Bringing the best traditions of British barbering into the modern age is no mean feat, but for Joth Davies it’s the foundation of a hugely successful brand. With his high-end barbershop Savills to look after, as well as his Copacetic product line, the Savills Academy and a Wahl ambassadorship, he’s a busy man – so I felt very lucky to grab 30 minutes with him at the 2017 Barber Connect. We start by talking about his beautiful shop:
“It’s always been my vision from very early on. I loved that 1920s era: the architecture, the clothing and especially the haircuts. I was always trying to turn the shops that I had into this vision. I say this a lot, but when I walk out of the shop of an evening and I turn to lock the door I look back and I think yeah, this is what I always wanted.”
It’s easy for barbershop owners to fall into the trap of constantly refitting their shop, eager to keep up with the latest trends. But while this might be a good way to stay contemporary, Joth has proven that it’s completely unnecessary if you decide to go for something classic and timeless.
“The shop we have now is never going to change. It’s just going to get better with age.”
One of the more recent additions to Joth’s roster of achievements is his work as a Wahl ambassador. I asked him to explain how this came about: “I did some work for Wahl a long time ago, and then I was out of hairdressing for a long time with a shoulder industry. Now with Savills, Simon (Shaw – Creative Director of Wahl) really liked what we were doing and invited me to do a few guest spots on their stage. I’ve got a massive admiration for Simon and how he operates. The people he picks aren’t always the obvious people, and we just really get on.
“Recently Simon approached me about a programme that they’re rolling out and asked me if I’d be interested in working on it with them. I jumped on it – partly because I love educating, but also because I jut love Wahl clippers. They were the first pair of clippers I ever owned”.
This led to Joth taking the prestigious title of Principle Educator for Men’s Method in the UK. This puts him at the front of an interesting educational process designed to ensure that barbers are ready to hit the barbershop floor running once they finish their training.
“Wahl have created a package that provides DVDs and books as well as clippers, gowns and posters to help create a barbering section within the college. It teaches nine different haircuts using step-by-step DVDs but also online materials. My job is to train the trainers. I go in and do two days training on the cuts, but also the ideology and the history of Wahl. We also assess the colleges to make sure they’re delivering it properly.”
If you love the work that Joth is doing at Savills, then you’re also sure to enjoy his range of hair products, Copacetic. “It just seemed like the next thing for us to do. I started creating things that I wanted as a barber, accoutrements that could help me in my job. Other barbers were saying that they would want them, so that popularity drove us to mass produce them. Hair products seemed like the natural next thing.
“I was really struggling with what to call them though. But once I worked out how I wanted to market it, and how I wanted them to look it all became really easy. I wanted it to look like something you’ve found at the back of your Grandad’s bathroom cabinet, with a little bit of dust on the top. Then I came across this website devoted to 1920s slang words. A lot of them we use now, like the bee’s knees – slang that was developed in the speakeasy back then. I needed something that hadn’t already been taken by other brands. I found this term, ‘Copacetic’. It means ‘everything’s okay.’”
So what products can you expect from the Copacetic range? They have a fantastic pomade, as well as cream, a matte clay and a paste to suit different client needs. These products help to support those classic hair cuts that Joth specialises in, as well as some of the more contemporary styles. On top of that there are accoutrements such as tool rolls and aprons to add to your barbering kit – all with the same precision to detail and excellent finish.
Before letting Joth slip away, I had to find out just a little bit about the Savills Academy. Joth ‘s very specific approach to barbering has meant that other professionals have been eager to get a piece of his knowledge: “People were asking me to put out a DVD, or a YouTube video, or some training in the shop. So I thought, why not just make an academy? I pinch myself now at how far people are travelling just to spend two or three days in the shop. We have people coming from Australia, New Zealand, all over Europe… it’s crazy.
“People love the fact that it’s done in the shop, alongside the working barbers. But what we teach is nothing ground-breaking! It’s nothing that hasn’t been done for hundreds of years, really. But it is a method that I’ve developed through working with lots of different people over the year. We also do everything on live models.”
It’s always a pleasure to speak to a barber as modest and insightful as Joth is. These core elements of his personality are summed up by the final answer he gives me, when I ask what advice he has for other aspiring master barbers:
“Run! There isn’t an answer for that from me, really, because I never intended any of this to happen. I started with a little three chair barbershop and I was happy with that. And if I was still cutting in their everyday, I’d still be happy. It’s all happened by accident. If I’d tried to do it I just don’t think it ever would have happened the way it did.
“It’s happened organically. Because we, as barbers and hairdressers, are very creative so I’m always taking on more projects. I’d just say you’ve got to love what you do. Because if you’re passionate about it, it will happen organically.”
Don’t forget to follow @LarrytheBarberMan on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook to meet more creative professional barbers just like Joth, and hear the stories that brought them to the top.
Not one but two fantastic barbering/hairdressing talents for you today: in this interview, the inimitable Kevin Luchmun stepped behind the camera to take on the role of interviewer. In the chair is Toni & Guy International Artistic Director Charlie Cullen, ready to give an insight into his career…
KL: How long have you been hairdressing for and where did the journey start?
CC: I’ve been a hairdresser for almost fifteen years, I started when I was 16. Initially you start your basic hairdressing career: learning women’s haircuts, blow-drying. For me though, it was when I started to learn men’s hairdressing that I realised this was the thing that I wanted to focus on.
KL: Where did the journey start with Toni & Guy and what is your role here?
CC: I started from the bottom like anyone, doing an apprenticeship in a small salon on the outskirts of London – it was a Toni & Guy. It was about a year into working there that I started to go to their academy one day a week to learn more skills. I started off as an assistant, then worked as a stylist in that salon gaining experience.
That was really until I felt that I wanted to work into London, somewhere that would test me and push my career to higher places. I started working in Toni & Guy in Sloane Square, and did some training to become an art director which takes a lot of time and a lot of evening work. Eventually, though, I became an educator: it had always been a dream of mine.
I really had a passion to specialise in men’s hairdressing, and to fly that flag – although I do now teach men’s and women’s hair.
KL: Now you head up the men’s course within the academy and globally, so can you tell us a little bit about these courses and what makes them different?
CC: I think it’s good for the industry that there are a lot of people out there who want to educate, but also that those same people are open to education themselves. It would be naïve to think that what we do is the only thing that’s out there.
I feel that what we do well is our three-day contemporary men’s cutting course – it’s not a barbering course, although we do deliver elements of barbering. It’s about bringing the student in with whatever level of experience and whatever they want to focus on. We’ll tailor the course to the individual and focus on all the principles of men’s hairdressing. When someone wants to learn something in particular, we try our best to deliver that for them.
KL: At the moment there is a fusion of barbering and men’s hairdressing happening. Could you tell us a little bit about the difference between the two, and where you’d say you specialise?
CC: I suppose it really comes down to where you start your career. My foundation is hairdressing: I think that gives me a good understanding of sectioning hair, the importance of it and the real technical aspect of hairdressing. I try to bring that into men’s hairdressing in a simple way: you don’t want to overcomplicate men’s hair.
What we see at the moment is a lot of barbers, especially from outside Europe, who are unbelievable at fading but want to learn classic graduation through fingers, scissor over comb, sectioning, hand position. They don’t necessarily have that in their initial training – not to say that this is the case for all barbers.
At the same time, a lot of British hairdressers want to learn how to skin fade or do tapering techniques. It works well for us to take the best elements from each one so that you deliver a haircut that has the feeling and technique of a barbering cut but also the hairdressing texture.
KL: Why do you enjoy educating? What is it about that side of things that makes you want to get up on stage?
CC: It’s not for everyone, and I don’t think that it’s a bad thing if you don’t decide to educate. Some people go into the management side of things or become a business owner. But I educate for the feeling of being able to take someone and show them a new skill. As hairdressers we work on appreciation, and when someone appreciates a wicked haircut that you’ve done, or you’ve taught a student and you can see their appreciation that’s great.
It’s also given me the chance to travel the world. British barbering is so big at the moment that it’s sort of dominating Europe and starting to travel the rest of the world. I never dreamt as a 16-year-old hairdresser in Uxbridge that I’d be going to do haircuts on stage in South Korea.
KL: Finally, while we’re here at Salon International and there’s a lot of inspiration happening across the show, do you have any top tips or advice to give to young people trying to move towards the stage?
CC: Take the opportunities. There are a lot of companies out there looking for educators, but you’ve also got to be true to yourself. Eventually, if you work hard, you’ll get noticed and you’ll get rewarded. So put that dedication in to be good at your job.
Salon International is a perfect place because you can see lots of platform artists and how they deliver things. That sets the bar. But you do you: I wouldn’t do something that wasn’t my taste or strength. As long as you’re true to yourself, you’re going to get noticed eventually.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to both Kevin Luchmun and Charlie Cullen for sitting down and recording this excellent interview – I’m sure that Charlie’s words will help to inspire many barbers reading this or watching the clip. Don’t forget to follow Larry the Barber Man on all of your favourite social media channels: regular interviews shared to Instagram, YouTube and Facebook to help you perfect your craft.
Educator, product founder, youtuber and motivational speaker – all of this, on top of being a barber, means that Attila is a busy man indeed. But that’s the way he likes it, as I found out when I visited him at his barbershop in North London.
“When I was young, I hung around with the wrong people. I grew up in Tottenham and I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. I got arrested numerous times and was in and out of prison at one point.” Atila talks about feeling like a ‘yo-yo’, dropping in and out of employment, but also turning to law-breaking activities. It wasn’t until he discovered barbering that things started to change.
“I tried it, but I didn’t have belief in myself and I started doing the wrong stuff again. I was going up and down, up and down. I thought I have to pick up my clippers again. I picked up my clippers and started my own mobile business: Atila’s Mobile Barbering.
“Eventually I found a shop to work in, but I wasn’t good enough. All I could do was fades. I wanted to learn more about scissors and hairdressing. So, I decided to work and settled for £40 per week. After 3-4 months I got the opportunity to take 50% of each haircut. My passion for barbering started growing.”
Not the smoothest transition into barbering – but it’s this fragile start that makes Atila’s barbering journey all the more compelling. After getting the taste for barbering, he decided to start looking for other opportunities that would help him spread his wings:
“I saw a shop called Smith’s Hair Studio, full of guys like me. I thought I can be myself, not have to hide my identity. I was a free man. I met a great team and we’ve grown as a family. It gave me a chance to get better at my craft while my passion for barbering grew.”
Amongst his peers, Atila is known as an advocate for positive thinking and the laws of attraction. He explains how this came to be such an important part of his life:
“I’ll tell you the truth: I had a nervous breakdown at the age of 23. I got into a lot of debt and I was under a lot of stress. So I started developing and educating myself. I listened to motivational speakers, like Eckhart Tolle and Rhonda Byrne, who I still look up to now. Recently I’ve read The Power of Now, The Secret. I just wanted to feed myself with positivity.
“Every morning I would listen to a motivation speaker, and every evening before I went to bed. This would get me through the day. If I had more negative thoughts throughout the day, then I would listen to more.”
Atila decided that other barbers could benefit from this motivation, especially in the UK where the typical educational talk is more focussed on cutting than on philosophy. He decided to conquer his nerves and become an educator himself.
“The first show I ever went to was Barber Connect. I made a few connections there and then went to a few more shows. I met up with Adam Sloan and MHFed – they liked my positivity and offered me a showcase. I was getting my work out there and I wanted to do it more. I got the opportunity to cut on stage, and then more work started coming my way. In 2017, there wasn’t a single show I missed out on.”
Networking and building strong relationships in this way is a really good option for barbers who simply want to get there name out there. By being authentic and positive when around other barbers, you can quickly become known as a bright voice within the community.
In Atila’s own educational programme, he’ll be showing barbers how to make more money behind the chair: offering services and connecting with clients can help you earn more and bring even more clients into the shop. Barbers can also go to Atila to find out more about creating the sharpest cuts.
“I specialise in creating really sharp, clean haircuts. I’m obsessed with it. If I take a picture of a haircut and it’s not quite right then I’ll delete it, go back to the cut and do it again. I’m also able to do a really fast, clean fade. I can fade in 8-10 minutes and then tidy it up afterwards.” By turning to a barber with great skills as well as an understanding of the service side of the industry, you can really start to develop a professional barbering career.
Aside from education, Atila has been busy creating his own product line. “I started by creating a logo, and then wanted to do something with it. I made a few t shirts and hats that I could wear to shows to get my name out there. Then very recently I began to create a whole product line: beard oil, matte clays, pomades, sea salt sprays and cologne. I start with a sample, and if my clients like it then I continue to produce it.”
At the moment, these are only available to barbers in Atila’s own shop. However, there are plans to open up a new website and take products to shows so that other barbers can resell in their own shop: watch this space. He also has an upcoming YouTube series, with plans to release a video every two weeks covering different haircuts and cutting techniques.
As somebody known for their positive energy, I’m interested to know what positive change Atilla would like to see come to the barbering industry. “I see a lot of observers: people just watching and not speaking. I think we should all get together and that way we can make this happen. It’s a competition out here now – we need to start working together instead.”
Atila also champions a fierce work ethic: sleeping just five hours a day, he uses the rest of his time to develop both is technical skills and his mental strength. “The more you develop yourself, the more you’re going to want. Watch motivational speakers and develop yourselves: these are the things that got me to where I am today. I believe the secret to success is getting up early and going to bed late.”
This attitude has certainly brought Attila a long way over the past few years, and I ask him to let us know where it’s going to take him next: “I’ve got a plan to have shops abroad. I want to take my craft to other places and motivate them as well. I might even move away from cutting hair and just become a speaker. My main goal is to speak internationally and inspire barbers all over the world”.
Keep up to speed with the latest developments on Atila’s Instagram account @atilathebarber, and follow @larrythebarberman to make sure you never miss an interview! You can also subscribe to my channel on YouTube or follow me on Facebook for more updates.
Patty Cuts is easily recognisable as one of Florida’s most talented rising stars – he boasts over 118k followers on Instagram, a sponsorship deal with BaByliss and several prestigious barbering awards. All of which puts him in a great position to help out other barbers who may be wondering how to start or where to go next.
Turn the clock back just a few years, though, and you’ll find a very different story. “At twelve years old, where I’m from in Philadelphia, everybody likes to look sharp. I didn’t have money to get cut all the time, so I started on my own hair. By the age of 16, 17 I was cutting up the whole neighbourhood.
“The only thing was, I never thought it could be a lifelong career. I thought I had to go to college, but I was not a good student. I had no passion for it, but I got through four years. Then in my fourth year, my Dad died – he committed suicide. My life got completely shaken up, and I went down the road of drugs and alcohol for pretty much the next year. I was miserable. So, I packed up all my stuff and moved to Florida, with a plan to become a lifeguard on the beach. This is about four and a half years ago: I was completely miserable.”
Delivering pizzas and feeling like he’d hit a dead end, it’s easy to see why Patty was starting to lose hope. “I like to tell this story where I made a sharp turn delivering one day and buffalo sauce spilled all over my back seat and that was it. I pulled over to the side of the road and made a decision that the next day I would go and enrol in barber school.”
It’s important to remember that unlike many UK barbers who are able to learn on the job, barbers in America need to be licensed: in Florida, that meant 1200 hours of barber school. “They do a lot of different stuff in barber school – but in the second half you get to cut people’s hair. So, I toughed out the first 600 hours and then got to cut hair on the floor.”
For a full-time learner, this takes around a year to complete, with a written exam at the end. The time commitment is worth it though, because it lets barbers get set up in a proper barbershop: for Patty, the next stop was a shop “right in the middle of the hood”, where he had to very quickly pick up new skills cutting textured hair – undoubtedly something which will have played into his more recent success winning Barbercon 2017’s Best Fades of the Year award!
Aside from cutting phenomenal haircuts, Patty Cuts has built up his brand by growing his social media following at an extraordinarily fast rate. This is an important skill for any hair professional who wants to become respected beyond their local community. “I like to talk about what I did wrong first. On Instagram I expected nice cuts to be enough – I was getting frustrated. That’s because I was doing it wrong. I was taking pictures with my old cell phone, I wanted results without putting in the work.
“Eventually I bought myself a camera. That’s when it all changed. I got a nice portrait lens – it all changed for me. My cuts were the same, but presentation was completely different. As I keep going up, I get better with photography because I study that as well. Kevin Luchmun is one of my inspirations, I’ll ask him questions.
“There’s also a time strategy, and a thought process about what I write in my captions, what hashtags people are searching. So, there’s a lot of strategy and kind of a marketing mind behind posting these pictures.”
Getting to grips with posting professionally allowed Patty to promote a unique style, the X-ray part. He originally shared as part of a competition started by Lee from Barbershop Connect, who asked barbers to have a go at crafting a great new look. “It’s two little slashes, but instead of carving them out, you leave it dark and cut around it. I call it the X-ray Part, because it’s kind of the negative of a picture. It just caught on – people started doing it and tagging me in it. I won Lee’s competition, and that was a good break for my social media.”
Patty also has some exciting educational projects in the works, and plans to work with fellow educator and BaByliss ambassador Sofie to produce a course that’s a little bit different. “We’ve discussed doing a three-part class. The first part would be cutting, and we would go about doing our different cuts – she is phenomenal at fading. The second part would be photography, and how to portray images of your cut in a cool, artistic way. Then the third thing would be videography.”
Being able to learn this trio of skills from such a talented barbering duo would certainly be a great opportunity for any barber who wants to show-off their work more effectively. You’ll also get the opportunity to pick up some of Patty and Sofie’s advice – and in closing, I ask Patty to share his most essential tips:
“Never stop learning. I will still take classes, I’ll still learn how to do something better. Right now I’m working on shear work. So, whether you’re accomplished or up and coming, take a class that comes up. And then secondly, if you’re not getting recognised then you probably need to do something different. Get out and meet people. Build relationships with awesome people!”
Celebrity barber Curtis Smith joined me at the CT Barber Expo 2018 to share the story of his barbering career. There’s a lot to talk about – aside from Curtis’ work with celebrities like P Diddy and Usher, he also has the Xotics brand to his name – so I decided to dive straight in with some background on how he got into barbering:
“My entry into barbering started when I was 13 years old. I picked up a pair of clippers because I saw a friend of mine do a haircut and thought it was something I wanted to try. I did a haircut on a friend and he actually liked it. Looking back on that hair cut now it’s hilarious, but we were kids. For him it was a haircut, it looked better than when he sat in the chair. For me it was an accomplishment.”
Curtis describes a ‘wow’ moment which many barbers are probably familiar with: realising that you can give something of real value using just your hands and a pair of clippers.
“It gave me the energy to want to become a professional barber. I started experimenting on my friends for a dollar, then I went and got my licence. I realised that I started to like cutting hair more than what I was going to school for. So, I started cutting hair professionally, got my licence and opened my own salon. Once I opened my salon there was no looking back.”
Opening up his unisex salon Ebonese in the Bronx gave Curtis a chance to start putting his work out there – and as his reputation built, he started attracting in minor celebrities who would eventually connect him with their top-tier contacts. The real breakthrough came when P Diddy saw his work on an associate and decided he wanted a piece of it.
“He sent his people to find me – they had me experiment on one of his artists first to make sure. I did this guy’s hair and he did a double take! That was my emergence into the celebrity world. After he saw my portfolio he said okay, you’re my barber for the rest of my life. That was 20 years ago. I just stopped working with him because he moved full time to LA, but I still work with Usher, Ludacris, different people like that.
“I am looking at tapering down that side of my career. It’s a very demanding lifestyle. I’ve just overcome cancer for the second time, I finished chemo three weeks ago – so I have to change some of the things I do and move a little differently.”
While he was still a part of the celebrity scene, though, Curtis made a real impact with cuts that became influential around the world. This included P Diddy’s famous mohawk – a cut which, if Curtis had his way, might never have happened:
“He wanted to do something different for the New York Marathon. He said I want people to take me seriously, because nobody knows me as an athlete. Normally people take six months to train for a marathon, he did it in six weeks. He said everyone says I’m crazy, I want a look that shows them I’m dead serious.
“I took a survey of all the people that worked for him: should he get a mohawk. Overwhelmingly the women said yes, and the guys said no. He said ‘what do you think we’re doing this for? We do this for the women!’ So, we went with the mohawk. I decided to put a fade in there and put a hairline on it because I’d never seen that done. He loved it and we created a new wave which was something people were doing all over the world.”
Aside from celebrity cuts, Curtis is also known as the godfather of the barber battle. It’s almost difficult to measure just how big an impact this man has had on the industry as a whole, given that much of his work has helped barbers to transform the way in which they see their craft. Now, it’s not uncommon to hear big-name barbers such as Pacinos cite Curtis as one of their influencers.
“You would be hard-pressed to find a barber that doesn’t like what I represent. Because all we do is help the community of barbers to grow. We’ve energised a community of barbers to become bigger than they knew they could be: they didn’t think they could own their own products or do their own shows. Guys are doing amazing things these days and it’s really because of the energy that we started. For me it’s hard enough just to stay involved now.
“Right now, the barbering industry is in a really good place. There are a lot of barbers driving themselves crazy trying to figure out how to become something bigger than what they are. But it’s good to see people trying, they’re thinking what else can we do.”
One of these innovations is the Hair Battle Tour, Xotics’ barber battling tour which has been taking American barbers by storm. I ask Curtis to explain what sets it apart from other barber battles: “People have a good time. You can stand in the barbershop and do serious haircuts all day. When I put a show on, I want people to leave with a smile on their face. We try not to be so serious, we have a DJ playing music and I’m very particular about what my DJ plays.
“We come with a certain energy and everyone who works for us carries that energy. We’re very accommodating, but very stern at the same time. It’s really just about having fun: we push that. We bring people up on stage, have sneaker battles. Sometimes we have kids come up and compete. One time we had kids come up and dance and collected prize money for the kids to win. Suddenly everyone’s involved.”
It’s not hard to see why so many barbers are inspired to take part in these battles, and it’s great to see new talent emerge at the different events. We have been lucky enough to have Xotics bring their tour to the UK earlier this year, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for their global brand. If you missed the show, you can still benefit from Curtis’ unique style by listening to his parting words of advice:
“Remember that everything that leads up to being successful happens one step at a time. You can’t overstep yourself. The most important thing you have in your career is the barber chair and the business that you represent. You represent that business first, your clients second and yourself third.
“If you keep that format in place then you’ll always be straight: you’ll always have a great place to work. If you decide to go and open your own shop, don’t take barbers from your current shop. Every barber tries it but bad karma will follow you. Find your own staff from scratch, train them to where you want them to be.
“Always be on time. Always treat your customers with the upmost respect. Once you start to make them happy, you can raise your prices: go from the guy who charges 20 to the guy who charges 40. When your income changes your options change; your opportunity changes. So always focus on making sure that whatever you’re doing right now is what you’re focused on the most. Your clients will stay with you until you die, if you treat them right.”
Get more inspiration by following Curtis on Instagram @xotics to see some of his dazzling work; you can also follow this page @LarrytheBarberMan to make sure you’re keeping up with the latest interviews from barbering greats.
Zach Ramsay – known as ‘Ramsay’, from The Outpost Barber Company – is known throughout the industry as one of the best up-and-coming barbers on the scene. His unique approach both to cutting hair and to photographing cuts has meant that after just a few years of practice, he’s already making waves. His entry to barbering came not in the form of classes or even a barbershop, but sat in his Mum’s basement some six years ago:
‘College wasn’t the route that I was going to go. I can’t sit there and be lectured, my attention span is just not there! That being said, I was always into getting myself a good haircut. I knew what it took to have a nice fade, a nice overall image. I wanted to further that.’
Zach drew on his artistic skills – he is also talented at drawing and able to understand artistic techniques – to give him a solid base of knowledge: ‘I think that directly correlates with a good skin fade. It’s understanding the shades and proportions of everything.’
Of course, barbering comes from practical knowledge too, and Zach was luck to have a barbering buddy who let him come into the shop and start learning. ‘One day I just said, “I want to get serious with this.” So he gave me my first barber chair, my first mirror and as soon as I got home I ran down into the basement and set everything up. I started doing my first haircuts for free. Then you charge $5, $10… I ended up doing $15, $20 haircuts and onwards from there.’
Once he knew he had the skills in place, Zach decided it was time to get serious: after all, there are a lot of clients who just won’t take a barber seriously if he’s set up in his Mum’s home! ‘I just didn’t feel comfortable bringing professionals into my home. It was kind of just a thing with my friends. I wanted to get into a professional environment and offer real structured services.’
Setting up his Outpost
A lot of barbers will get licensed and then spend years working for other established barbershops before even considering going it alone. Not so for Zach, who chose to dive straight into setting up his very own shop.
‘I opened up the shop with my buddy Shaun: he stopped working at the barbershop he was at and we got together. We thought it was a good idea to control your own career. We opened up the store with two large storefront windows, a classic tin ceiling, hardwood floors, a warmer light. It almost feels as though you’re walking into your own house, very inviting.
‘We just wanted to go with a modern style, but the detail and character of vintage items. That correlates with haircutting as well. Everything is always recycled, but with a bit of tinkering.’
As if that wasn’t enough on his plate, Zach has also been doing some impressive things with photography. After seeing barbers like Patty Cuts emphasize their work with phenomenal photographs, he wanted to find out how to take those professional shots himself. Next thing, he was picking up a pro camera and starting to capture unique images with a hybrid of fashion and lifestyle.
Defining the approach
Getting to understand Zach’s work better means finding out about his personal approach. I asked him to break it down for me, starting with his approach to cutting hair:
‘With my haircuts, I like to start with a solid foundation. I section off the hair and comb it in the exact direction that it wants to fall naturally. So if the client goes home and doesn’t blow-dry or apply a lot of product, it will still fall naturally and be an aesthetically pleasing haircut.
‘That structure is going to be my blueprint for the rest of the profile. I try to read the person’s vibe, look at their clothes, ask them questions: I want each haircut to be tailored to that person’s lifestyle. Then I bring the person outside and I’ll try and find colours that complement what they’re wearing, as well as the best lighting. If it’s an edgy photo, a lot of shadow and more dark emotions – if it’s more business professional, then it’s perky and upright.’
Finding that aesthetically pleasing image is easier said than done, though, and for Zach it’s a skill that he has acquired naturally – through trial and error – rather than with any formal training. ‘I always get eye level with the subject. This gives the viewer focus, it draws them directly to whatever you want them to see. I’ll walk up and down the street and find good light: I want depth, and a decent dynamic range on my photos.’
Creating a haircut that will look great on camera is also part of the challenge, and apparently it’s all down to precision. ‘I wouldn’t say that there’s too many tricks. It’s just being very precise with your work. Make sure your sections are clean, your cutting line is clean, your fade is clean. I would recommend taking out your phone after the fade and look at it through the camera. It tells no lies. If it looks good on the phone then the camera itself is going to look beautiful.’
Taking to the stage
Another string to the well-rounded barber’s bow is platform work, and Zach has also been doing the rounds as a talented stage educator: ‘I like to explain pretty much what we’ve talked about in this interview. How a haircut is not just a haircut. You almost change a person’s facial features by how you cut their hair. You can change someone’s life with a taper around the ear: they go into a job interview and that confidence boost gets them the job. I’ll tell them to wear their suit to the shop and take professional headshots for their LinkedIn or Resumé.’
Find examples of Zach’s work on Instagram by following @Z_Ramsay; this is the main platform that he uses to share the photos of his cuts. I recommend it to anyone who wants a solid source of inspiration; junior barbers in particular can use Zach’s shots to start understanding how to structure a better cut. Here are his parting words of advice for those up and coming barbers out there:
‘I would say it starts from the heart. You have to be passionate about it. Be observant and make sure that you break down every haircut into cause and effect. Each stroke of the clipper, the angle of the blade, the different textures, cutting styles, techniques: taking note of all of this will make you a better barber.
‘And with the photography, get out and shoot just like everybody says. You have to see pictures that you don’t like to understand what you do like. Get down and dirty – there are times I’m laying on my belly in the middle of the street looking weird. I don’t care! I just want the picture. And assess your work. Don’t be hard on other people’s work, compete with yourself. Keep working on yourself and you will get there.’
Whilst at the Irish Barber Expo 2018, I couldn’t pass on the chance to meet one of the North East’s shining stars of barbering – Vikki Harrison-Smith – and learn more about two of her exciting projects: SB Barbering Academy, and the British Female Barber Association (BFBA).
It seems like barbering was always on the cards for Vikki, who was surrounded by barbers – including her grandfather and her friend’s dad – at a young age. She tells me that there was something about short hair that caught her eye and made her want to experiment further: “I even had a ‘Girl’s World’ – which was a toy from the 80s – with long hair and I cut that short. You weren’t supposed to! But I think it’s always been in my blood.
“So I started an apprenticeship at Malcolm H, a really good barbershop in Sunderland. I also did a foundation course in ladies’ hairdressing and then I went straight into the barbershop and never looked back. I’ve worked in a lot of shops, worked in Scotland and moved across the North East.”
It’s certainly common for barbering to pass from father (or grandfather) to son, and it’s great to hear a similar story from the female point of view. I asked Vikki to tell me a little more about her grandfather:
“I have a picture of Pops – my Grandfather – in the academy, and he looks like Buddy Holly, really! He was great. He had five shops: a ladies’ shop, a gents’ hairdresser and some more traditional shops. He did that for many years until he retired. He was very inspiring.”
After over two decades in barbering, Vikki has become renowned for the SB Barbering Academy, a brand that set up in conjunction with her husband and fellow barber, Ryan Smith. “We got together and inspired each other. I worked at a local college and wasn’t really happy there – I wanted to set something up that mirrored the training I’d had as an apprentice. SB would be cutting every day, cutting under mentors, learning the trade in a working barbershop. That’s how the academy was born.”
It would be fair to say that SB academy has something of a speciality focus, with courses such as ‘Zero to Hero’ designed to give people the skills needed to pick up their clippers for the very first time. “It’s designed for people with no prior knowledge of hair or barbering. Just blank. We have to build them up to be able to go into a barbershop. Under a mentor, of course – we never tell people you’re going to open a shop. We tell people you have to work through the system, like we did years ago. You get a foundation from us and build on that. That’s how it is in barbering.”
The Level 2 qualification takes 2 weeks to complete and will involve cutting up to 6 or 7 models a day. After that, there are additional courses available for people to hone in on particular skills and advance their techniques. Vikki also reinforces the fact that it’s all about learning the basics first: “You learn step by step, and then you piece it all together. After that, you go out into the big barbering world and you build on that.”
Vikki’s other big project recently has been setting up the British Female Barber Association (BFBA), and I wonder whether she feels that being a female barber has presented extra challenges for her: “It’s a funny thing. Where I worked, there were only two men and the rest were women. It wasn’t really an issue. In the 90s it was actually quite fashionable to have women in barbershops.
“It became an issue once I went into training. I was overlooked quite a bit for jobs, I think, because that being the lead trainer or head of department was more male dominated. It was a hierarchy really.”
It’s great to see how things are changing in the industry, not just for Vikki – who has now gained the respect of her peers – but also for other up and coming female barbers who can hopefully get the opportunities they deserve. The BFBA should be another big step forward, and Vikki explains the motivation behind setting it up:
“This wasn’t created as a male-hating group. It’s nothing like that. I just wanted to create a network for women barbers in a male-dominated industry. Female barbers don’t necessarily come to shows, or they aren’t on the stage.
“I want to create a support group for women. For example, if you go off to have a baby it becomes very difficult to have that time off and come back into a barbershop. Because you haven’t been doing the skills, you’re lacking confidence. We want to give advice on maternity leave, teach women that it’s good to keep that relationship with your boss going. We’ve got the legal side to help with. As an experienced barber that has been through a lot, I feel like I can give women a lot of support.”
Hopefully this will be great not only for encouraging more women into the industry, but also for ensuring that they then have the required skills once they get there!
Watch the full interview for even more great information, including Vikki’s tips for using a routine to make your cutting process more effective. From hair control to scissor techniques, there really is a great deal to master if you want to be a successful barber – but working with educators like Vikki can give you the confidence and knowledge you need to make a very good start. Go to the SB Academy website for more information. If you’re interested in joining the BFBA, they are planning on setting up as registered charity: follow @BFBA_official on Instagram to stay up to date on the details.
It’s always exciting to get a top barber in the interview chair, but never more so than with somebody who has reached the heights of Arod, Elite Studio’s million-dollar barber. From reaching a million followers on Instagram – that’s a record among the barbering community – to charging $100-$300 for a cut, this is a barber who’s made some serious waves. Don’t forget to follow him yourself, and then sit back to read his incredible story.
Barbering with military precision
The scene is set 14 years ago in Puerto Rico, where Arod found himself fascinated by the rhythm and style of the barbershops that he visited.
“There’s something about it that just grabs my attention for a very long period of time. If you don’t grab my attention in the first three seconds, you’re going to lose it. This was one thing where always my attention was fully into it.”
It also played into the desire to look good and feel fresh, a big part of Puerto Rican culture. But although Arod had already started to show an interest in barbering, he didn’t immediately turn to it as a career. Instead, he began feeling the pull of the military: “My friend said it’s an option, a steady paycheque, a stable career. So, I said you know what I’ll go with you, and I took the test with him. He didn’t pass and I did – I felt bad!”
As money became tight, the idea of a military career began to look more and more appealing…
“Then in 2010 I joined. That first day you just walk in to a completely different environment. Whoever you are right now is going to be torn to pieces and rebuilt from scratch, the way they want you to be moulded. You enter a different life: it marks you forever.
“But in life you’ve just got to learn from the things that you go through. Your life depends on it, and the whole nation’s too. So it’s very important. When it comes down to that one moment, you can’t make a mistake.”
This background means that Arod is now able to operate with military precision and discipline. I ask him to share a little about how the army set him up for his barbering career.
“Well, discipline is one of the main things that they focus on as soon as you get there. They teach you how to walk; they teach you how to look; they teach you how to communicate. The job is just non-stop, you know?
“Normally right now I go to work, I come home, I sleep for four hours. I don’t wake up the next day fully charged, but I know that I’ve got to get stuff done. And my body knows, it wakes up and I can’t get back to sleep.”
Getting back to basics
After leaving the military, Arod had to start building a new life for himself – and that meant a return to barbering.
“I already had clients from the military, so I had a steady beginning. I took everything slowly – you’ve got to pace yourself. I’ve learned that it’s something you get addicted to, you can’t stop.
“I was in Texas at this point. I went to this barber contest, everybody’s hyped up, I’d never done anything like it. Everybody was waiting on this person that was competing: the battle didn’t start if he wasn’t there. His name is Marcus, my partner. Everything started there. We hooked up and started going to events together”
Arod and Marcus began travelling to hair shows across America, and met up with another champion barber: Jay. It was a fortuitous meeting, as Jay already had the Elegance brand up and running and he was keen to get Arod and Marcus involved. Originally, this meant a sponsorship deal – but as it was clear the men’s dreams aligned, they decided to come together to create the Elegance Studio:
“When you start it, it’s just an idea. It comes from sharing those thoughts that one night. And our visions linked together, our souls became one, and we saw that we were going after something bigger than us. Three months later we’re in LA. Elegant Studio opens its doors, and the rest is history.”
Style, decorum and class: The Elegance Studio
In a word, Elegance studio is stunning. With gorgeous interiors and a VIP space dedicated to luxury experience, it’s the barbershop that every other barber dreams of running. So how did it come to be this way?
“It evolved. It was all part of the process, you know? I’m a firm believer in the journey and the process. You just have to keep things moving: We started in a downtown loft and built from there.
“We started trying to get clients from different states. It was hard, I’m not going to lie to you. You had to go out there, you had to go get clients, you had to prove that your service was worth the amount of money you’re asking for it. Then one day I was locking up the shop and going home and saw this space that I fell in love with.”
After managing to secure the space that they wanted, Elegance Studio went from strength to strength. There are stunning mirrors and chairs, as well as a wall decorated with a full street art mural – enough to satisfy customers who are paying $80 minimum for a haircut, often $100. For all the barbers out there wondering how these rates could be possible, I had to try and get Arod to spill his secrets.
“I started at $3. As you get experience and get better at what you do, you charger higher amounts. You get to know your value. You want to get paid and work normal hours. Us barbers, we don’t have someone who can give us a raise. We are our own bosses:you have to increase the price. You can also add things that increase your value as a whole. Services, learning, education, product lines… You’ve got to pay attention to those things. Because if you want to charge 100 dollars, that client is going to come and check you out and if he doesn’t like you or feel your work is worth the value then he might want his money back. Or he might just never come back.”
Of course, there’s also the Elegance Studio VIP experience. At a cost of $300, this is easily one of the most luxurious cuts I’ve ever heard of. So how can an ordinary barber who’s watching this today raise his standards to that sort of level?
“Make a note of this! When you open the door, the first thing you need is communication with your clients. ‘Welcome to Elegance Studio’ should be the first thing the client hears when they come in the door, so they can get comfortable with their environment. You tell them: ‘we offer drinks here. We offer water, tea, coffee, lemonade, all kinds of drink – it’s included in the service’. As soon as they walk in, I make sure they feel comfortable.
“We also have a long line of products that make my job easier and upscale my service. I put the cape on, start talking to the client trying to find a conversation… ‘where are you from, what do you do?’ Find a way to relate to them. Then I start with the services: I try to be smooth with the clippers, be smooth with my hands. Give the client that smoothness. We have gels, pomades, hair serums, razor blades, aftershave lotions. We have a lot of things that can upscale your service – and they do.
“After the haircut is complete, we have a steamer, a facial scrub and a shampoo that we can use as part of the service. We style. Wemake sure you can leave the chair and you are ready to meet the love of your life, to walk onto a TV set, to land a job. They’re the things that you came here to get service for. So I charge $300 but it includes drinks, a shampoo, a haircut, facial hair, it includes a steam, a black mask, facial scrub, deep cleansing, hair styling with whatever product you like… gel, pomade, wax, serum. We do treatments that can justify the price of the service.”
An Insta-star is born
Another side to Arod’s success has been reaching 1 million followers on Instagram: I don’t believe that this has been matched by other barbers. From everything Arod has told me so far, though, it doesn’t seem surprising that he would reach this goal.
The big key to Arod’s success has been appealing to people outside of the barbering industry, as well as barbers themselves. He has also chosen to work with influencers, people who share his energy and can help to spread his name.
Arod has achieved all this by making videos that combine barbering and comedy. These videos are appealing to everyone from kids to older people. By studying the analytics of his videos, he can also work to replicate that success, and review what could be improved upon. As he tells me, “The world is changing. We have to adapt to it.”
Since hitting the million mark, he’s had plenty of people in touch to try and do business with him, seeing him as an influencer in his own right. Now people want to come to his barbershop just to associate with him: “I have a lot of celebrities that have found me on Instagram. It’s something that other people use it and they don’t understand what they are doing. They are not assimilating. It’s not there for people to talk negatively about others, it’s there for you to promote your own work.”
Of course, as with any success, people have inevitably been accusing him of not getting there legitimately. But Arod has little time for the doubters who claim he bought his followers: “They’ve always been saying it since the beginning, it’s nothing new. If you see something that is not normalthen you are going to think that it’s not real.”
Upscale your service with the elegance range
One of the big things that I’ve hinted at throughout this post is the great Elegance product range, so now it’s time to find out more about these products. I wanted to know which products Arod finds particularly exciting…
“The hair gel. I’ve seen the extra strong and the triple action gel actually change someone’s life. Thatproduct right there is exciting. We have the pomade, that’s exciting. We have the gel with colour, that’s exciting. Someone with greys can use that and immediately get rid of the greys. That’s called Elegance Hair Gel with Colour.”
And what about the game changing products? “The shaving gel. This is a product that landed in the market, I’ve never seen it before. Ad the facility that it gives is just a game changer. It’s better than anything. There’s videos where you see them just slice a grown man’s beard and he feels like he’s 9 years old.”
One of my favourite products is the Elegance black mask, a face mask that could be a real game changer for a lot of barbers. Arod suggests a couple of reasons to have one in your barbershop: “One reason is that it’s something else that you can offer, and you can profit out of it. So there’s no reason that you should be sitting between a haircut doing nothing when you can apply the black mask and charge $30 more.
“Second of all, it just gives you a whole new glow. It just cleans all your pores and takes all the impurities out. It makes you feel fresh: after a haircut you already feel fresh, but when you take that mask off it’s different. It’s like the cherry on top.”
These products can also give a barber a huge return on investment. Taking the black mask as an example, one big bottle can do around 50 applications. But if you buy a bottle for $20 and charge $30 per treatment, you’ve made your money back after the first application. The rest is pure profit!
Paying it forward
We’ve talked a lot about Arod’s personal success, but I also love his commitment to helping others and supporting his own team:
“Well, they play a big part in my success. I couldn’t be here doing this interview if I didn’t look right, with someone from the shop to give me the freshest beard that is out there right now – that’s Taylor Cutz, make sure you follow him!”
Arod is going to be hitting YouTube hard this year in an effort to bring in his next million 1 million YouTube subscribes. Make sure you’re there to enjoy the content he’s putting out and help him reach another milestone!
While you’re at it, take a moment to follow @LarrytheBarberMan on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook – you’ll be the first to see interviews with huge barbering stars like Arod! Now let’s hear some closing words of wisdom from the man himself:
“My advice to all the young people out there is to believe in yourself, believe in your service, and make sure you evolve as the whole industry evolves. Because we’re moving as a group. Just because I’ve got a million followers and I’m a little bit ahead because of the way I work – that doesn’t man that there’s no room for anybody else.
“No, I’m just paving a way for other people. Because there are thousands of lanes in the barbering industry. So upscale your services, educate yourself, share with the barbers around you, don’t let nobody put you down – and the only person who can actually stop you is yourself.”
Tyrik Jackson bills himself as a coach, mentor & educator as well as a barber, showing that he understands what’s needed to keep the industry going as well as to satisfy customers right now. His Instagram page is full of sharp lines and clean fades – the kind of stuff that makes any barber jealous – and he also has built a reputation as the owner of two Sharper Image barber shops in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. More than enough to catch up on when I met with him at the CT Barber Expo earlier this year…
What was your entry into barbering?
“I got into trouble for singing in high school. Part of my punishment was that the principal wanted me to sing in the talent show. He said if I didn’t sing in the talent show, I would be suspended. When I sang that night, there was a gentleman in the audience who stopped me and said you did a dynamic job, can I give you a ride home?
“He gave me a ride and we stopped by his barbershop. I was impressed, I didn’t know any African American males with a successful business. My way of showing gratitude was to go back to the shop and sweep. So I started as a clean-up kid at the shop. Then I ended up going to cosmetology school with my Mum – we went together.”
Wow – that’s a new one on me! How did you end up studying with your Mum?
“It’s an interesting story. I was already cutting in the barbershop as an apprentice, but I knew that I could only get so far so I wanted to enhance my skills. I decided to sign up for cosmetology school – my Mum signed me up and said oh, by the way, I’m starting with you. It actually made our relationship stronger.”
How long were you working for others before you started your own brand?
“I worked at Champs for about eight years. I got my barber licence and then my manager’s licence a year later, and then in about eight years I was running the shops before I branched off to open my own.”
Now you’ve built on that brand enough to have two barbershops up and running: Sharper Image I and Sharper Image II. What experience can customers expect from your shop?
“We utilise technology. People live in their phone, so we decided to put our shop in their phone: we developed an app. So, what you experience when someone first walks in is a technological experience. People are either scheduling from their phone or their signing up to a walk-in list on their phone. This is cool because we can acknowledge them by name. It’s more personal.”
We’re going to get onto your academy in a minute – but first, could you tell us about the podcast you’ve been running?
“It’s more like a videocast – I have a lot of people who listen to it on the way to work. I have a personal app, with close to 60 hours of video content designed to help the business mind of the barber and the apprentice. We’re evolving as an industry, but the mindset for a lot of the barbers is still the same. I’m trying to change that.
“I go live every Tuesday morning at 9.30AM Easter Time, doing a live broadcast from my Instagram page. It’s almost like a Sunday Service, but with live feedback. The app is free, and a lot of tools in there are free, but for the live videos you would subscribe.”
These videos have covered everything from how to take better images when promoting your work, to financial tips, to personal stories of Tyrik’s life – including overcoming a battle with depression. Sometimes the more personal content can really hit home and provide listeners with a much-needed new perspective. Download the Tyrik Jackson app to see it for yourself.
Now, let’s talk about the academy: what’s it called and what makes it different from all the other academies in the area?
“Premier Barber Institute. We’re the only academy that offers financial aid, so the government helps students go to school if they’re eligible. There are a lot of regulations if you want to give financial aid and we have covered all that red tape. They examined us, probed it and said this school is eligible. We don’t have another eligible school within 20 miles of our location.
“The other difference is that our school isn’t confined to four walls. Because I go live and share my content, we are able to connect with people globally. People in different time zones can watch what I do.We’re expanding beyond those four walls.”
I know you’re not into hype, but I dug up some hype on you – which is that you won $25,000 in a barber battle. Tell me about that experience.
“I remember some guy came to visit my shop and said ‘man, what you’re doing is amazing – people need to see this.’ He encouraged me to compete. He said if you compete, it’s a doorway to education. He actually paid for me to compete in a competition. And because of that, my photos got onto the desk of the show coordinator for Bronner Brothers. She contacted me and asked me to compete – I turned it down three times. It’s a huge, Broadway style competition. She said: ‘why won’t you compete?’ I said I just don’t want to compete, I want to do education. She said, ‘don’t you know that I have the largest education of multi-cultural brand in the world? I can put you in those classrooms. But you’d better win.’
“I reviewed some of the previous champions, I committed to it. We did a hospital theme, so I was doing hair and the hair was transforming these people and bringing them back to life, bringing them back to sanity, bringing them back to health. It really was a catalyst and a conduit for my education – it helped launch my career.”
Two quick-fire questions in closing. Firstly, what would you say is really good about the barbering industry right now?
“When I started in 1998, I would go to the shows and barbering was the armpit of the hair industry. I wanted to bridge cosmetology and barbering, so my haircuts were different and unique. What I see now is that people are embracing hair colour and product. It’s what we were trying to do years ago.
“Because of social media, people can see it. It’s happening instantly. It’s a gift, because it’s created a platform for barbers to get paid. But it’s a curse because now a lot of education is just information. Instead of an educational class, it’s ‘let me educate you on how to use our product. It’s a gift and a curse.”
Secondly, what bad things do you think are taking place that could be detrimental to the industry?
“If we don’t elevate the industry then we continue in a perpetual cycle of barbers doing the same old same old. What I think is going to happen is that these companies are going to understand that some of the barbers they’re hiring have fake pages and fake followers and fake information. The smoke and mirrors is getting exposed. At one point you had repost pages that were charging to promote. People aren’t paying any more because you have a lot of pages that are fake. That’s the bad part.”
Thank you to Tyrik for sharing such a wealth of experience through this interview. I know that I feel like I’ve learned a lot, and I hope that everybody reading this does to. Remember that you can follow me on YouTube and Instagram if you want to see more sage advice from industry greats like Tyrik.
What can I say about Jake Shipwreck? This is a barber who is every bit as cool as he sounds; visit his Instagram page and you’ll find yourself faced with glorious tattoos as well as devastatingly sharp haircuts. More than that, though, Jake is an educator and father – so I had a lot that I wanted to ask him at the CT Barber Expo.
So Jake, could you start by telling me how you first got into barbering? “I grew up playing music, and I’ve always been a very goal-orientated person: I always knew that I wanted to make a band and pursue that, and I always knew – for whatever reason – that I wanted to be a barber. I put my all into being a front man in a band and getting a record label, touring all over the nation and during that time I had my son.
“For the first couple of months after he was born I was still doing the band thing. Then it came to the point that I needed to make more money. I decided it was time to go to school and just hit the ground running. In barber college I had a gully booked clientele waiting for me – it was the first time I ever touched a pair of clippers. I wasn’t worried about becoming a famous, tattooed Instagram barber. I wanted to be the best barber.”
What would you say your area of speciality is? I know that Layrite approached you to be a sponsored barber because you loved their tools – so what kind of styles do you do and how do they help you achieve them?
“I would definitely say my area of expertise is the traditional style haircut: anything from the 1950s, side parts, pompadours, slicked back. I do like to dabble in some more messy, UK styles: Layrite offer some products that help me do that too.”
And what’s your favourite Layrite product that helps you achieve these looks?
“My favourite haircut to do is a slicked back look, so I would say Layrite Super Hold is my go to. It’s what I use in my hair, definitely my favourite product.”
You seem like you’ve got a fascination with tattoos too. Tell me where that started and where you get your influence from.
“All the men in my family are bikers, completely covered in tattoos – so when I was a kid I just thought that was so badass, that’s what a man looks like. And on the other side is that I’m an extremist: I don’t do anything in moderation. If I have tattoos I want to have the best and the most tattoos. I can’t do anything small.”
Which also explains your loyalty to Layrite – they can pick up your flat-out, all-in attitude.
“Yeah. I mean, I’ve got Layrite tattooed on me.”
So, tell me more about where Layrite has taken you and a little bit about your style of education.
“The first thing we did was ISSE, around five years ago. We didn’t have any microphones, we didn’t have anything, just a barber chair on the floor. From there we started doing Chicago, New York, Florida – all the big trade shows. Then they started sending me internationally; we did a Tommy Guns event in British Columbia, a full Japanese tour, talks about doing Australia. They’ve taken me everywhere, but Japan has probably been my favourite.”
And that was spearheaded by Donny Hawley, right? He must have been a huge influence on you…
“Donny is in some way or another everybody’s inspiration. He was doing it before it was revamped, before it was cool. You’ve got to give credit where credits due: he’s the OG.”
Now tell me where you see yourself in the future. What’s your ultimate goal?
“It’s not on my radar right now, but the ultimate goal is to have my own barbershops all over: Shipwrecked Barbershop. Maybe set aside the travelling and education for a little while and really hone in on that when I’m ready.”
An exciting next chapter! So as somebody in love with barbering, what are you really loving about the industry right now and what would you like to see change?
“The things I love about barbering: It’s an honest living, I help out my fellow man, they pay me for my service and my time. It’s not overkill, I’m not ripping anybody off. It keeps me an honest man.
“Now, the things that I dislike about barbering right now: These guys that think we’re rock stars, some sort of hip-hop sensation. It’s not a glamorous lifestyle, something that makes you cool. I really don’t like people photoshopping the hair cuts, spray on beards… all that fake stuff. Barbering should be real, it’s honest. Turning something honest into something fake is not all right.”
How do you think that could change?
“I don’t think it could change. I think it needs to phase out. All these barbers doing it for the hype will be phased out.”
So how have you managed to build such an impressive organic following on your own social media?
“I think people like to see that I came from the same area as them. I came from the same hardships and I made something out of it. I mean I grew up dirt-poor, and I figured out how to make money, to travel: I think that’s what people like to see and why people follow me.”
And what words of advice would you give to a young person who wanted to become a full-time professional barber whilst keeping his feet on solid ground
“I would say don’t worry so much about trying to be me or trying to be Donnie Hawley – work on your haircut. Fall in love with hair, work on technique, work on your basic. If you hone in on hair and being a good barber, on putting yourself out there, then sponsors and travelling will follow. Don’t start running before you can walk.”
So, barbers who want to follow in Jake’s footsteps should focus on getting to grips with the essentials skills of barbering. You can check out some of the other interviews on the @LarrytheBarberMan YouTube and Instagram pages to see tips from other authentic barbers. Other than that, just keep it real!