Interview: With Kevin Luchmum, One of The UK’S Best Men’s Barbers/Hairdressers

It’s impossible to pigeon hole Kevin Luchmun: rather than defining himself as a barber or a hairdresser, or pinning himself down to one particular style, he’s simply ‘someone who loves to cut hair’. His career has seen him working with some of the biggest names in the industry, but now he’s set off on his own. Of course, with the Kevin Luchmun name already synonymous with excellent technical ability, he’s set himself up for success. Still, I wanted to find out what drove him to leave Toni & Guy:

“Yeah, so as you know I left back in February last year. It more or less got to the stage where you start to think about what is it that you want in life. I’d been with the company for 11 years: I was with them for six years in London, where I reached the level to become an international art director. So, I had my dreams and my ambitions within the company, I achieved them and then I just said to myself, do I want to stay and do exactly the same thing? Of course, they could push me in a different direction, but my personal own goals were achieved.

“Then it was just a case to really take that leap of faith and go for it. Because I always think to myself, I don’t want to live thinking ‘what if?’ I’d rather just do it and just see what happens. And we’re here now at Salon International to tell the tale.”


Taking that step into the unknown can often be the thing that propels a great career forwards, so it’s exciting to see where Kevin’s new path will take him. At the same time, making a dramatic step in your career is always going to feel unusual for a while. I ask Kevin how life has changed:

“A lot of people ask me: ‘how’s life now, what’s it like, is it good?’ and I just say the best way to describe it is it’s just different. Because now especially, I don’t work for such a massive big corporate company and I’m independent. I have to go out find those opportunities.

“And I think it’s like anything, having been with the company for such a long time you know I gained my experience, I made the mistakes, I learned from the mistakes and got the education. Not just how to educate cutting hair, doing shows, but also the education on how to become a better educator as well. So, it’s good, it’s just different. A lot more challenging, I’d say, and there’s still pressure – probably a bit more pressure – but the pressure comes down to me, which is good because it’s like everything I do now is for myself.”

Going it alone, then, has made Kevin the master of his own destiny – and as much as that can mean extra work, it also seems t be something that he greatly enjoys:

“If I don’t give 110% then that’s on me. If I mess up on something, it’s on me. I don’t have anyone to blame. And I don’t have anyone to just think: ‘oh, don’t worry about that. Someone else is going to worry about that.’ Everything I do now, from bookings, from liaising with clients, from show-work preparation… that all comes down to me.”


While Kevin has certainly built up a huge reputation in his own right, it’s still different from the name recognition that comes alongside working with a company like Toni & Guy. With that in mind, I wonder whether people treat him any differently these days:

“I think now it’s probably got its ups and downs. Being an independent name now, all I am representing is myself. Where I’ve liaised, met people along my journey and had the experience of doing shows, seminars and of course competitions, people still respect me in the industry. You know, I’m probably getting more opportunities, and more different opportunities. Like to judge different competitions and work with different brands. There’s a lot of freedom.”

This is the positive side of being independent – but Kevin also acknowledges that there can be downsides:

“Like I said, everything now comes down to me. I’m a one-man band, more or less. So, if I don’t want to wake up in the morning, have a lay in, then I have potentially missed that opportunity to go meet with people or reply to emails, whatever else like that. Everything comes down to me and I have to have to motivate myself.

“If I did need something that I’m sure I could reach out to someone, but I don’t really have anyone to bounce ideas off. And my head’s always going crazy, like a hundred miles per hour and now I don’t have anyone to say hey, I’ve got this really cool idea. I tell myself, but I don’t have anyone to say: ‘yeah that’s a cool idea, or what about doing it this way?’”



When I caught up with Kevin last year, he’d just been named one of the Men’s Hairdresser of the Year finalists for the 2017 British Hairdressing Awards. This certainly wasn’t the first time that he’d been in that position, but I wondered whether achieving it now, as a lone wolf, gave it special meaning:

“It does actually mean a great deal, because it was the first year that I’ve entered being a solo individual artist working for myself. But I think you know what it means to me this year. It means a lot because it’s all my work: it’s Kevin Luchmun from Kevin Luchmun, it’s not Kevin Luchmun from another brand. I just cut my friends hair and I just want to take a beautiful image – and that’s what I’ve done. And to me it means a lot because this year especially because it’s like yeah, I’m still in the game.”

Based on Kevin’s hairdressing success, I had to ask him how he sees himself: is he a barber or a hairdresser? In reality, Kevin’s love for cutting hair goes beyond these industry divisions:

“I’m neither. I’m just someone that cuts hair. It’s not a case of are we barbers, are we hairdressers… we’re people that just cut hair, who want to make people look good. Hair is hair at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter if you’re working with clippers or scissors. They’re just the tools and the instruments that you use. So do I call myself a hairdresser or a barber? Neither. Do I call myself Kevin Luchmun? Yes I do.”


I also wanted to talk to Kevin about education. The drive for more, higher quality education seems to be one of the big things that’s pushing the hair industry at the moment. I asked Kevin to explain why he feels that education has become so important:

“People want to go to shows and seminars, like Salon International because they want to learn. And I think that’s the great thing about our industry is that it is such a creative industry. There’s so many creative minds out there, and so many people that really want to express their creativity within someone’s hair, you know.

“I think education is needed because there’s so much out there that you can learn, you know, why would you want to just carry on doing the same thing. And the thing is I’ve got the experience with barbers and I’ve got the experience of working for such a massive hairdressing company. For me, is about giving back because I remember when I couldn’t do it. I remember when I struggled. I remember when I struggled how to hold a pair of scissors and a comb. I want to give back to the people that actually genuinely do you want to learn. I will give them so much more than that someone who can’t be bothered. And that’s what I love to do, because it’s about inspiring the youth of our industry.”

Of course, simply being an excellent barber or hairdresser isn’t necessarily enough to cut it as an educator, and if you want to branch out into education then there will be more skills to master:

“I know the most talented hairdressers and barbers out there, and they can’t educate. I know the most amazing educators out there and they can’t cut hair. It’s a balance, knowing how to actually combine the two together. It’s not an easy thing. It takes a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of time and a lot of making mistakes.

“I feel experienced enough that anyone can ask me why I’m doing something and I will be able to tell them exactly why. There’s so many people that say what they’re doing when they educate. I don’t want to know what you’re doing. I want to understand what’s going on in your head, and that’s what makes me different.”


Very good advice for any barbers or other hair professionals who do want to make that jump from cutting hair to educating others. I also asked Kevin to share some broader inspiration for barbers who might want to follow in his footsteps on other ways:

“Really understand: what is it you want in life and what is it that you want in your career? Do you want to be on stage and doing these trade shows, in the limelight? If that’s what you want to do, cool. If you want to be better hairdresser and perfect your craft, cool – do that. If you want to make more money, do that. You need to understand what it is that you really want to achieve and then set yourself that goal. And then literally just go for it.

“If you don’t set yourself little goals how are you ever going to progress? That’s what I personally do. I said to myself I wanted to travel to over 10 countries this year when I left Toni & Guy, and I’ve done it. I wanted to become a finalist in the Men’s British Hairdressing Awards – I’ve done it.

“I always say in life, you’ve got take baby steps. If you’ve just started and you want to be on that massive stage, it’s not going to happen. You literally need to take those baby steps and then you’ll be able to get there. But if you have the vision that you want to be up on that big stage, then you’re going to be there. Along the way, stay humble and stay true to yourself. Keep doing what you love and just trying to just be a better person.”


Thanks once again to Kevin for sharing these thoughts with me. There’s some strong, practical advice in there that I think all of you barbers and hairdressers at home can really do a lot with, just remember to keep setting those little goals! And for today’s little goal, why not follow Larry the Barber Man on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook? You’ll be able to keep up with all of the latest inspiring videos… You know it makes sense!



Master Barber: Matty Conrad, Of Victory Barbers, Shares The Philosophy Behind His Barbering and Brand Success

After listening in on, one of Matty Conrad’s seminars in California, there was no doubt in my mind that I needed to bring his unique take on barbering to all of you guys. He certainly didn’t disappoint, and I’m delighted to be sharing this fascinating interview.

Those of you already familiar with Matty’s work might be surprised to hear that he started out 22 years ago not as a barber, but as a hair stylist:

“Barbering didn’t feel exciting. It didn’t feel like there was a lot of artistry around barbering, and barbershops were in very steep decline. Into the 90s, it was not this place to aspire to. So, I got involved in hairdressing, everything from Toni & Guy to Bumble & Bumble.

“I eventually worked my way up to working on stage and platforms, technical educating and teaching – and I really enjoyed that, I always did. But it really started to lose that personal level and I started to fall out of love with the industry.”


Feeling that it was becoming more about the egos than the hair, Matty was feeling disillusioned and even considering changing job all together. But then something happened that made him reflect on his career – and find a new aspect of hair to get excited about:

“Around then my Grandfather passed away. He was an amazing old guy, he was just a terrific Gent, you know. Always well dressed, always had a part in his hair and a shine on his shoes. I remember thinking to myself where did this go? What happened to the old gentleman, the idea that having a sharp look meant showing respect for the people around you.

“That was a thing that was being lost, I felt. And my Grandfather passing away made me thing a lot about that, and a lot about legacy. About: What is it that you want the world to be like? At that point I started becoming obsessed with this idea of these old classic barbershops, the place where a man like that would have gone to be put together.”

From those initial ideas, Matty found a new purpose: he started investigating classic barbering as much as he could, seeking education from old, traditional barbers while also using his technical knowledge to consider how classic barbering could be developed for the modern world.

“Everybody was laughing at me at the time, because everyone had these Justin Bieber mop-top haircuts and I was doing cuts that looked like they belonged on my Grandad. But I just kept doing them: I thought they were cool, I thought there was something about them that really spoke to me on a deeper level. Something that felt like it had pride and dignity attached to it”.


Back to the roots of barbering

Matty may have been going against the grain at the time, but it certainly paid off. In fact, it led him to him going it alone and opening his own barbershop. This was Victory Barbers, opened in 2010 in a small town in Canada, Victoria BC.

He tells me that when he first opened up he thought he might have gone a little crazy, following this obsession with classic barbering so far. But it worked – because it had real integrity: it was authentic to who Matty really is. Now, he owns four shops as well as a thriving brand.

“The word original is just rampant in our industry. Truth be told, none of us invented this – it’s thousands of years old; it goes back long before we were here, and it will be here long after we’re gone. We were just fortunate to be at the right place at the right time, and to have any part in this is an honour.”

No surprise that Matty is also sceptical of the idea, spread by some industry professionals, that barbering is some sort of ‘hot new trend’. That said, he finds a lot to love about the modern barbering community:

“I love the brotherhood and the fellowship that it is right now, the way we’re supporting each other and growing, the fact that there’s pride in our industry again. I really hope that sticks around. I want to do everything I can to support that.”


A contemporary twist

One way in which Matty supports contemporary barbering is through the educational work that he’s doing. Aside from teaching his students about the technical and visual work, he also considers the psychology that’s involved in being a barber. I asked him to delve into this a little:

“I talk about establishing a mutual level of respect. Because I believe that any interaction comes out of a place of respect. One of the things that we’re trying to do is not just create a visual appeal for a person, but to make them feel something for a haircut. So my approach has never been purely technical because I don’t think that what we do is purely technical.

“You start to recognise that the technical aspect of what we do is maybe only 50% of why a person comes and sits in our chair. It’s also about how we make them feel, and that’s not just what we say to them, sometimes it’s about how we conduct our service. How we establish that level of respect by how we shake their hand, how we look them in the eye, how we make them feel cared for and confident in the fact that we are confident.”


In essence, Matty’s hairdressing philosophy is all about integrity, and he reiterates that it’s important for barbers to have more than technical skill: you also need to have the ability to make the client walk out that barbershop door feeling good and confident about his hair. This means that the design of the shop and the way in which you treat your customer are just as important as how well you cut hair.

He has also worked tirelessly to develop a range of barbering products that modern barbers can use to complement their craft:

“I had a lot of opportunities to do what you would call a white label. So all you need is a logo and a design and you walk in and pick the products that they have then package them up as your own. That is not me, it’s not at all what I wanted to do.

“I had some very strong ideas about what I wanted the products to be specifically. I worked with about different chemists before I found one that I thought understood the direction I wanted to go.”


This involves making the product as natural as possible whilst also ensuring that it is entirely cruelty free – no testing on animals – and highly functional. One of his favourite products is Superdry, a dry, matte paste which has been designed to feel light in the hair whilst also making the hair very malleable.

“It is the most perfect product that I’ve ever used. It’s my favourite one for myself and I use it a lot on a lot of different things, for creating texture whilst making it feel like there’s not a lot in the hair.”

Developing these products has allowed Matty to recognise the fact that, as much as he loves classic barbering and the traditional barbershop, it’s also important for barbers to keep developing and innovating: “I wanted my products to not speak about our history and where we were – I want them to support that – but I want them to talk about where we’re going.”

I’ve seen this in Matty’s own work: the cut that he completed when I watched him had natural shine and glow, yet with movement and sculpture. He tells me that it’s all about creating a haircut that a client can then easily style himself when he gets home.


Spreading the good word

If you’re curious about Matty’s work, or the products that he’s created, then you should check out some of his videos: he has been producing a lot of content to help barbers who are interested in doing things the Matty Conrad way. This has involved taking part in a project raising money to help send kids to barber school and keep pushing the industry forward, as well as creating what he calls “farm to table” videos, which focus on showing the full story of a haircut from preparation to then creating imagery once the cut is complete. He has also been creating step-by-step instructional videos to help barbers looking to learn new skills.

“I’m happy to share those things. I want to see our whole industry grow together. Being able to share all those little details with people forces you to be creative in the future as well and push your own limitations. It also allows other people to grow in areas where perhaps they need to. Like I said, you can’t just be good at cutting hair any more: you need something else if you really want to succeed.”

This counts for professional barbers as well as beginners. Matty receives a lot of messages from people who want to be where he is, educating others – and he points out that in order to be an educator you need something to teach. It’s not simply about getting up on stage and showing off; you have to be passing something on to others.


There’s a lot to digest, and I’m sure that you’ll agree that Matty offers a refreshing approach to what it means to be a barber. Ultimately, his message is that it’s all about making people feel good and creating confidence:

“Because confidence is what people find sexy, not appearance. The appearance of confidence is what we’re attracted to. So if we’re able to leverage both of those things together it will affect your outward appearance. If we’re truly giving that to people, then we’re doing our job as barbers.”

Don’t forget to take a look at the Victory Barbers website to find more about the work that’s they’re doing; you can also follow me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube as @LarrytheBarberMan. You’ll find more interviews with great barbers from across the world, as well as plenty of educational tips to help you hone your barbering skills.



Jody Taylor: How To Cut It, As a successful Session Hair Stylist

Late last year, I headed to Salon International; whilst there I was happy to meet with the session stylist Jody Taylor. I think it’s fair to say that most of the magazines you see down the newsagents have probably featured Jody’s work at some point – either inside the pages or on the front cover. He found time in his very busy schedule to tell us a little bit about his job.  

I know that a lot of people reading this probably have no real concept of a what a session stylist really does, so I asked Jody to give us a quick summary of his typical day: 

“My day really consists of me working on a location or in a studio – so everyday can be a different day for me. It can be anywhere, and I normally get to the shoot for 8 or 9 o’clock, making sure I’ve got my full kit with me.  

“I’ve got thousands of products I need to take with me: I’ve got two big suitcases full of tongs, straighteners, all types of accessories. So, I’m lugging them around London or in Ubers trying to get to the location. And then I’m creating hair that I don’t now I’m going to be doing until I get there. So, if it’s for a brand it’s to coincide for what the brand is, if it’s for a magazine then they’re trying to create a certain type of character.” 

This means that Jody will be shown a mood board and talked through the concept for a shoot, and then he’ll need to come up with a concept that works. It sounds like hard work, and having thick skin comes with territory as sometimes the first idea will be rejected: 

“My clients now are not just people who are in my chair having their hair cut. They’re brands and magazines, so I have to be on my toes.” 

Getting down to business 

If you’ve never worked on a shoot then you’re probably picturing simply turning up and providing the haircut. It’s actually a whole lot more complicated, and there are a lot of people that Jody has to gel with when he reaches the set. That includes the photographer, with multiple assistants, a stylist with assistants and someone from the brand. Jody points out that “it can be quite intimidating (…) but it can be a lot of fun as well.”  

If you’re wondering whether to follow Jody’s advice, then this next bit might impress you. I asked him to run through a quick list of people he’s worked with and the list is just staggering: 

  • 3 or 4 GQ covers 
  • Vogue magazines around the world 
  • New York Times 
  • Actors during premieres, such as Jack O’Connell 

Despite it all, he remains cool and composed. So, with all this under his belt, I was particularly interested to hear what his biggest achievement to date has been. I’m not surprised by the answer though: taking the title of Best Hairdresser of the Year back in 2010/11.  

“It was the third time I entered that I won, I’d got into the final year before. And at that time that was the one shoot I did each year. Just so much work went into it – understanding what sort of lighting I wanted, what the mood was, what haircuts I wanted to do. 

“It was everything for me back then. So, I encourage anyone that’s considering it to enter it, because it changed my life. It’s a really good way to show your creativity. Do what you think is your style: if people like it they like it and if they don’t so be it, but don’t try and conform to what you see other people are doing.” 

Doing things differently 

Some people would be tempted to call it a career after this much success, but for Jody there’s plenty more still to come. At the moment he’s loving the opportunity to do something a little bit different with his work: 

“There’s a lot of rawness to what I do now. Really kind of anti-perfect hair.  Everyone does perfect hair. Everyone does perfect hair amazingly. So my thing is, make it not perfect – but make it look good at the same time. So really, anti-hairdressing, anti-barbering.”  

I’d say that he’s also something of a visionary, with an ability to tell where the trends are going to be in the next few months or even next year. Apparently, though, it’s more science than magic and Jody’s tip is to look to youth culture, pop culture, music and film to see where the disruptions are happening. Most importantly, he says that you can always try something different: “Some people might think they know everything, and it’s really sad. Because you can always get better”.  

He’s also planning to do things differently in his own career, moving into the educational space. I asked what niche he’ll be carving out: 

“I just really want to share the experience that I’m having now. Maybe I feel confident enough now with what I’m doing to actually share it with people. And I think there’s been a really nice interlink with barbering and hairdressing over the past 3 or 4 years.  

“People used to be very close-minded about one or the other, and barbers want to know how to do hairdressing, hairdressers want to know how to barber and if you’re good at both of them and know how to create looks as well, I think that’s great. So I think I’ve got stuff to bring to the table in that sense. I’ve got stuff that I can share”.  

Tips for the up and coming session stylists 

So, if you want to become a session stylist, what should you do? Here’s a rundown of Jody’s tips: 

  • Contact lots of different hair agencies: you have to create a portfolio of work! Jody points out that he’s always been hired based on the portfolio of work that he has to offer, “so it has to be really varied, but obviously it has to be tasteful as well”.  
  • Push yourself out there. Jody started by knocking on doors, doing loads of different shoots just to make sure he had work to share. 
  • Be prepared to start from the beginning: success in hairdressing doesn’t necessarily translate to success as a session stylist. There’s plenty more to learn, and you need to work hard to build your reputation. 

I’m sure plenty of people reading this will see that last point as a challenge – if so, it would be great to see you rise to meet it! For more tips and informative interviews like this one, don’t forget to find me as @LarrytheBarberMan on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.  


Nick Arrojo: Our Coffee Break Chat, Sure To Perk Up, Your Hair Styling And Bottom Line…


Welcome to this Larry the Barber Man interview with Nick Arrojo! For those of you who aren’t familiar with my work, my name is Larry Campbell and I tour the globe speaking to the best hair stylists from across the industry and from all walks of life, asking them to share their knowledge so that other hair professionals can benefit from the knowledge of more experienced hairdressers and barbers.

While a lot of the work I’ve done has surrounded barbering, I’m really interested in helping people from across the industry better themselves and learn new skills, so I’ll never miss the opportunity to pick the brain of an incredible hairdresser like Nick.

I’m sure the majority of you will already be familiar with Nick’s work, but to fill you in on the key facts this man owns the Arrojo Studio, with several separate salons, and educational school and a product range; he’s also cut hair for A-List celebrity clients including Bryan Adams, Minnie Driver and Victoria Wood and appeared as the resident stylist on What Not to Wear for seven years. Suffice to say, there’s a lot to learn from such a well-accomplished and multi-faceted man.

The Path to Success

Every interview I run has one thing in common, and that’s the origin story: I’m personally fascinated by how hairdressers and barbers get into the industry, and I think that looking at the beginning of a journey can help us learn from it. From starting at the age of 16, Nick’s career quickly took off:

“I started working when I was 16 in Manchester, I worked with Vidal Sassoon. I had a very successful tenure with them and then I moved to London, I worked for Wella and that was where I got to start experiencing a lot of international events and international hairdressers. Then my dream was always to move to New York City, and my dream came true in 1994 when I came to work for Bumble & Bumble, and they sponsored me and brought me to America”.

Not everything has come easy for Nick though, and at one point in his career he found himself homeless. This came in the aftermath of the terrible 9/11 attacks in America: “I lived a block away from the twin towers in 2001 when 9/11 happened. I was renting a couple of chairs inside a school in Soho, I was working for one week and then downtown became a no-go area and I was homeless. I was sleeping on couches at friend’s houses.”

What really struck me, though, is how he managed to turn this around, growing the business he has today:

“I started my salon in 2001 and had a staff of four – two assistants, a receptionist and me. I slowly built it, step by step I was building my brand. Today I have three salons, one in Soho, one in Tribeca and one in Brooklyn. And they’re big salons, so I have a staff of 150 people. I also developed a cosmetology school because I really think that education is the key to success.

In America, you have to get licensed – so you don’t do an apprenticeship, you have to go and get your license before you can even work in a salon. I really wanted to get into that business and affect hairdressing at a grassroots level. And then the final pillar was for me to do products, I’ve helped companies develop products and at a certain point it was time for me to develop my own.”

The Philosophy Behind Big Hairdressing Business

One of the things that made me so keen to bring you an interview with Nick is the fact that he has a lot of great insight into the business behind being a successful salon owner and hairdresser. In my experience, many hairdressers, stylists and barbers that are great at what they do want to open up salons, but many don’t have the business knowledge to take it further. With that in mind, here are Nick’s thoughts on the importance of specialisation:

“When I talk about specialisation I really mean what is your USP – your Unique Selling Point, or your Unique Styling Perspective, and that’s what it should be. Your USP has to change, it shouldn’t stay the same because you’re always in a state of reinvention. I started hairdressing as a specialist in hair cutting when I worked with Vidal Sassoon, the art and craft of cutting hair with a scissor. When I left Vidal Sassoon I decided to change my technique, I evolved and started to cut hair with a razor, so I cut hair with a switchblade and that gives me a different texture and a different feel. Now we have American Wave; we’ve reinvented the perm.

I’m also really focusing on business education – because a lot of salon owners don’t necessarily understand how to make their business a success. Usually the path of a hairdresser is to become busy: one you become a success behind the chair it’s time for you to move onto the next step of the journey. I share my unique perspective, because I started my business in New York from very little, and I’ve grown it into a multimillion dollar business with a lot of employees. I share my trials and tribulations – what I’ve learned.

I’m a firm believer that there’s enough room for everybody to be successful in our industry, but in order to be successful you have to learn from people who have been on the path before you. I’m just trying to accelerate that to everybody so they can learn from it.”

Education is clearly not only a huge part of Nick’s work, but also of his belief system. When I briefly heard him speaking at IBS 2017, the information I heard was important enough to completely transform a hairdresser’s business, and I asked for a little more insight into the philosophy behind it:

“I think that what we’re doing is trying to systemise everything. Once you systemise something you have a path, you have a game plan – and if people follow the game plan they will succeed. The key to being successful is through education, so you have to have education at the front of your mind.

I built my company because I never had any money, and I built my brand on a key catchphrase, which was ‘give unconditionally’. If you can try to help somebody by doing something to help them without getting anything back in return, you actually get a lot back in return. But all my business philosophy is really based on practical knowledge. I always say the best hairdresser starts off as being the best sweeper, the best mirror cleaner, the best shampooer, the best comber – and these basic fundamentals have helped me on my path”.

The Shape of the Industry

Before our brief time was up, I wanted to get some opinions on the key trends of 2017 from somebody at the pinnacle of hairdressing, as well as some ideas about the challenges that hairdressers face right now:

“Texture’s coming back – at the show a few years ago, everyone had feathers in their hair. A few years before that, everyone was buying hair extensions. A few years before that, everyone was making their hair smooth. What’s coming back now is permanent wave, we’re putting curl back into hair and I’m pioneering that. I know it’s working because last year my American Wave service grew by 100%, and this year it has already grown by 50% on last year. And at this show we have had countless hairdressers sign up to get certified in it. We skipped a generation with the perm, and now it’s time not to bring back the perm but to bring back waving, and we call it American Wave.”

“The biggest challenge that all hairdressing salons have is that there used to be a thing called professional product. Professional product doesn’t exist anymore because of the internet and because of the retailer stores that carry supposedly professional lines. I think salon owners have to rethink where the money comes from. The profit in a salon does not come from service, it really comes from retail. And until we start to focus on that properly, we will still have a low profit business.

When you think about a restaurant, the money is not in the food, it’s in the bar. That’s where restaurants make their living. We need to think of the retail area as the bar, and get hairdressers to understand that if they recommend professional products and engage with their customers then they can raise their revenue and profitability.

The truth of the matter is nobody gets into hairdressing to sell shampoo but if you’re not selling shampoo you’re not gonna have a successful salon.” Nick has even introduced a retail course at his academy so that hairdressers can learn how to sell well.


There’s a lot of food for thought in Nick’s words, so I’ll leave you to chew them over and think about how you can apply them in your own work. If you’ve found this insightful then it would be great to see you over on YouTube at my Barber.TV channel, or on my Instagram and Facebook pages where you’ll find me as LarrytheBarberMan. I regularly put up new interviews with leading industry professionals like Nick Arrojo, so there are lots of other stories to help you build your own career.


Barber Eric Pacino – From Desperate Times to Cutting the Stars

For many, “Eric Pacinos” is just another way to say “international celebrity barber.” When Eric is not cutting Nas’ hair at the Cannes Film Festival or trimming up Jay-Z for an album cover shoot in New York, he is promoting his wildly successful line of quality hair products and speaking at hair shows all over the world. He definitely has it goin’ on like no one else in the industry.

So you can imagine how excited I was to get a few minutes with him, one of my biggest goals since I started my interview channel. We met up at Premier Expo in Orlando and Eric did not disappoint. You will want to view the whole interview on my YouTube, larrythebarberman@barbers.tv

Eric: Started with no food in the fridge, young son

Eric’s life story is more inspiring than most, so I asked him to dive right into it.

He said he started cutting his own hair in his childhood bathroom, then graduated to cutting his friends for a small fee. “I was going to school with money in my pocket, and it felt good,” he told me, “not just because of the money but because I was making my friends look good. That was the defining point. Always trying to transform all my friends; more than just a haircut.“

Even joining the Navy couldn’t separate Eric from his calling. “I always found myself cutting hair on the ship, and even when I was going out with my friends, I would say “Before we go, let me cut your hair.” That is when I thought I should go to night school to get my license.”

But post-Navy he was still 500 hours short in his studies and had a young son to care for. The times were desperate. “At that point my son was three, and I had hit rock bottom. I could not find a job, and it was like, ‘Man, my son’s got to eat!’”

“That is when I took barbering seriously,” he continues. “Because I did not want that feeling of being hungry anymore, that feeling of not seeing my child eat. I know what it feels like to know you have nothing in the refrigerator when you open it up. I know what it feels like to use the restroom in your own house and not have toilet paper. I literally would go to McDonald’s and leave with extra napkins. Don’t tell this to McDonald’s, but I did it just to have toilet paper in the house.”

“It was hurtful as a man,” he continues. “ So I think I attribute any success or whatever you call it – I just don’t feel I am as successful as I could possibly become – but I attribute that to desperation and the necessities of living. I never want to go back to that.”

Eric eventually obtained a license and found work. For many, that might be the happy end of the story, but Eric found the fire inside was burning hotter than ever. “I knew I wanted more than just being a barber,” he told me.

Sacrifice and persistence to build barbering success

Before we got into Eric’s accomplishments, I wanted to know more about his trials and tribulations coming up. As usual, he was candid.

“One of the biggest was all different types of sacrifice, from working long hours to having a dream and not having people believe it,” he said.

“Not knowing, not being educated was the biggest trail, having no blueprint,” he recalls. “I had to create ways of figuring things out because we didn’t have social media, there was no book about creating a barber shop and creating a product brand. There was nothing. That was the biggest trial, just not knowing where to start.” This experience, he said, makes him an eager mentor to other young barbers today.

“Thank God, what has helped me is Google. If it weren’t for Google I wouldn’t have done a lot of things. But you have to do your homework; you have to the studying.”

Eric: Every barber can increase sales by offering products…and a variety of brands

All along, Eric kept his entrepreneurial eyes open. “I created my own brand because a lot of the products we were using weren’t really good, they weren’t for the types of haircuts and hairstyles I was creating. I had to combine three or four different products, and I said, ‘Man, if someone would come out with a product that did these three or four things; from the hold to the texture being better, to it not being so diluted.’ I wanted something like a pomade-like matte with no shine finish.”

“I created these products to give my clients the best aids without sending them to a store to buy three or four different products to create that hairstyle.”

Eric strongly believes every shop should sell product. “I can’t emphasize enough: it is one of the easiest sells! It will increase your sales dramatically,” he told me.

He added: “Once a client’s hair looks good, the first thing they will ask is, ‘What is that you put in my hair?’ If you have it on your shelf, if it is already there, they are going to leave with that. They are going to try to emulate the same style that you just did.”

Providing better customer service and increasing your sales – a no-brainer!

“And a month later they will be back for another haircut and more product. Some of these products cost as much as a haircut – our product is $16. You are selling another haircut by selling product.”

He recommends everyone step up and negotiate with product sales people, varying brands and asking for wholesale prices. “Diversify,” he said. “It’s like when you walk into a sneaker store you don’t just see just Nikes. Give your client something to choose from. They might just ask you, ‘What is this?’ They might want to try it out ‘Will this work in my hair?’ ‘Sit down let’s try it.’ ‘Oh, yeah! I want this!” It is that easy.”

Eric has realized enormous success with his high-quality products.

“Right now we have three men’s hair grooming products. One is the matte finish, which is a great hold but has no shine to it, which a lot of people like with the pomade haircuts.

“We have pomade that is a more flexible hold. That one does give some shine. Then we have a crème; a cream styling wax that is in between the pomade and the matte and it does have a semi-shine finish.”

We also have a beard oil. We have a beard and face scrub. We have razor bump soother. We got a shampoo and conditioner and a black mask. It is really popular can’t hold it in stock! Matte finish (is number one), then black mask and the pomade is number three.”

Customer service: No phone calls, please!

When Eric talks about customer service, he says he focuses on the person in the shop and in the chair. That’s why he doesn’t accept phone calls on the job and prefers online haircut appointments. His favorite app is the grooming-industry-only software booksy.

“I am very old school, and I like to speak to my clients,” he said. “But I’ve learned I would rather speak to my clients in the chair rather than on the phone, because (on the phone) it’s never ‘Can I get a haircut?’ It’s about, ‘So what are you doing this weekend?’ It is hard to tell somebody ‘Hey, I will talk to you when you’re here.’ So the client doesn’t know better if you are in the middle of a haircut or something. So you have to respect people’s time.”

Advice from a successful barber: Write it down, learn the craft, fix your weaknesses

Time was running short with Eric, and I wanted to get his advice for young barbers just finding their legs. From a man who came from ‘borrowing’ McDonald’s napkins to Cutting Nas and JayZ, this is the kind of advice you should take to heart.

First, very practical: “Write everything down. You will see a long list on my iPhone of things I need to execute. Write it down and do not erase it until it gets done. That is one of the biggest things I have learned.”

“After that do your homework on it, Google it, find out more about it get out there and get it done! Nobody is going to do it for you nobody is going to put in the hours and the work that you are going to put in.

“If you want to be a great barber, do as many cuts as you can do not get intimated by the different textures. That is what happened to me early on and I would mess up some curly haircuts. But I would learn and get better at those haircuts than I was with straight hair. “

Lastly, Eric shares hard-won honesty that will benefit anyone in any profession: “What you are not good at, work extra hard and get better. That is the biggest difference of somebody who continues to grow. That is how you become complete. If you are only good at one thing – if you are only good at a #2 and a skin fade, but you’re not good at shears – you are never going to grow. When somebody needs you at a movie set, or when you’re needed to cut a client who is paying top dollar, or might want to take you on tour with them, but you can’t use the shears, your opportunity was there and it’s gone. It’s gone because you did not want to get better at something you know is your weakness.”

With that, we bid farewell, and I got busy sharing this unique moment with you. Hope you enjoy and find Eric’s words inspiring! ‘Til next time, happy barbering!




Barber: Joey Power, Talks Hair Collections & Photo shoots

Joey Power on his new collection, and what it takes to carve out a barbering career

Don’t be fooled by the fact that Joey Power spent many years as a scrap metal dealer – he’s as committed to barbering as anybody I’ve interviewed. In fact, he gave up a good career in order to take a gamble on doing something that he loved: his barbering achievements show that the gamble paid off.

After heading to the London School of Barbering, Joey started in a local barbershop before being taken under the wing of Dale Ted Watkins. Now he’s the head of the show team for BarberBarber, a barbering educator and a member of the Young Feds team, all alongside shooting his own collection. Clearly this is a man who knows his stuff!

There’s so much to talk about I barely know where to start, but before getting into Joey’s own work I want to know how the wonderful BarberBarber owner Johnny BaBa has contributed to his career:

“Without working here, I don’t think I would have got noticed. He mentors me throughout the industry and he constantly, constantly pushes me to achieve what I’m going out to achieve. Johnny gives me a kick up my arse massively in the right direction”.

His other mentor, of course, has been Dale Ted Watkins. Dale also helped Joey put together his ground-breaking Temporal Shift collection, and it was fascinating to hear more about that process too:

“Dale was a massive part of that collection. I’ve never done a photo shoot before – I’ve been on shoot with Dale but only to assist. So now I’m art directing my own shoot I needed that backing from Dale.”

This meant getting involved with everything from directing to making suggestions for the hair itself, and Joey tells me that he stopped him from feeling like a “fish out of water”. It’s very clear, though, that Joey was the driving force behind Temporal Shift, and his creativity breaks through every shot – so let’s hear more about his inspiration, and the work itself.


The Collection

“I wanted to mix heritage and the now. Temporal Shift is a movement through the past, bringing it into the present. I wanted to mix traditional suits with a bright pattern. Colourful, yet classic and timeless. Hair wise, I wanted it to be very edgy but still using the traditional techniques”

This allowed Joey to put his own twist on timeless classics, a bold move… but clearly one that payed off. Putting the collection together meant working with a range of different team members, from Andrew Gilbert who took the shots to his makeup artist Gareth Harris and colourist Sophie Dale. Please take the time to look through the collection here, where you’ll also see the credits for everyone involved.

“What we got out of that collection wasn’t just photos. It was the whole shebang: that’s what I wanted to do on my first collection. And what was good about doing that collection was that it’s shown me something that I’m really interested in outside of the barbershop.

“It’s opened my eyes to so many different things, actually realising what goes on behind a collection. And looking out of the box for inspiration – you’re always looking for different ideas, different ways that you can show your creativity. It’s given me a nice little look into the fashion world as well.”

Following on from this discussion of Temporal Shift I was curious to know more about Joey’s general concept of hair, and what he thinks is important when doing a cut:

“First and foremost, it has to be suitable for the client. End of. There is no point putting a mod haircut on a rocker. I like to work with long hair. I’ve kind of found a little niche. I really like the dirty, distressed lengths.

“You’ll see in my collection, there was a lot of mid length hair and then we did some really cool textured stuff. I like hair that kind of explodes, that’s got a lot of internal shape and structure. For me that’s kind of the nuts and bolts, it’s all internal work, shattering the hair lines and things like that to build character but the shape must come from within.

“It’s given me more hunger to do stuff outside of the barbershop. And it’s shown me that there’s more to hair than the average short back and sides.”


Never Do Anything by Half

I was also extremely interested to hear the motivation behind Temporal Shift: why did Joey feel the need to create a collection to this extent?

“My old man told me never do anything by half. And I truly believe that if you’re gonna do something, do something proper. This was important because it was kind of my debut into the industry. I did it primarily to get noticed”.

It was also a great way for Joey to do the haircuts he really loves: many barbers will know that it can be difficult to find clients who want more outlandish cuts! I really believe that this collection is going to blow people’s minds – particularly younger barbers who might feel inspired to create a collection of their own:

“If you’ve got an idea, run with it. Get it down on pen and paper and as soon as you wake up in the morning, think about that idea. And as soon as you go to bed, think about that idea. That’s what built the fire in my belly. If you’ve got a dream you’ve got to think about it day and night. It’s got to be everything and all to you.

“You’ve also got to have a very strong team, and you’ve got to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and everyone on that team has to have that same vision that you have”

This means really selling your idea to the team that you work with, and getting them on board with what you want to do! Joey adds that it’s important to be open-minded, but not to the point where you’re compromising on your vision.


Always pushing to the next level

We’ve talked a lot about Temporal Shift but, as I mentioned at the start of this post, he’s done a whole lot more in his time as a barber. One bow on his string is education: Joey is currently training new barbers at the BarberBarber shop.

Finally, we talked about the Young Feds: what does it mean to be part of that team?

“It means so much, because it takes me back to my grassroots. Once I met Dale and Dale took me under his wing, I begged him that wherever he went I wanted to go after him. And I was at Salon International and I was watching the young feds and I was thinking maybe one day if I work hard enough, I might be on stage.”

The chance finally came when Simon Kibler left the team: Joey jumped at the chance to let Adam Sloane know how interested he would be. A little while later, they decided to give him a shot as a fill in for another barber. Clearly his work impressed, as they went on to offer the full-time gig.

“To be a part of that team, it was a dream come true really.”

A truly fascinating barber, and one to watch for the future: believe me when I say that this is just the beginning for Joey Power! I can’t wait to see what he brings us next – in the meantime, you can see what other top barbers are up to by following Larry the Barber Man on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube: I’ll see you there.



STOP!!! Barbershop Diseases, Trichologist Explains All Part. 1

Stop barbershop infections – top tips from trichologist Tracey Walker

No barber wants to see a client receive bad service, and that includes health and hygiene as well as quality cuts. Of course, in the busy environment of a working shop it can be easy to let standards slip. That’s why I invited former hairdresser and trichologist Tracey Walker to share some information and advice that will help you keep your shop safe and clean.

But first thing’s first… what exactly does a trichologist do?

“Trichologists diagnoses and treat hair loss and scalp disorders. We are almost a specialised type of dermatologist, but we only deal with the scalp and hair. We’re not medically qualified, but we are medically trained in the areas where we need to be.”

So, this means that trichologists can help with scalp and hair issues or conditions. Tracey is also part of the Institute of Trichologists, set up by doctors, hairdressers and scientists to help build awareness and offer training. What better person to have in the interview chair?


Common conditions to look out for

Tracey kicked things off by telling me about the most common conditions that might affect clients after a visit to the barbershop:

  • Bacterial infections in general, and specifically impetigo. This is highly contagious, and often seen around the mouth or on the upper lip – so particularly relevant when a client comes in for a shave. Look for symptoms that are “almost like a crusting of the skin”.This happens when bacteria in the nose drips down onto the upper lip and becomes pathogenic. It may just look like regular dry skin, and could be passed on by a barber not washing their hands or sanitising tools.
  • Fungal infections. These are particularly common in children, and easy to spread from person to person, either on your tools or on your hands. One common fungal infection is ringworm, which my just look like a patch of dry scaly skin on the scalp and is easily misdiagnosed as flaky skin or dandruff. Tracey points out that it is “easily transferred from person to person on tools such as brushes.
  • Folliculitis. This is particularly common in young black men, as it is caused by the way in which afro hair regrows after a very short haircut. Unlike the other conditions, this isn’t contagious, however it certainly can affect people visiting the barbershop:“We do see it a lot when people have had very short haircuts, or had their heads shaved. What happens there is that when the hair is shaved, and it goes slightly lower than the scalp’s surface, then when it grows is starts to bend up and scratches or tickles the scalp. It’s very itchy, so the client can start scratching and cause secondary infection.”So how could you safeguard against this? “Avoid any scratching, or excess scratching to the scalp. So keep the scalp healthy, use the right shampoo for the scalp type. If the scalp is itchy then there are lotions that can calm it. And if someone comes in suffering from folliculitis and they have quite a short hair cut then encourage people to grow their hair a little longer”.

As always, then, prevention is the best cure! Tracey also points out that the scalp is just like the rest of your skin – so, for instance, if it’s dry then you’ll need to moisturise it.

I decided to follow up by getting Tracey’s take on some specific barbershop scenarios, and she certainly didn’t disappoint. So, without further ado, here is some in depth info to help you keep clients safe in specific situations.


Scenario one: A guy with long hair comes into your barbershop for a quick trim. You put the cloak on him and then spray his hair damp. Water starts to drip down the guy’s neck and collect at the collar.

“This may not cause an immediate problem if the person is healthy, but what we have to keep in mind is that somebody’s susceptibility to infection will increase if there are open wounds. So, for example, if somebody has eczema that affects the back of the neck, or psoriasis, then bacterial infection will get into those open wounds, and that’s what we call a secondary infection.”

This could also affect very old or very young clients, or people on medications such as immunosuppressants. Not cleaning the gown could also increase risk.

Tracey recommends: Use a necktie, or work with one use, disposable gowns.


Scenario two: A client comes in for a skin fade. You get them settled in the chair and then set to work… down with the brush, up with the clipper, down with the brush, up with the clipper and so on.

Tracey’s first thought is that brushing the hair vigorously is rarely a good thing – it causes so much damage, both to the hair itself and the scalp. “Once the skin is abrased, and the top layer of the skin is taken off, then bacteria and fungus can actually get into the skin, and get down to the deeper layer”. This can cause the types of infection that we discussed before, especially if things aren’t cleaned properly.

Tracey recommends: Proper sanitisation! “It’s alright to have a barbicide jar, but what I’ve seen is that after using a comb people will just put it straight in. That’s no good, you have to clean it first. Putting it in water is not going to remove that oil and dirt. You have to clean it first with a detergent, then rinse it, then put it in the barbicide jar with fresh barbicide”.


Scenario three: You’re giving a client a hot towel shave, using a towel that was cleaned in a domestic washing machine and a blade that was used on a previous client. You’re also using a barber brush that was rinsed with hot water.

  • Many of the issues we’ve discussed would apply here – such as bacterial or fungal infections being passed on via the equipment.
  • If the towel has been boil washed then that will offer good protection, but a standard wash cycle won’t sterilise equipment.
  • Water on its own isn’t sufficient. Equipment needs to be washed with detergent and, ideally, sterilised too. You can sterilise the brush by dipping just the bristles in barbicide. It’s also fine to use Milton sterilising fluid, which is commonly used for sterilising baby equipment, especially if you want something slightly gentler.


So many useful tips packed into this interview! Mostly, though, it all comes down to keeping things clean – and that means washing your hands properly as well as sterilising tools. Look out for part two of this interview, where I’ll share some more quickfire tips from Tracey, and hopefully give you all the information you need to put the tips you’ve read here into action.

Follow me as Larry the Barber Man on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube to make sure you don’t miss what’s sure to be one of the most important interviews of the year.


STOP!!! Barbershop Diseases, Trichologist Explains All Part 2

Quickfire hygiene tips from trichologist Tracey Walker


Hopefully you’ve already checked out part. 1 of my interview with former hairdresser and trichologist Tracey Walker. If not, I’d recommend taking a look, as Tracey gives some fascinating insights into the possible infections that can be picked up at a barbershop… as well as genuinely useful information for avoiding them.

Now, though, it’s on to part two, and I wanted to ask Tracey’s opinion on some specific barbershop issues that have been on my mind.


First up: does she think it’s a good idea to use gloves instead of washing hands between cuts?

“I don’t really. There are situations where gloves should be used, but if you’re sitting down for a haircut and somebody comes along all gloved up then you might sit there and wonder what they’re going to do to you!

“Also, I think it’s important that we do touch people’s heads. If there’s the smallest bump or abrasion we may miss it – wearing gloves, you don’t always feel what’s happening.”

This could also make you too complacent about washing hands in general: not a good thing for a barber. Finally, if somebody was infected to the point that you felt you had to use gloves then you shouldn’t cut their hair at all, as you may move the infection around”.


Next up, I asked whether the dusting brush can be an area of concern.

The main issue here would be head lice. Specifically, if you draw headlice out with a comb and then leave the comb next to a dusting brush, then they may migrate to the bristles. The best thing to do is to avoid cutting the hair of anybody who has lice – and if a brush does pick up lice then just get rid of it!


What does a trichologist like Tracey think about industry regulation?

“It’s a difficult one. I think it would be important to try and regulate the industry, and even have inspections. In hair salons the chemicals that are used are so strong, and the blades, the clippers, all the electrical equipment – you have to be trained in these areas”.


Finally, then, what is Tracey’s overall advice to barbershop owners?

“First of all, hairdressers and barbers in my experience are people who care about people. They want to make them look good, give them the latest style, make them feel good. And I feel like looking after your client, you not only give them the best cut you can, but you’ve got to look after their health as well. You have to keep in mind what can happen.

“So just simple little things like remembering to wash your hands between each client – we don’t know what they have, and they may not have anything, but it’s just good practice. And to wash them properly, and to dry them as well.

“Have a couple of barbicide jars, and give your comb a good wash with some detergent – it doesn’t need to be time consuming. So just two simple things there: washing your hands, and making sure that equipment is actually put in the barbicide jar, clean, would go a long way towards making sure that you’re looking after your client in the best possible way.”

A big thank you to Tracey for providing so much useful information – I genuinely think that these tips could make or break a barber shop so definitely put it into practice! And don’t forget to come and find me as instagram, Facebook and YouTube, as that’s where you’ll find more great interviews with industry experts.



Irish Barber: Leah Cassidy Shares Her philosophy To Barbering Success

Leah Hayden Cassidy (find her on Instagram as Hayden_Cassidy) is an Irish barber working out of Berlin. After just three years cutting hair she’s done so much that it’s difficult to know how best to describe her. Suffice to say that her barbershop work has covered everything from fades to shaves to afro cuts, while she’s also claimed victory in barber battles, taken to the stage and appeared in magazines. It was a real pleasure to have her in the interview chair.


The path less travelled

When you first meet Leah, it’s immediately clear that she’s not somebody who would be satisfied resting on her laurels. It’s no surprise that she took a path less travelled into barbering, teaching herself the trade after her original dream – becoming a footballer – fell apart thanks to a bad leg injury:

“I had to rethink basically my whole life. It was hard at the start – I had numerous jobs including being a dance instructor. I also did bar jobs… any job, you name it.” After this, she fell into barbering by accident, when Conor Taaffe decided to let her give it a go and liked what he saw. “He said listen, you can hold the clippers well, as soon as they were in your hand it was comfortable. Did you enjoy it? I did enjoy it, so I decided to take it from there.”

Armed with just a basic set of clippers, Leah started her new career by cutting hair whenever she could find the time. The journey took her to Ryan Cullen’s salon, where she swept the floor whilst watching Ryan and Conor work and falling in love with the industry more by the second. Her initiation came as Conor handed her a first pair of scissors, and she hasn’t looked back:

“I found that same passion and love which I’d found in football and didn’t think I was going to find again. I became addicted to the industry.”


Talking her way to the top

While there’s no doubting Leah’s talent, she also started out with a lot of bravado – blagging her first barbershop role:

“I went in and said I’ve been cutting hair for a while, will you give me a chance. He said ‘I tell you what, come in on New Year’s Eve and you can have a trial.’ Looking back now I don’t even know how I got through it. I was just cutting hair and talking to clients as if I’d been in the industry for 5 years. At the end he just laughed and said ‘it’s obvious you haven’t been doing this a while but I’ll give you a chance and take you on as a junior barber.’”

Despite being back at the beginning in terms of a career, Leah was finally doing something that she lived again. She stayed in her first job for 6 months – and you can still see the early cuts preserved for posterity on her Instagram page. Eventually, she moved on to Demon barbershop, another Dublin barbershop, and a chance to take things to the next level.

There was still plenty of opportunity to learn and grow, though, and Leah started to get itchy feet. This took her to a new challenge in a completely different country, after Miguel invited her to join him at the Nomad Barber in Berlin:

“He’s amazing. He was one of the first barbers I actually followed online. I watched all his videos, and they helped me to learn. I was amazed by him, still to this day he’s a very inspiring barber to me. He contacted me and said he was setting up this shop in Berlin and asked if I was interested. I knew this was the direction that I needed to take with my career – two weeks later I jumped on a plane and started working in the Nomad.

“It took me into a whole other world I remember the first time I sat in the shop, it was my first day. Miguel was in the middle of a shave and I was in awe. It was actually like the blade was attached to his hand. It brought a little fire into me.”

Long term Larry the Barber Man followers will have certainly seen Miguel interviewed here in the past – if you have then you’ll know just how inspiring he can be. After speaking to Leah, though, it’s also no surprise to hear that she eventually started getting itchy for another new challenge:

“I was there a year and I felt like I had done what I set out to do. I wasn’t ready to leave Berlin, but I felt I was just too comfortable in what I was doing. I wanted to get myself out there and learn something else. A client I had who is a barber in England told me that he’d been to the London barber school, and then he’d done a hairdressing course, then worked at a Turkish barbershop for a while, then an Afro barbershop for a while and so on. Then he opened up his own shop. It got into my head, that’s the way to do it: throw yourself in the deep.”

This took her to Ebony and Ivory, a big salon in Berlin specialising in afro hair: “There was such a buzz. If you’ve seen the movie barbershop then you’ll know, it’s a proper community.” Yet again there was a little bit of blagging involved, as Leah bigged up her minimal Afro experience to make sure she could land an incredible learning opportunity.


Taking to the stage

It’s a testament to Leah’s skill and work ethos that she managed to excel in this afro cutting environment without much prior experience – not least because it’s incredibly difficult to cut afro hair if you don’t have the technique. Not content to simply cut well, though, Leah took to the stage of an underground Berlin club to participate in a barber battle. No prize for guessing what happened next:

“I was up there with 3 other barbers. I only knew a handful of people, I was the only female barber there and these were all afro barbers. I could see everyone sort of thinking… who is this? But it was great going into that environment, I just went up there, got on stage and cut this drunk guy’s hair. I had 20 minutes, and I did the haircut. Then it was the crowd that chose the winner – whoever got the most screams won. They left me until last, and I swear I have never heard my name screamed that much!”

But Leah is no stranger to getting up on stage, as she’s also done educational displays and performances at a number of different events:

“My first show was actually at the Great British Barber Bash. Alan Beak was sort of pushing to get me up there, which was great because I didn’t believe much in myself at the time – I’d only been cutting for about a year. It was amazing, but nerve-wracking as well. I think my hands shook for the whole 45 minutes. I am quite used to talking to a crowd, it doesn’t bother me. That show was semi-successful, and I was asked to do more and more – London, Glasgow again, Amsterdam, Ireland. It’s so nice to get on stage and vibe with other barbers”.

Paying it forwards

We’ve talked a lot about Leah’s skills and experience – it’s also important to point out just how friendly and welcoming she is. This comes across in her barbering philosophy, which is all about giving something back:

“Whatever you gain yourself, give it back out. I’m currently in the process of making YouTube tutorials. I’m flying back tomorrow and going to start filming – I just want to create a tutorial that’s a little bit creative. I’m self-taught, so I always say: how I do things, it’s not right and it’s not wrong. It’s just the way I do it.” You’ll be able to find these videos under the name Hayden Cassidy Hair.

So after three very different years in barbering, what has been Leah’s favourite challenge?

“What I’m doing now. Seeing a whole different type of hair and community. It’s just challenged me so much more, taking it to the next level. But in the future, I might try and step back into hairdressing a little more.”

We also talked briefly about the challenges of being a female barber – although Leah prefers to think of herself simply as a barber. “I’ve never used it as an excuse, but there are challenges. I never really noticed it in Ireland or the UK, but in Germany there have been more issues with clients who say things like ‘you don’t have a beard, how are you going to cut mine?’ But that’s fine – get out of my chair and I’ll cut the next person. Basically, a barber is a barber. Don’t put too much attention on it.”

Finally, I wanted to find out which figures have inspired Leah’s barbering journey, and get some words of wisdom for others who might be just starting theirs. Conor Taaffe, Jay Murray, the Beak brothers and Kevin Luchmun are the lucky barbers are all namechecked as big sources of inspiration – an impressive array of barbers who have all brought their own creative spin to the industry.

When it comes to Leah’s own advice, she says: “it’s not all about social media. Take yourself back to the barbershop and realise that your clients are the people that are there for you. Gain as much knowledge as you can. I don’t think you’ll ever know enough in this industry. Keep sharing knowledge the that you’re receiving, and just step back from the bigger picture and focus on you, that chair and your client.”


Wonderful advice from a wonderful barber. Don’t forget to follow me on YouTube if you want to see more – and, as always, I’m on Instagram and Facebook as Larry the Barber Man, posting regular updates that keen barbers shouldn’t want to miss.




Interview With Barber Jack Robinson Pullen Of MBA (Mobile Barbering Academy)

I am always looking for new talent to bring to you in my interviews, and Jack Anderson Pullen was an easy choice. At 25 years old, he’s already a 12-year professional and he’s been running the popular Mobile Barbering Academy since he was just 19.

A veteran competitor, he’s a Wahl British Barber of the Year, two-time BBA Master Barber finalist, winner of the 2014 NHF and has many more accolades. He’s also found time to open his own salon in Thirsk in North Yorkshire and has another ready to go in Catterick.

Oh, he is also brand ambassador for SCISSORHANDS, the high-quality professional scissors well-loved among the best barbers.

Other than that, not much happening, right, Jack?

“It can become difficult to manage the schedule,” he agreed when he squeezed in a few moments in the Takara Belmont chair for an interview with me at Barber Connect. “My girlfriend will tell you I am very much a flitter. When I do something, I will do it passionately, but it may be 6 or 7 things at one time. “

Jack has been running full throttle since he was just 13. “I started in a salon in Milton Keynes called One Salon with Graham Horne, a fantastic hairdresser. Over the years I‘ve been fortunate to work with a lot of people you have interviewed,” he told me. “Tony Roberts, Greg Mc Cerlane and a few others. I eventually moved up north to open my first barbershop with my girlfriend in North Yorkshire, called King and Captain.”

Starts Mobile Barbering Academy while still a teen

Jack started the Mobile Barbering Academy at just 19 years old (“with my mom” he says with a laugh) because of his keen appreciation for education and the fact high costs made it out of reach for so many.

“I felt courses were expensive,” he said “ I didn’t have the money at 19 myself, so I wanted to come up with something I could offer people booking these courses to bring them more knowledge, and make additional education accessible to them.”

Working with just his mum, “we’d go to salons and we give out educational materials – a pack of 50 pages. We would do demos and work with individuals on their weaknesses and adding new skills.”

This kind of ambition is bound to grow, and today Jack has a team of 12 at Mobile Barbering, delivering courses in salon shops and colleges all over the country.

His success has given him a possible dilemma many barbers would love to have. “My long-time dream is to be a member of the Wahl artistic team,” he says. “But it would be a conflict of interest right now, and a big decision about whether to pass the Academy onto someone else in order to join the Wahl team, if that were to happen. But right now, I am happy doing what I am doing.”

Not that Jack is hurting for brand deals. He’s been with Scissorhands for three years, an adventure that started oddly: his car was broken into.

“I lost a lot of equipment in the theft, and after I’d saved up to buy a pair of scissors, I started by going to AUK and met Linda from Scissorhands. I bought a set, used them to enter competitions and sent the pictures back to Ashley Howard and Linda to show them what I’d done. They offered me Salon International and a one hour slot, which turned into a day slot, which turned into a weekend slot which turned into becoming an educator for them. It’s all about helping people.”

Why Jack prefers his 50+ Scissorhands scissors to most clippers

As a competitor and platform barber, Jack has made his name with textured, feathered, what he calls ‘soft” cuts. “I love my patterns and skintight work but what separates me is that I started as a hairdresser and moved into barbering. Everything is a lot softer (in hairdressing).

“The strong, sharp square shapes that a lot of people are producing – their work is fantastic. But for me, I like a lot softer, so I like using my scissors more than my clippers.”

I’ve never seen Jack without a belt at his waist holding as many as 50 scissors. Here was my chance to ask about that. He covers the Scissorhands basics.

“There’s the straight blade which can vary in length from 5.5 to 7 inches, and our trademark scissor – called the EVO – which is a texturing, layering scissors with 15 teeth. This makes life easier because you don’t have to go back to do three different jobs by cutting your baseline, point cutting, texturizing. You can do everything in one hit.”

“We talk about a kit, a traditional barber kit, which for us is one short blade which you work inside the knuckle and by point cutting, if you ever need to point cut – with the EVO you don’t really need to do that. “

“The long blade is your scissor-over-comb and your bulk removal and your soft cut, better for softening blend lines.”

“You can work through the whole back and sides of a gent’s haircut using the soft cut: your traditional thinning scissors, your EVO – which is your layering – and your all-in-one, which I call the Swiss army knife of scissors.”

As for the dozens of scissors on his belt, Jack says Scissorhands believes every scissor has a unique job and a unique talent using it, so there custom Scissorhands designs feature many variations, colors and different types of steels.

The Wahl team keeps coming up, and when he talks of the future, Jack says the Wahl dream is still there/ “When I reached the final of the Wahl competition and got up on their stage in front of hundreds of people at Salon International I achieved one of my dreams. It is still burning inside of me to win competitions I’ve got one more dream – to get on the Wahl artist team eventually.

“If you’re passionate, you don’t always come across as you should”

Jack’s intensity earned him an early reputation as a rambunctious sort, which he doesn’t shy away from. “If you are passionate, you don’t always come across the way you should,” he says. “I write for BarberEVO and I spoke to them recently about a piece that was designed to come across hotheaded in order to separate view and make people think about views.”

Luke Dolan wrote article about egos in the industry, and I think he was saying it’s more of a case that people are passionate about things and they don’t believe in each other’s views and sometimes it conflicts.”

That’s true as far as it goes, Jack believes, but he’s also recommending the value of listening and appreciating mentors. “People above you in terms of age and experience, such as Chris Foster, have given me yeas of advice and guidance, even though we are in competition now since he has an academy, too. Mike Taylor is another. I still go to them and look up to them because they have been at it a long time.

It’s clear to me Jack’s passion about making people think is connected to his determination to never stop learning and growing, something that he offers as his top piece of advice for barbers coming up.

“Have an open mind,” He says. “I’ve worked with people who have been cutting hair for forty years and are still open to learning. I know people who have worked for five years for only one person and have closed off their minds.”

“Gary Machin, Eric Lander at the BBA, there are so many great ambassadors with great views and passion so always look to everybody – younger or older – to take experience and knowledge from.

“The most important thing is to be open to learning and never disregard a technique or product or tool. Don’t ever limit yourself.”

To see my entire video interview with Jack, stop by my YouTube channel http://www.barbers.TV

Until next time, Happy Barbering!