Today, I sit down at Brad’s Barbershop in Upminster with Myles Lewis, founder of the Guerilla Barber Charity and Alex Perry, co-owner of Brad’s Barbershop.
We start, of course, with what inspired them to get into barbering. We go to Myles first: “I basically wanted to work in an industry where I enjoyed what I did. I’m from a marketing and sales background, and I’ve been cutting hair since I was a kid; never trained. I was literally just doing shaves for my brother’s hair, but I knew I liked it and that I had some kind of flair for it. I saw a video by some guy in America, but it was how barbering changed his life and it showed the barbering industry, so I just jumped right it.” Fitting that Myles would see a video on barbering changing lives and go on to form the Guerilla Barber Charity that has done the same for so many.
Alex, on the other hand, did hairdressing first. “I was a hairdresser for about four years, and I liked it, but it became tedious and I knew it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Watching Adee Phelan doing men’s hair inspired me to specialize in it. Then Brad, my business partner, opened a shop and told me to come in two days a week – it pretty much took off from there.”
Both of them are self-taught, they reveal. Myles Youtubed a lot of his information and got to attend the London School of Barbering eventually, which he naturally jumped on. “I’ve learned a lot from Brad and the Guerilla Barbering boys,” Myles tells me.
Naturally, the subject turns to Myles’ charity the Guerilla Barber Charity. “. I can’t remember when it was, probably about a year ago, I thought to myself, I want to go to London with a foldout chair, some cordless clippers, and cordless trimmers, cut some people’s hair. If I get some tips, I’ll just nip out to wherever, get the homeless guys some food. Kind of make it a nice little thing.” With a few more involved, the charity snowballed into what it is today. Having seen the event for myself, I know that it was absolutely insane, and Myles continues on: “We’ve basically got more and more people involved, and put it out there on social media. There’s me, Luke, Chris, Sam, Nathan, Greg, and Alex, from today, will become another one of our ambassadors. We’ve got a great team behind us, some really highly skilled barbers. We’re doing pop-up shops, and other bits all over London. Last year, we did it for Crisis homeless charity, and this year we’re doing it for Centrepoint, which is 16- to 25-year-olds who have dealt with homelessness.”
Guerilla Barber charity has also done events to raise awareness of homelessness in Manchester, on a recent scale. Alex pitches in this time, as a newly anointed ambassador, “we went to Manchester in November last year. It’s called the Homeless FA Tournament, first football street tournament, and international football street tournament. To be honest, doing the first event last August, then Manchester November, I was hooked on it. As a barber, there’s not a lot you can do with your skills to help the homeless. Like Myles said, you give them free haircuts and they grow out. Being out of work, doing these events and helping barbering, actually cut hair for people and the money goes and helps these things like the Homeless FA, it’s great.”
And how would those who want to get involved do so? May 1st, 206 will be host to another event in the Shoreditch or East London area – TBA. “We’re going to have concession stands where people can basically bring some clippers down and sell them. 10% will go, from whatever anyone takes on their concession, to the charity, and to Guerrilla Barbering and who we support. It’s something that we really want to get going annually, and more national than just London. We’re starting small. We’ve only been doing it just over a year. It’s planting the seed and growing the tree basically, see what we can do from there.” Myles adds.
As for barbers, Alex and Myles advise: Guerrilla Barbering on Facebook, Instagram @guerrillabarbering, Twitter @guerrillabarber. Contact us through there, or you can speak to Al on Instagram @alexthebarber90, @myleslewisbarber. Anyone you see with a picture with a gorilla’s head on it is pretty much Guerrilla Barbering, so you can speak to anyone that’s involved and they’ll always point you in the right direction.”
With my recent interview with Gary Machin, chairman on the Barber Council, I ask Alex and Myles about their feelings on registration. “The way it should work,” Alex answers, “—is that it should be made more public that barbers have to be standardized. In America, everyone knows it.” He agrees with Myles that it is obsolete if there are people registered who aren’t very good at their craft, but both agree that awareness should be spread if there is going to be more momentum behind the #get registered campaign and other awareness campaigns for registration.
And what are these two loving about the barbering industry right now? “I like the way that everyone has been over to America,” Myles tells me. “Like yourself. We’ve never really had a presence from the UK over there. Alan and Reece Beak went to LA, and they’re the kind of people that should be over there.”
“I really like the fact that the UK is getting exposure over there, and to have any kind of influence on the American barbering industry, which is huge, is fantastic.”
As for their dislikes, outside of the state of registration, Myles and Alex both chip in. Myles tells me, “There’s a lot of Instagram numbers, but the numbers don’t match the skillsets. You can have a lot of followers, but that doesn’t make you a stellar barber or a barber celebrity. I don’t personally care about Instagram. If you get some good followers, brilliant. You see someone like Jay Roboff, who does work with us over in Sheffield, and he’s amazing. Others see it and thing, “well, it’s not a fade” so it’s only got three likes, or whatever. It’s like we have industry sheep, and we really need to break that.” Alex agrees that barbers are largely judged by their fades in the media, and little else. “There’s so many who are in it for the limelight. A good fade is a talent, don’t get me wrong, but there is so much more out there.”
Finally, their advice to barbers who might be on the fence. Alex tells me that they should concentrate on themselves at the end of the day. Be inspired by what is around you directly. If you want to go into the industry, you’ve got to be open-minded about it, and concentrate on yourself and your work.
Myles adds in that he believes that barbers need to go in for the right reasons, and concentrate on their work. “Be serious about it. If you feel you need to be a barber because you want to make people look better and feel better about themselves, do it.”
In Barberman fashion, I have to turn the conversation to their tools. Myles tells me they are using, at the moment: Andis Fade Masters (US version), the GTX Andis, Andis T-Liners, cordless SuperTapers with a MagicClip blade on, a pair of Wahl Seniors and T-Cuts by Wahl. Alex pitches in with his own tool kit, and a bit of a story, “About six months ago, we got robbed, and all of my kit got stolen. That was everything I had built up over the years. Since then, I’ve been trying to find my setup again. Right now, I’m using: the Andis Masters (US version), Wahl cordless SuperTapers with a MagicClip blade and an Andis SlimLine Pro Trimmer.” Quite the impressive set of tools, if I do say so myself.
To keep up with Myles, Alex and the Guerilla Barber charity crew, you can check out their Facebook at Facebook.com/guerrillabarbering or follow them on Twitter @guerillabarber, or Instagram @mylewisthebarber and @alexthebarber90.
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