Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Vince, the co-owner of Grey Matter in North Hollywood, California. Vince is also a motivational speaker for the barbering community and an educator, amongst many other things.
We begin our talk with, what else, the beginning of his journey, and what inspired him to become a barber. Vince tells me, “I used to draw a lot, growing up. I was really into art, so a lot of my homies would ask me to draw something. Usually, it was the Nike swish or the Adidas logo – stuff like that. Literally, all I would do was line-ups and designs. I didn’t know how to do fades, or anything like that. Our homie that used to do the cuts for all of us, I would go to his house, get my hair cut and ask him about learning how to cut hair. I wanted to be a barber, just as a side thing at the time. I started off with that and became pretty good at it. I started cutting at high school, cutting all my homies, family members and the like. It was a hobby, then I found out I was really passionate about it. I knew I could turn it into career. I did go to school for engineering but dropped out after the first year. I wanted to become a barber.”
What is it that makes Grey Matter different than any other barbershop? Vince tells me, “I started off with Capsule, which was a store-front shop. When things hit the fan with that, we went our separate ways, and wanted to do something different. The way we were at Capsule was that we wanted to set the bar to a whole other level than what everyone else was doing. So, instead of doing a store-front, we did a private loft setup. Grey Matter is definitely not only a barbershop, but a lifestyle brand. When I started Capsule, I wanted to do a lot of collaborations with other brands and companies. Grey Matter feels like a name that other brands would more readily work with. You see the name Grey Matter, and you don’t even think of a barbershop. We’re not only selling haircuts, we’re selling the experience. The whole thing with us coming out here in Europe and doing the Gap Tour, our whole team is working to bridge the gap between barbershop and salon and having them come together.”
And what of unique services offered at Grey Matter? “We try to keep everything uniform,” he explains. “Starting with what we wear, it’s just monochrome colors. Nothing flashy. The music we play is not all Trap or crazy Rap. We actually play some Frank Sinatra or some R&B, depending on the time of day. We also offer beverages. But, again, it’s the whole experience. We want to make sure that every client that sits in our chairs gets the same experience. So, when you ask about unique services, the whole thing is really more about a unique experience.”
“As far as what kind of styles I enjoy doing at the shop,” he continues as I ask my next question, “—coming from Toronto, a lot of our cuts, when I was still living over there, were just simple fades. At the time, faux hawks were also in. Now, I feel like it is more about styling, like with pompadours, undercuts and the comb-over requests I get. I learned a lot through Julius and a couple of the guys at the shop, a lot of which are also educators. There’s always room for learning. We’re all just growing as a team.”
In the social evening in which our talk is taking place, I ask him what Vince has learned from our very own Kevin Luchmun. “I’ve heard about him for a while now,” Vince admits. “I go on his Instagram and watch his videos. Going to these hair shows and seeing him on stage, doing his thing, and to be here in London, his hometown, is inspiring. Like I said before, I learn a lot from watching other people. Just coming here early and watching all the barbers here at Champs’ cut is just so cool to see. I can learn from it and go back to LA and try it out for myself.”
Speaking of LA, I tell Vince that it was a very bold move to move to Los Angeles, leaving behind all he had known and starting with nothing. I ask him what his thought process behind the move was. “I was cutting for a while, going on fourteen years now. Toronto was dope, it was busy. I had no room for more clients. The only logical next step was for me to open my own shop there, but before all of that I had always wanted to move far away and see if I could make something of myself. The way I always up for a new challenge. I was like, “LA has a lot of opportunity, that’s where all the stars are – let’s try it out”.
It turned out to be a good move for Vince, as he has a long list of A-list clients that most barbers would die for. I ask him how he managed to procure such an impressive range of clients. “Moving to LA, I didn’t know a lot of people. What I did know was that a lot of celebrities are in town all the time. So, I would try to hit up every industry party. All the biggest clubs out there, and parties, I would just go in and have my business cards out. Next thing I know, I get a phone call. One of my first A-listers, a music artist by the way, was Tyrese. I’ve been working with him for six years now, and he’s put me on with a bunch of people. He’s got me on damn near every TV or movie set you can think of. Even when I’m on set, I’m still networking. That was my thing, networking with everyone as much as was possible in LA, and that’s put me with a lot of my A-list clients.”
Being the Barberman, I ask Vince if he can give me three of his marketing techniques. “Before I moved to LA, Instagram wasn’t even a thing. A lot of people nowadays, I feel, focus too much on social media. Which works, don’t get me wrong, but ever since we moved on to Grey Matter, I’ve been telling them to use a Gorilla Movement approach. That’s where you go out on the street, hand out business cards and flyers, because that stuff works. You’ve got to actually go out there and get your clientele. Learn how to be sociable. That’s how I got my clientele. I went back to the old ways of marketing, and I think it’s damn near the best way to do it. You’ve got barbers with thousands of followers, but if you go to their shop, they’re just chilling. You need to learn how to turn those followers into money. To this day, I use social media, but wherever I’m at, I am still talking to people and handing out business cards.”
Moving on from marketing, we next discuss his motivational gigs. “Growing up, I just learned my craft through other barbers. I never went to school to get my license until I came out here, but even that wasn’t enough for me. Every day, I get people, like young barbers, telling me that they’ve watched my videos on Youtube and telling me that I’m an inspiration. That alone is the reason I am doing this. Not for the fame, not for the followers, to make money, sure, but also to inspire the world. The way I see it, you never want to be comfortable. That’s one thing I push – don’t feel like you’re stuck. I want you to do what you love.” “The minute you start to feel comfortable is the minute you need to make yourself uncomfortable in order to grow” is how I summarize Vince’s philosophy.
Coming from someone who is so invested in the industry, I ask Vince what he would like to see change in it. He sums it up as, “Less hate. Every time I do or host battles, I stress that. We’re all in this together. LA is the perfect example. Before I opened up Capsule, I would hear all about how barbers didn’t even really talk to each other, or would hate on each other. So, in short, I just wish there was less hate.”
Asked about his greatest moment in barbering, Vince tells me it’s hard to narrow down. So I ask him to pick two instead of one. “The first one, I’d have to say, was Jules and I going to Japan. You know why? Because, like a lot of barbers say, who would’ve thought our clippers would take us that far? I never thought I would travel across the world as a barber. The other big moment for me was when I was leaving Capsule. It was my baby, but the biggest thing that came out of it was my team. I told them that they could stay and keep making money, but they all followed me. I did one Hell of a job to keep these guys.”
For those following Vince, he also has a new brand coming out called The Barber Backpack. I ask him to speak a bit on that. “It should be dropping by next summer,” Vince reveals. “I just wanted to come out with something that hasn’t been done. Barbers have to have a case, but one, it doesn’t protect their tools, and two, you still carry your backpack anyways. The barber game has grown so much that now almost every barber is mobile. So, I wanted to create something that is just easier for people to travel with.” Barbers and enthusiasts should definitely keep an eye out come next summer, in that case.
Vince shares with me some of the big names that he has done house calls for. “It’s a blessing to be able to go to these houses and build a relationship with people who I look up to, see in movies, and all that. It’s just a humbling experience. I was able to cut Diddy, which was huge for me. Shout out to Rich the Barber from Miami for hooking that up. I got to do Drake as well, a couple of basketball players that I used to idolize. It’s just been cool, and I intend to keep building and growing.”
Finally, Vince offers his parting advice for other aspiring barbers out there. “Ask yourself this: is barbering what you really want to do? If so, be passionate about your craft. Stay hungry, stay motivated and, most of all, humble.” Vince is not just a barber for A-listers, but an A-lister himself when it comes to living the barber life.
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