I was full of excitement and more than ready to meet Sam Donnelly on his home turf, Sam’s Barbers in Dublin – a family run chain which has been going since 1901, and is now owned by Sam alongside his brother James. This dedication to the family business, which has now passed down through four generations of Donnelly barbers, was more than enough to pique my interest, but as you learn more about Sam you realise that it’s really only the tip of the iceberg!
That’s because, with his brother he is also co-owner and founder of the Pomp & Co product range, an ambassador for Movember and a driving force behind the upcoming Barber Cut Expo which will be taking place in Dublin this October. I wonder how he manages to find the time and energy to do so much great work!
To find out a little more, I start by asking Sam about his experience, and his work at Sam’s Barbers. He tells me that it all started with his Great Grandfather, who passed the profession down through the family and finally to Sam and James; Sam now has 28 years of experience doing what he does best – cutting hair.
And as for a speciality, that’s simple: it has to be the classic shave. This has been complemented by the great Johnny Baba and I’m keen to hear exactly how he does it. Sam starts by telling me why it’s so effective: “It’s what I love doing, the whole theatre of it – that’s what makes my shave special.” He also tells me that, when done right, it should be therapeutic for the barber as well as the client. Then I get him to lay out the process, letting other barbers in on the secret of the Sam Donnelly shave. Here are the steps he lays out:
Start with a consultation once the client is in the chair, finding out about their usual shaving routine.
The first hot towel goes on, covered with a dry towel to lock in moisture.
Sam prefers to roll this towel up to cover the client’s eyes – it helps get them in the zone!
Lather the face, following it up with another hot towel and another lather.
Then it’s time for the first straight razor shave, another hot towel and more hot lather.
A second straight razor shave, followed up by a hot towel and then, this time, hot oil.
After using a brush to lather the face one last time, Sam uses a final hot towel to absorb the oil and avoid irritation.
To finish off, Sam tells me about cold witch-hazel, highly recommended by his friend and another great barber Donnie Hawley. This is naturally great or the skin and, with a cold towel and some light taps to the face, the blood will start flowing.
After all this, Sam tells me that his clients are ready to “put a white shirt on and go straight to the bar”. It certainly sounds relaxing… watch the full interview to hear more about Sam’s Barbers, and how they manage to make sure the standards are met across all 5 of their barbershops.
Sam gets really passionate talking about the shave, and almost as passionate again when he starts to tell me about the Pomp & Co brand. Like the barbershop, the roots lie in his family’s history, with several generations of barbers making their own creams, oils and tonics. After they felt a real urge to create something of their own, Sam and James felt like they simply had to develop the Pomp & Co range, now offering the widest variety in Ireland.
Finally, talk turns to Movember, Barber Cut and what Sam plans to do next. Each of these topics sparks that now familiar passion in Sam’s eyes as he shares the importance of each event: Movember is a chance for him to use his profession to give something back, while Barber Cut will be an expo with a difference – an educational event, with the chance to meet and chat to the performers, but with live music and a festival atmosphere.
And what’s next? Well, once these big events have passed, Sam sees himself finally returning to the shop floor, to ensure standards are still excelling and to learn from the group of barbering experts that he surrounds himself with. It certainly sounds like a lot of great work to be getting on with!
I for one am very much looking forward to Ireland’s first barber festival, and you can find out more about it by heading to their website. While you’re waiting to see some of your favourite barbers take to the stage, why not follow me on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook to see more great interviews with great barber? You can also get in touch by clicking here – I look forward to hearing from many more wonderful barbers.
I have a chance to talk to one barber Chris Moon, here in Glasgow. Chris is the owner of the Kuts Barbershop in Newcastle area. His family has been in the hair cut industry since 1938. He also sits on the barber council and used to be a competition barber. Having a shop in the family since 1938, Chris says he is in partnership with his dad, his brother and his step-dad. “The four of us are a very small family, but a very tight-knit family and we all work together”, he says.
Chris tells us that their barbering business started off with his grandfather in 1938. His grandfather started off in a small barber shop and thereafter expanded so that they own three shops now. Chris says that his father took over from their grandfather and his mother was a hairdresser until, unfortunately, she passed away. He says that the whole thing is kind of family oriented, so it was inevitable that he would become an excellent barber.
Due to their long history and heritage Kuts Barber Shop are fundamentally a traditional barber shop. The insides of the shop is filled with traditional wood furnishing. Chris goes on to explain that they don’t do traditional styles exclusively, but also modern drop fades and all that.
“We kind of play on the 1938 bit, that’s in our logo, so that’s what we’re really proud of and our head heritage is what has made us what we are today”.
When asked which one service attracts people the most to his barber shop, Chris says, “I think it’s the atmosphere. We’ve got a really good core team, we wouldn’t be where we are today without the staff we’ve got, our staff is the most important thing, because without them we have no business”. Although his family is made of great barbers, Chris believes that teamwork is the key to their great success. “I think that’s why people come to us because we’re a great team, the whole atmosphere and all of our shops are the same, no matter which one you go to, you get the same service from every single member of staff”.
Chris Moon goes on to tell me, he does not specialize in any single haircut. Being the good barber and hairdresser that he is, he knows that all customers are different. He understands that people change and so do trends. That is why he never wanted to be a one-trick pony but rather great at as many things as possible.
When asked about what goes on in the barber council, he tells us that he has gotten a chance to work with some of the biggest people in the industry including educators, Parada companies and the likes of Rachael from Modern Barber magazine. They all sit in the council and come up with great ideas on how to improve services for the guys on the streets. The barber council’s main goal is to ensure that the customers get quality services for what they pay for. “We’re in the fashion industry, fundamentally we’re in the fashion industry, and I think that’s forgotten sometimes, fashion isn’t about wearing an all-sequined t-shirt, or flashy shirt, fashion is every aspect of what you wear and how you look. So, the barber council is there to raise standards and make it better now in the industry”, he says. Although it is going to take time, Chris is determined to set the standards higher for everyone.
He further tells me that Kuts Barbershop is state registered and it shows that his team is well educated and they have high standards in their shop. He ensures that his shop is tidy and that everything is sterilized. Chris gives us an example of a barber who has just watched a YouTubevideo and decided that he is pro enough to have his own shop. He looks at it from the shoes of a customer who wants to become amazing, so he goes to the barbershop only to get a bad haircut. Such is the kind of customer understanding that sets him apart from other barbers. Chris speaks passionately about his job as he goes on to tell me how a customer should step out of the barber shop looking so much better than they went in. “Especially if they look amazing, they need to look ten times better than they already do, that’s what good barbers do; they make you feel good and look better because again, like I said earlier, it’s a fashion.”
Since he is in the barber council, I thought it would be good to ask Chris about his take on the reasons behind staggering state registration. He says there are not enough people who know about it yet. He thinks a lot of people who own barber shops honestly do not know enough about what the council is trying to achieve and about state registration. He hopes to get everyone in the country influenced to move in the same direction. Chris understands that this goal will take time, but he is optimistic that the time will come as long as he keeps on educating and informing everyone.
When asked about what he was personally doing about the situation, he confidently tells me, “I’m working bloody hard.” Chris further informs me that his immediate action is informing his customers that he is state registered and letting them know about his position in the council, standing for higher standards. He has gotten his staff on the same page and he hopes the rest will follow in the same footsteps.
Chris remembers that he has had a lot of good moments throughout his career as a barber. He says the highlight of his career is when he made it to award standard international. He found it unbelievable standing at the stage alongside other talented artistic guys. That is where he met his longtime friend John Bourne, who is a great barber and has taught him a lot. He goes further to talk about how much he learnt from that experience within a very short time. He says he got a lot of tips about his job, which helped him focus on where and how he wanted his barber shop to be. The two of them are very talented in their profession. Furthermore, he has had a chance to make a few new friends like Clarke and Lindy Roth. Chris now has friends all over the country. That is what he especially likes about his job; he can travel and meet people who give him new great ideas which he can incorporate into his shop.
He has been in a few competitions throughout his time, which he says that although he did not actually win, he has always made it to the finals. In one of the national finals, he was runners up to Passer, who went on to win it. He says that he learnt a ton, being on the stage and showcasing his talent. Chris likes a challenge because it gives him new opportunities to learn and to become better at what he does best. “The competition is what most barbers should enter, they have to enter them because if you can get into the finals, it shows customers that you’re not just good at what you do in the salon, the people are appreciating what you do”, he says. It is all about being professionally recognized. Once you are professionally recognized, you have solid social and professional proof that you are the best at your job. Chris says that is what customers want to see. It gives them a reason to visit your shop they can see that you are doing something right and other people in the country are recognizing it.
“I think there is a lot of negativity in areas, that’s what I don’t like. I think everyone needs to be together as a unit, and working together, bringing standards higher, you know, that’s what it’s all about- we need standards higher and England’s got to work together”, Chris tells us when he is asked about the things he would like to see change. He believes in the whole system working in unison because issues arise when you start pulling things apart. The talented barber would like to have every barber on the same page, maintaining the highest standards possible in serving their customers. Although everyone wants to make money, Chris strongly believes in delivering quality services beforehand. “We’ve all got mortgages to pay, cars to pay, families to look after, you want to earn money, yes, and no one’s going to say otherwise, but I just want everyone on the same page, pull it together and raise the standards”
Chris has already achieved a lot in his career. So, what is next for him? When asked, he says, “I just want to concentrate on cuts, cuts are my main priority, and making our customers happy, that’s the next thing, and that’s always been the thing, nothing else. He also says that he prioritizes working with his brother, dad and his step-mom, building their business and making it better. He says it is amazing to work with his family members but should he be asked to do other things, he would do them. He is quite the outgoing type and finds joy in delivering excellent services in whatever he chooses to do.
In closing, the advice from Chris to a young barber coming into the business is, “never stop learning. The only time you stop learning is when you’re six feet under, learn everyday”. He goes on to quote his dad who said to him, “if you can take this much from a bad barber and this much from a good barber and put it together, you will be a talented guy”. He believes that one can learn something even from guys who are not the best in the industry, so he just has to learn from everyone.
For anyone desiring to stop working for someone and to start their own business, Chris advises that you take the leap. He says it is difficult to start your own business but you will never know if you don’t try. “Find the right location, make sure that you’re happy with everything, don’t do it until you’re happy and you feel comfortable. When you feel comfortable, you know when it’s the right time.” He says.
That was the final part of my interview with the talented barber and proud owner of Kuts Barbershop, Chris Moon. I wish Chris more success in upholding the high standards of the services offered in his barbershop.
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Professional barber and co-owner of the MENSPIRE barbershop and brand, Josh Lamonaca spends three days with the Andis Pro Alloy clipper before inviting me into his salon to share some thoughts.
Immediately, he tells me that he’s been really impressed with its overall performance, finding it flexible, comfortable and very efficient. With these great traits in mind, we run through some of the key features that every barber will want to know about.
The Blade: Josh tells me that the blade has a bevelled edge, which means a more fluid motion as he goes in for the fade – this is one of the core features that makes the clipper so efficient.
Comfort: While the overall design is glossy, the belly of the clipper uses matt plastic and gives a firm and comfortable grip. Josh finds the clipper really easy to hold, so it won’t wear out the wrist if you’ve got a full day of haircuts ahead of you.
The Lever Arm: Not too loose and not too stiff, allowing for smooth operation.
The Power Cord: A long power cord offering plenty of strength makes this a more flexible clipper.
Guards: I also ask Josh about the guards that come in the box, and am pleased to hear that he has enjoyed working with them, finding them reliable, with the magnetic grips giving increased reliability. Throughout the three days Josh has been experimenting with these clippers, he finds the purple 0 and 1 length guards particularly useful, trying them out during his fades.
So when would Josh get the most use out of this clipper?
“This would be my go to clipper if I am travelling, or if I am at the salon or don’t have a converter available. I would use it for an afro work or Asian hair, any hair that is slightly harder to fade – I would be able to depend on the Pro Alloy to really get those zero lines out”.
A great review so far, and finally I ask him to rate the clipper out of 10 and sum up his thoughts to other barbers:
“Get one if you haven’t got one, ‘cause you’re going to need it. 9.5/10”
Sounds like a great choice then, especially for barbers who find themselves doing a lot of fade work (which seems to be the vast majority these days!). If you want more reviews, tips and interviews with expert barbers – including talented Josh Lamonaca himself, you can head to my YouTube channel; hit subscribe to stay up to date. You can also get in touch via my contact page and follow me on Instagram and Facebook for all the latest about clippers, barbering trends and more.
Meet Darren ‘Andis’ Jones, a chief educator for the renowned Andis organisation as well as a barber in his own right, and a positive force in the barbering community. I meet with Darren to find out more about his work, and hear about his most important message to others in the barbering community: stay humble.
One of the things that I was particularly interested in talking to Darren about was his work specialising in Afro-Caribbean hair. For many barbers, this is one of the most challenging aspects of the job – and many never have even had any experience trimming and chopping an afro. However, for Darren it was his starting point in the industry, and he tells me about how he started out as an apprentice on a Youth Training Scheme, learning about ladies hairdressing, and more specifically afro hairdressing.
“It was the trials and tribulations of hearing people trying to get their hair done because it was different. Everyone just had an afro and that was it, there wasn’t really any chemical process to try and mess around with the hair. It was just an afro, no short back and sides… no shape-ups, no line-ups, no patterns.
And then influence came from America, TV shows, talk show hosts, Oprah, etc. People realised that there was more to an afro than just being an afro, people that had an afro wanted a European look – so chemical straightening came in and so forth, and it went on from there.”
Now one of Darren’s big gigs is running his own relaxed workshops focussing on teaching people to work with afro hair – some of whom have never touched an afro before. He sees their initial anxiety as a fear of the unknown, but (at my insistence!) offers a simple 4 step solution to those who are cutting one for the first time:
Be honest: Tell your client that you’re not used to this style before you start!
Choose the right clipper: A magnetic clipper won’t do a good job compared to a pivot motor, since they have more power, less speed and wider teeth.
Go for the right approach: You need to comb as you cut, and approach the hair in the direction that it’s going in.
As with any cut, focus on a clean finish, neatening up all the hairlines.
I also wanted to learn more about Darren himself, and one particularly illuminating moment came when he told me about his proudest moment in barbering. This was not when he was up on stage performing at a big event like Pro Air Live, or when he first found out that he’d been given the job as an Andis representative, but when he got the chance to educate people with mental health issues, giving them a trade and a way to step back into society. He tells me that it was “so humbling”, and I quickly learn that this is Darren’s catchphrase – perfectly summing up his unassuming confidence.
Our conversation also turned to social media, something that Darren has a bit of a love hate relationship with. Social media, and particularly Instagram, have absolutely blown up in the barbering community over the past few year, and now a lot of networking between barbers from across the country, and across the globe, is done on social platforms.
We talk about sites like Instagram as a very positive force for young barbers who are starting to build their audience, but Darren also becomes quite passionate speaking against a darker tribalism, that can sometimes lead to groups of users criticising younger barbers. How do we put an end to this? Well, the answer is simple: “Be a friend to everybody”.
Finally, I want to know what Darren’s overall advice is to young people who are only just getting started. He has a straightforward answer which I hope will help many of you reading or watching: use social media to make a name for yourself, take good shots of your work, be a friend to everybody, and be polite.
Oh, and stay humble.
If you want to hear Darren’s full interview, check out the video. As well as covering all these topics in more depth, he also talks about his time as a dermatologist, what it takes to get into Andis, the styles that he’s getting excited about right now, and what to expect if you decide to book into one of his workshops.
For more videos with barbering stars like Darren check out my YouTube channel – and stay tuned to see what else I’ve got coming up! If you’d like to get in touch and find out more about my work with the Frequency60hz converter – a tool which would come in handy when cutting your first afro! – then why not head over to my contact page? You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook.