We often talk about barbering as a craft and an art-form, and that’s never more true that with Rob the Original, a barber who combines his artistic vision with incredible clippering skills to create hair designs that pack a real punch. I’ve been following Rob’s work for a while now and he’s been high on my hit-list of interviewees. Well, we were both at the International Beauty Show in New York last weekend, so I took the opportunity to tear him away from the BaByliss stand and find out his story.
First thing’s first – as with every barber that I speak to, I wanted to know what led Rob into his barbering career in the first place. A huge number of barbers that I speak to found their way into the profession almost by accident, and Rob’s seems to have had a similar experience:
“When I was 16 years old, I first picked up the clippers and started cutting my own hair. My parents didn’t have the money to get our hair cut often, and those very short buzz cuts were in style and I wanted to have one. Later on, when I turned 20 I first got introduced to the barber world. I walked into a barbershop for a haircut and walked out with a job. I was helping out in the shop and I started picking up skills, so I went to barber college and got my license.”
That’s really only the beginning of Rob’s journey, though, as once he started working in the barbershop back in 2006 he discovered that he had a real talent for creating hair designs, creating logos, patterns and just about anything else that his clients could think of. Clients and barbers alike loved to see his work, and when his friend suggested that they started creating YouTube videos showcasing Rob in action he found that there was a huge audience out there interested in watching him create new designs.
From here, he began getting talent spotted by everyone from the owner of BaByliss, who saw Rob’s work and decided that they needed to get him onto their team, to TV producers who invited him to appear on programmes such as the Queen Latifah Show: “I think that a lot of TV producers find me interesting because I do artwork that is random, you don’t see it very often and it catches the attention. That’s why I’ve been shared by a lot of big pages, and my following has grown. The world cup was a big step for me because I was doing artwork on haircuts of the soccer players, so I was doing interviews with people from different countries. I also recently did a last supper haircut, and that one went viral too and gave me a lot of exposure.”
Rob’s creative drive has also seen him move beyond hair, creating artworks with just about any material that comes to hand. This includes sand art and brush carvings, as well as more unusual mediums such as food and even the dust that builds up on windows. The idea is to show that great art can be created with “basically anything”, since Rob “sees art everywhere”.
The results are always incredible, so it’s no surprise that Rob has had his work picked up by so many different people – including Instagram themselves, who asked to interview him and shared his work. As I mentioned, this has included a relationship with the big-name brand BaByliss, a company that Rob tells me have looked after him every step of the way.
Of course, anything worth doing is worth fighting for, and Rob has at times had to battle his way past people who haven’t necessarily had his best interests at heart. However, he tells me that separating the people who really cared about him from those who wanted to take advantage of his hard work helped propel him forwards, ultimately inspiring him to open his own shop where he could do things the right way.
There’s little within the barbering and styling industry that Rob hasn’t experienced, so I’m sure you’re eager to hear what advice he has to offer. There are two key points here: the first being to “follow your passion”, to find what you love and keep doing it! His second suggestion is to make use of social media, and Instagram in particular, to keep your audience interested: “Using social media helped me very much, you’ve got to stay very active, constantly be posting and make sure that you keep putting out new artwork, new material. People want to see new things.”
Check out the full interview to hear everything that Rob the Original has to say, or head to robtheoriginal.com to see more of his work and get in touch with him if you’re interested in purchasing any of his custom clipper artwork. I’d also love to see you over at my YouTube, Instagram and Facebook pages, where there are plenty more interviews coming your way in the very near future!