Local barber celebrates milestone birthday, marriage and career
Charles Bradford celebrated his 80th birthday on Sept. 5. To this day, he continues to own and operate Bradford’s Hair Studio in Groton.
His career cutting hair has spanned over 60 years. While Bradford was born in Burlington, Vt., he moved to Groton as a toddler and has lived in Groton or New London ever since. Bradford’s choice of career came about in his late teens when he got into some trouble, and he was offered “the choice of entering the service or going to school” and he chose Vaughn’s Barber College in Hartford in 1962.
After attending barber school for six months, apprenticing with a barber for two-and-a-half years and acting as a journeyman for three more years, Bradford had the opportunity to open his own barbershop in 1969, Bradford’s Hair Studio of New London. While Bradford did not have a childhood passion for haircutting, he did follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, who was a barber, and cut his grandfather’s hair for the first time at 9 years old.
Prior to attending barber school, Bradford met his wife Maureen and married her three years later. Their marriage reached a major milestone recently when they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
They have a growing family with three children, five grandchildren and one great grandchild, many of whom followed in the family tradition of cutting hair. Bradford taught his wife, son, two daughters, sister-in-law, and granddaughter to cut hair, and many of them cut hair professionally.
The Bradfords’ only child who does not cut hair, Laurie Palmer, still followed the family tradition by booking the appointments for Bradford’s Hair Studio of Groton. One son worked with Bradford for 36 years, and his daughter worked with him for a few weeks.
Bradford’s first salon opened in 1972 on Jefferson Avenue in New London. His passion for haircutting continued to grow, and he set the goal of entering the U.S. Hairstyling Competition, “the Olympics of hair cutting.”
Bradford turned his shop over to a partner and to his wife, and began teaching at the Roffler School of Hair Design in Hartford to improve on his technique. His team of four qualified for, and won, the United States Hair Styling competition four times, from 1975 to 1978, and toured the United States and Canada as champions. Bradford also created a new technique for cutting women’s hair in a wedge, and his technique continues to be used in the industry today.
In March 1983, to help a friend, Bradford agreed to open a second salon, Bradford’s Hair Studio of Groton, on Poquonnock Road in Groton. The studio moved across the street but continues to operate on Poquonnock Road, counting employees at Electric Boat and Pfizer Inc. among his clientele.
Bradford’s skill using a razor cut technique to cut men’s hair is legendary, and he draws customers both locally and outside of Connecticut. One of Bradford’s most famous customers was Peter Lawford, known for marrying a Kennedy and being a member of the Rat Pack.
Despite being stricken with esophageal cancer and undergoing surgery and chemo and radiation two years ago, Bradford did not stop working. When asked why he never considered taking a break from working during treatment or retiring, he responded, “I absolutely love what I do, and I have never considered it work.”
Bradford did, however, plan on take off Sept. 5th to celebrate his 80th birthday with his family.