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Vince The Barber Of Grey Matter LA, Inspirational Interview With Larry

 

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.

 

If you enjoyed this interview, please be sure to subscribe to see more interviews, tutorials and content! For more information, you can email me at: info@larrythebarberman.com. I’d also like to invite you to follow me on Instagram @larrythebarberman for other free barbering content. You can also email me at info@larrythebarberman.com

 

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Barber Interview: Gareth Clark Talks About Barber Standards With Larry…

Today, I get a chance to speak with Gareth Clark – barbershop owner, and member of the Barber Council. Gareth is a qualified assessor, educator and a campaigner questing to raise the standards of British Barbering.

Naturally, I ask him about where he started in barbering first. Garteth tells me, “I kind of just fell into the industry. My father was a barber, and I was a spoty sixteen years old just about to leave school and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My Dad told me to get a job, and that I should head down to the barbershop who were, at the time, looking for an apprentice. Just to keep him quiet, I went down and never looked back. I was one of the lucky people that fell into this industry and I absolutely love it. I love everything about it: the social side, and how the way the industry is so popular and at the moment. We’re finally getting recognition for who we are. For years, we’ve been seen as the little brother to hair dressers. Some of us are educated and very passionate about this industry – I want to see the best for it.”

 

What is it that sets Gareth’s shop apart from all the others in the area? “I decided to open this business thirteen year ago and, in the back of my head, I had my own little vision for it. I wanted to keep the traditional feel, but also put a slightly more modern twist. I also decided I wanted to try and put what was being done within a hair dresser’s salon at the time; giving people a little bit more. As I say to all my members of staff here, each haircut you’re producing is a walking advert, and that advert has got to be perfect. I just want it stand out, to be seen as a good individual who cares for the industry.”

 

Speaking of the walking adverts, I ask him what kind of haircuts he might refuse, in theory. “I don’t refuse anything,” he assures. “We see the trends out of London, and the hard parts are coming up shaved up to the top of the line and similar things like that. I’m not a fan of them, but I’m not going to refuse to do it. They’ll be showing me all of these images off of Instagram and social media and you have to basically adapt to the individual and where they are working. For instance, we’ve had incidents where kids have come in asking for haircuts, and then gone back to school and found out their haircuts are too short, and they get excluded from it. You have to use your head a bit in situations like that, but no, I don’t refuse them.” Asked if he consults his clients, he agrees, saying he believes people will see that he cares about what he is doing and his professionalism by doing so.

 

We return to the subject of Gareth being an educator. “I’m in quite a privileged position,” he tells me when I ask what he brings to the education industry. “I’ve worked hard to get into it, and I’m not one of the five minute wonders. I’ve been in this industry since I was sixteen, I’ve learned my trade for twenty-five years, and I think that is what has driven me on to get into education. I’ve seen assessors coming into this salon from trading providers, and they’ve sat in those waiting chairs while assessments are going on and have not paid one bit of attention to it. It’s just so, so wrong in my eyes. I took it upon myself because I am wanting to help and put things right. I’ve gotten involved with them, done my assessors work with them, so I can then be involved with signing off NVQs; it is giving something back. I got my basic teaching award, and I want to go do my IV award as well. I want to be assessing assessors. I honestly believe you need someone who knows the industry up top so the effects can trickle down.”

“I believe in state registration as well,” he continues. “I think it’s all got to be put into place, and that we’ve all got to do it. The Barber Council is a fairly wide cross-section of the industry. You have: trade people, rewarding bodies, barbers, etc. Sally Styles has done a brilliant job. Registration is best for the industry, and that is why there is a cross-section of people who sit around this council table. We all want the best for the industry. Is it right that so-and-so down the road can cut your hair, give you a shave and then go on to the next person without any qualifications? That cross-contamination can happen because they don’t use gloves? I don’t think so.”

 

I have mentioned before that barbers in America are always surprised to learn there is no standard, which I tell Gareth. I always say, when the subject comes up, that educating the public is important. An educated public will come in and ask their barbers if they are state registered or not. “As a council who is trying to be more active this year,” Gareth adds, “we’re trying to do more shows, to talk to people, and to build a bigger presence. We’ll be doing a seminar at Barber UK this year that you can sit down at and ask questions. People need to come to it. There’s two hundred and fifty seats there, and it is the best time for them to ask their questions.” I suggest that they hit magazines, more television and tabloids when it comes to getting the word out about state registration, and Gareth agrees with me.

“The biggest question people ask at the moment is “What am I getting for my forty-two pounds” Gareth says in reference to the Barber Council fee. It’s not what you’re getting, it is what you think you should be doing for the industry. The Barber Council and Hair Council are wanting to put the industry in the right place. It’s a long journey, and we know that. We haven’t gotten enough of a following, which is why we need people on board now.” To help make state registration compulsory, Gareth tells me he does quite a bit on social media, as well as seminars and education days.

 

Speaking of social media, I ask him what he thinks the positives and negatives are that social media has had on the industry. For the positives, he tells me, “I think it’s a fantastic way to get your message across. We personally use it as an advert for the business. I’m not one to shout at people to look at me. I’m more interested in putting the message across of what is in our salon, what the ethic is and showing people what we do.”

“The downside is that people tend to believe their own hype. When they’ve got their hundreds of thousands of followers for different social media sites, all of a sudden they are getting thousands of like on a picture. Congratulations, good for you, but does it say that you’re a barber? I’ll put my neck on the line and say that people have had their five minutes of fame, and all of a sudden they think they’re going to change the world. We’re barbers, at the end of the day, and we need to concentrate on that, and on getting our industry right.”

I ask if he believes that social media is creating a bubble in barbering that will eventually burst. “Absolutely,” he tells me. “There’s a lot of people who are coming into the industry because we’re cool at the moment. When I first started back in the late ‘80s, barbershops were struggling. Now, we’re growing, and that has produced a lot of one-trick ponies in the industry.” I later ask if he thinks a digital camera has become part of a barber’s toolkit, and he agrees that it has in terms of marketing. “We don’t ask customers for pictures, as we’ve got a busy salon, but we get opportunities to snap photos when we can.”

 

Gareth was also an ambassador for Hairbond, so I take the opportunity to ask him how he feels on the ambassadorships ability to sell, promote and make products seem cool. “I think it was a clever idea, because they can get free advertising from notable names in the industry. I did get involved with quite a bit of work with Hairbond, but I think you have to ask the question of what is an ambassador now, and what role do they play? I don’t think there is a beneficial point to being an ambassador, personally, unless you’re in the privileged position of working with an artistic team or doing stage work.”

 

I ask him to tell me about his work with the BBA, as it is an organization that many barbers do not understand. “I’ve been appointed as an educator for it. The benefits, again, are recognition. They’re one of the associations out there that are doing right for the industry. There are many more out there: BMB, MHFed, BBA, NHF – they all need to work together. I picked the BBA because I’ve got an association with Mike, and I’ve been lucky enough to get involved and do stuff with him. We get on really well.” Gareth gets his inspiration from many of the teams he works with, as well as within the shop.

 

In closing, what words of wisdom does he have for others out there? “Believe in what we do, unite and actually have the best of the industry in your heart. Stop backstabbing each other, as well.” Wise words from a man that truly has the best for the industry in his heart.

 

If you enjoyed this interview, please be sure to subscribe to see more interviews, tutorials and content! For more information, you can email me at: info@larrythebarberman.com. I’d also like to invite you to follow me on Instagram @larrythebarberman for other free barbering content. You can also email me at info@larrythebarberman.com

 

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The Best 3 cordless Rotary Motored Hair Clipper Review

Today, I sit down with Champ from Champ’s Barbers and Marc Republic, for something of a different style. Today, we’re going to be looking at rotary motored clippers and providing a bit of insight on them.

To kick-off, we’re starting with the BGR, which is an Andis clipper. Marc weighs in, “I love it. I’ve been using it for two or three years now. One thing I will say: it’s heavier on the backend because the battery is detachable. The clipper is obviously much heavier with the battery in. When I’m cutting, you can still feel the weight in the end – overall, it’s a great clipper.”

Asked about using the BGR with Andis guards, Marc continues, “I like the Andis guards because they have the ceramic under-blade. I love the way they feel, the three lines on the back, as they help my thumb have a better grip. It makes the clipper a little heavier, sure, but for me it is comfortable.”

Champ weighs in once Marc has finished, “To be honest, I started using the BGRs thanks to Marc. He showed me last year’s pair, and said, “Yeah, Champ, this is what you need”. It’s a bit chunky, sure, but it’s also comfortable in your hand. You can probably go on all day when it comes to battery life.” Marc also adds, “One thing I want to touch on, as he said, is the battery life. Even though it’s not the new Ion battery, the battery life is still pretty strong. I use them for a full day of work Friday and Saturday and don’t really have any issues with them going down.” Champ adds that he prefers the ceramic blades when it comes to using his Oster, and tells me that Oster blades do a good job when it comes to bulk; for him, it depends on the texture and thickness of the hair.

But how does it compare to a corded rotary motor e.g the Model 10 and the 76, itself being cordless? Marc tells me that he believes there is little difference, and that outside of the weight, he didn’t feel like he personally lost any power whatsoever. Champ adds, “Power-wise, it’s strong. If you put it on the charge stand, and take it off, it comes out really strong. With regards to a Model 10 or a 76, the 75 is obviously bigger. A Model 10 would be roughly the same size, but you’d have to be holding the cord in your other hand to work properly – there’s the real advantage.

Andis BGR Scores:

Champ: 8/10

Marc: 7.5 – 8 /10

 

Our next clipper is the Lithium Ion Oster Octane. Once again, we start with Marc. “Visually,” he explains, “—it is a beautiful looking clipper. It’s a little lighter than the BGR. If I close my eyes and pick it up off of my station, at least to me, it doesn’t feel that comfortable. The way I hold my fingers and where I place my thumb are at a sort of angle, and it makes holding it just doesn’t feel as natural to me. My only real complaint is the button placement, honestly. It’s a very lightweight and beautiful clipper, otherwise.” We also factor in the sound of the clipper, comparatively. Marc feels it is a little too loud, and also notes that most Osters tend to have a louder noise production than Andis detachables, at least in his experience. Champ adds in his own experience with the Oster Octane, referencing a time when he once on a kid and the noise made him cry straight away. “With this clipper, for some reason I really found that it worked well with comb stuff. When I held it like this, it felt nice, whereas the BGR, if feels like it’s a little bit light for that”

Lithium Ion Oster Octane Scores

Champ: 8 / 10

Marc: 7 / 10

 

Last, but not least, we bring up the new Andis ZR Super. I pass the floor once again to Marc. “Visually, I love it. It’s a beautiful clipper, and I’m big on design. It has five speeds, which is great, and I really love how smooth it is. It feels good to hold in every position. Plus, it’s got the lithium ion battery in it so the power remains consistent.”

“For a novice barber,” he continues, “—you might want lower speeds. You’d want that to add texture to the hair. The blade is a little slower, so you drop it down to a feather action with the shears. Some guys do a point-cut on the top to mimic shear work, for example, and it gives it that great jagged look. Another cool thing about changing speeds up is the effect it has on light. Lower speed, the light goes down, and so on.”

“I like playing with these speeds,” Champ adds. “I find that when I’m tapering at the back, I’ll sometimes hit a lower speed and the textures of the hair will come out a bit more softly. The battery life is unbelievable, and I’d say it is my go to at the moment for bulk.” The Andis ZR Super comes in very highly.

 

Marc: 7 / 10

Andis ZR Super

Champ: 9 / 10

Marc: 9 / 10

 

And there you have it – two barber champs and barber life living professionals weighing in on the top three rotary motored cordless clippers. Be sure to let me know your opinions on the clippers mentioned, whether you agree, disagree, or know of other clippers worth discussing.

 

 

For more information, you can email me at: info@larrythebarberman.com. I’d also like to invite you to check out more interviews, tutorials and content on my YouTube channel at: www.barbers.tv as well as following me on Instagram @larrythebarberman for other free barbering content or my Website: http://www.larrythebarberman.com

 

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