Oadby for about 30 years as well as a business in Thurmaston with my best friend Marilyn.

“But my heart has always been right here at my beloved Shape salon in Market Harborough.

“I can’t begin to count how many customers I must have had through our doors, got to know and loved to bits over so many years.

“We had a serious fire four years ago when our salon was gutted, it was a terrible time.

“We had to go mobile for four months.

“But we’ve built up such a loyal, such a fantastic army of customers that they stayed with us all the way through,” said Linda.

“I’ve got to pay a huge tribute to the girls who have run Shape Hairstyles with me – Kim Marabella and Louisa Capewell.

“They have both been real rocks and I couldn’t have gone on for so long without them – I owe them everything.

“I still vividly recall that the first wage I took home was £1 19 shillings and 11 pence.

“I’ve clearly earned a lot more since – but I’ve never done this for the money.

“I have been rich in so many different ways, working with a brilliant team and making friends with scores of wonderful people.

“The incredible human stories I could tell!

“Some of my customers have been coming to us for over 40 years.

“I have grown up with them and their families – their kids and their grandkids.

“I’d like to say an enormous thank you to all of the people who have stuck with us years in year out, you’re all brilliant.”

And she may be stepping back but Linda is still keeping Shape Hairstyles very much in the family after selling her beloved business to her niece Jane Porter.

“I’ll be popping in now and again to keep my hand in and to see everyone.

“But I’m 67 in January and I have to put my health first.

“It’s a big shame that I’m finishing like this as we go into a new Covid-19 lockdown,” said Linda.

“It’s a tough time for everyone out there on the high street.

“But we survived the first lockdown fine and I’m sure that we’ll come through this challenging period too with amazing financial support from the Government.

“I’ve obviously not been able to say a proper goodbye to my customers and friends but I’ll be calling all of them.

“It’s been a once in a lifetime journey working her being a hairdresser in Market Harborough and I can honestly say that I’ve loved almost every single minute.”