My London: Sam McKnight talks roses, partying with legends and M&S

Party hair superhero Sam McKnight can’t live without M&S undies, is partial to a 6am bacon sarnie in New Covent Garden and partied in Seven Dials back in the day
Sam McKnight by Silvia Prada
Sam McKnight by Silvia Prada
Sam McKnight by Silvia Prada
Dipal Acharya4 December 2023

Home is… Kilburn. I bought this house because of the garden — the house itself was an absolute wreck but the garden was like a 120ft long football field. Maybe old age kicked in.

What was your first job? As a hairdresser in Miss Selfridge in 1975. There was a big Miss Selfridge shop in the middle of Regent Street — it was massive, and they had a hairdressing salon called Hair Works off the back. We had such fun.

What makes someone a Londoner? A sense of humour. I think if you look at what people perceive as a typical Londoner, it’s cockneys or comedians. People who don’t take themselves too seriously.

Favourite shops? M&S, without a doubt, for food and great men’s boxers. Uniqlo — I love the T-shirts, I love the colours, they’re easy and I know my size. Plus, they do great collaborations with designers like Comme des Garçons and Jil Sander. Queen’s Park Farmers’ Market for veg and New Covent Garden Flower Market — they have a great builders’ café where you can get an amazing bacon sandwich at 6am. The stallholders have been there for generations and it really is like dipping into the past.

What would you do if you were Mayor for the day? Sack the one we’ve already got? That’s for sure. Then I think I would make it a huge criminal offence to litter and not clear up after yourself. I think London has gotten so unbelievably dirty.

Most iconic Londoner? Dot Cotton from EastEnders. Some of the original cast were as quintessentially London as you could get. Back then, the show really distilled the character of the capital.

Ever had a run-in with a London police officer? I have. I got arrested. I bought a convertible Beetle in the 1980s and I loved it. It was amazing. I was stopped once and got put in I think it was Vine Street jail, because whoever I bought it from hadn’t done the paperwork properly. It took a while, but we sorted it out. I didn’t steal it, honest.

Where do you go to let your hair down? I never really go out like that. I told you I was boring. The thought of going to a nightclub or a bar fills me with horror. Because I spent the 1980s and 1990s in every nightclub and every bar. I was never home. I’ve got that well out of my system. So, I can probably stand being around people who are drinking for half an hour and then I’m out.

Favourite party spots back in the day? We used to go to a place called Chaguaramas on Neal Street. That was my first club experience, it was just incredible. A year later it turned into The Roxy which was like the first punk club. They were all little, dark (probably illegal) nightclubs playing the most fantastic music. Disco and dance music, that’s still my go-to. I remember being at Chaguaramas when they played Donna Summer’s first record and we were all just completely blown away. It’s how I met Fat Tony — we became sort of inseparable — and we used to hang out with the Frankie Goes to Hollywood guys and Bananarama.

Who is your professional hero? Nick Knight. I’ve worked with Nick on and off for 30 years and he’s so inspiring. He’s so far ahead of the game. I guess it’s his patience and perseverance — that you’re never completely satisfied with what you’ve done and [to keep] pushing through to the next thing.

What do you collect? Roses. I have over 100 varieties; climbing, shrub, rambling. They are just spectacular in June every year but I’ve had to stop. Perhaps I need a bigger garden?

Sam McKnight’s new Cool Girl Care Collection is available now from