The NK Maribor store, Vijol’čna Bajta, on the main street that leads to the stadium, is half club shop, half hairdresser. And the same goes for Maribor’s other outlet at the Mercator Center mall. What gives? Peterjon Cresswell visits Slovenia’s football heartland and speaks to NK spokesman Željko Latin.
Walk into main city-centre outlet for NK Maribor merchandise, and it’s pretty clear that this is Slovenia’s most successful club. Winners of the league seven times in the last nine seasons, the Vijolice produce all kinds of celebratory tops and T-shirts. Replica kits feature a gold star over the club badge, indicating the tenth overall title won in 2012. A wall of reworked designs from film posters depicts upcoming clashes with key European opponents.
But look a little closer and you realise you’re staring back at yourself. The entire back of the store is encased in glass, one huge mirror, in fact. But this isn’t in place so that you can see if the latest violet streetwear looks fetching. In front, snipping away, is a barber.
“The idea began when two local hairdressers, big NK Maribor fans, were talking about football and hair styling,” explains club spokesman Željko Latin. “They realised that football and hair-styling are two things that are go hand in hand, as players are among of the most influential trendsetters in street fashion. So, this is how football’s first official club barber’s began. Cool things are never easy and it was mainly a risk to undertake this kind of business in a town as small as Maribor.”
The club barber’s was introduced in December 2016. Latin admits that it took a while to take off. “For the first couple of months, we had problem with low footfall. Fans thought the hair salon was only for the players. When they realized our concept, the reaction was great. Our supporters know that NK Maribor are innovative many ways. The club is usually first for new ideas around Slovenia and the region.”
“Since then, we’ve had to hire a lot more hairdressers. We have eight now and each gets through a lot of work. Sometimes supporters come in the run-up to kick-off. Otherwise we operate as any other hair salon. We get a lot of children and also many foreigners who have never seen this kind of thing at a club shop before.”
Vijol’čna Bajta, Tyševa ulica 1/corner Slovenska, Maribor. Mon-Sat 8am-7pm.