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Master Barber Tyrik Jackson, Lays Down: The Good, Bad And Ugly Of Barbering

Tyrik Jackson bills himself as a coach, mentor & educator as well as a barber, showing that he understands what’s needed to keep the industry going as well as to satisfy customers right now. His Instagram page is full of sharp lines and clean fades – the kind of stuff that makes any barber jealous – and he also has built a reputation as the owner of two Sharper Image barber shops in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. More than enough to catch up on when I met with him at the CT Barber Expo earlier this year…

What was your entry into barbering?

“I got into trouble for singing in high school. Part of my punishment was that the principal wanted me to sing in the talent show. He said if I didn’t sing in the talent show, I would be suspended. When I sang that night, there was a gentleman in the audience who stopped me and said you did a dynamic job, can I give you a ride home?

“He gave me a ride and we stopped by his barbershop. I was impressed, I didn’t know any African American males with a successful business. My way of showing gratitude was to go back to the shop and sweep. So I started as a clean-up kid at the shop. Then I ended up going to cosmetology school with my Mum – we went together.”

Wow – that’s a new one on me! How did you end up studying with your Mum?

“It’s an interesting story. I was already cutting in the barbershop as an apprentice, but I knew that I could only get so far so I wanted to enhance my skills. I decided to sign up for cosmetology school – my Mum signed me up and said oh, by the way, I’m starting with you. It actually made our relationship stronger.”

How long were you working for others before you started your own brand?

“I worked at Champs for about eight years. I got my barber licence and then my manager’s licence a year later, and then in about eight years I was running the shops before I branched off to open my own.”

Now you’ve built on that brand enough to have two barbershops up and running: Sharper Image I and Sharper Image II. What experience can customers expect from your shop?

“We utilise technology. People live in their phone, so we decided to put our shop in their phone: we developed an app. So, what you experience when someone first walks in is a technological experience. People are either scheduling from their phone or their signing up to a walk-in list on their phone. This is cool because we can acknowledge them by name. It’s more personal.”

We’re going to get onto your academy in a minute – but first, could you tell us about the podcast you’ve been running?

“It’s more like a videocast – I have a lot of people who listen to it on the way to work. I have a personal app, with close to 60 hours of video content designed to help the business mind of the barber and the apprentice. We’re evolving as an industry, but the mindset for a lot of the barbers is still the same. I’m trying to change that.

“I go live every Tuesday morning at 9.30AM Easter Time, doing a live broadcast from my Instagram page. It’s almost like a Sunday Service, but with live feedback. The app is free, and a lot of tools in there are free, but for the live videos you would subscribe.”

These videos have covered everything from how to take better images when promoting your work, to financial tips, to personal stories of Tyrik’s life – including overcoming a battle with depression. Sometimes the more personal content can really hit home and provide listeners with a much-needed new perspective. Download the Tyrik Jackson app to see it for yourself.

Now, let’s talk about the academy: what’s it called and what makes it different from all the other academies in the area?

“Premier Barber Institute. We’re the only academy that offers financial aid, so the government helps students go to school if they’re eligible. There are a lot of regulations if you want to give financial aid and we have covered all that red tape. They examined us, probed it and said this school is eligible. We don’t have another eligible school within 20 miles of our location.

“The other difference is that our school isn’t confined to four walls. Because I go live and share my content, we are able to connect with people globally. People in different time zones can watch what I do.We’re expanding beyond those four walls.”

I know you’re not into hype, but I dug up some hype on you – which is that you won $25,000 in a barber battle. Tell me about that experience.

“I remember some guy came to visit my shop and said ‘man, what you’re doing is amazing – people need to see this.’ He encouraged me to compete. He said if you compete, it’s a doorway to education. He actually paid for me to compete in a competition. And because of that, my photos got onto the desk of the show coordinator for Bronner Brothers. She contacted me and asked me to compete – I turned it down three times. It’s a huge, Broadway style competition. She said: ‘why won’t you compete?’ I said I just don’t want to compete, I want to do education. She said, ‘don’t you know that I have the largest education of multi-cultural brand in the world? I can put you in those classrooms. But you’d better win.’

“I reviewed some of the previous champions, I committed to it. We did a hospital theme, so I was doing hair and the hair was transforming these people and bringing them back to life, bringing them back to sanity, bringing them back to health. It really was a catalyst and a conduit for my education – it helped launch my career.”

Two quick-fire questions in closing. Firstly, what would you say is really good about the barbering industry right now?

“When I started in 1998, I would go to the shows and barbering was the armpit of the hair industry. I wanted to bridge cosmetology and barbering, so my haircuts were different and unique. What I see now is that people are embracing hair colour and product. It’s what we were trying to do years ago.

“Because of social media, people can see it. It’s happening instantly. It’s a gift, because it’s created a platform for barbers to get paid. But it’s a curse because now a lot of education is just information. Instead of an educational class, it’s ‘let me educate you on how to use our product. It’s a gift and a curse.”

Secondly, what bad things do you think are taking place that could be detrimental to the industry?

“If we don’t elevate the industry then we continue in a perpetual cycle of barbers doing the same old same old. What I think is going to happen is that these companies are going to understand that some of the barbers they’re hiring have fake pages and fake followers and fake information. The smoke and mirrors is getting exposed. At one point you had repost pages that were charging to promote. People aren’t paying any more because you have a lot of pages that are fake. That’s the bad part.”

Thank you to Tyrik for sharing such a wealth of experience through this interview. I know that I feel like I’ve learned a lot, and I hope that everybody reading this does to. Remember that you can follow me on YouTube and Instagram if you want to see more sage advice from industry greats like Tyrik.

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Barber Interview: With Jake Shipwreck Of Riverside Shaving Co

What can I say about Jake Shipwreck? This is a barber who is every bit as cool as he sounds; visit his Instagram page and you’ll find yourself faced with glorious tattoos as well as devastatingly sharp haircuts. More than that, though, Jake is an educator and father – so I had a lot that I wanted to ask him at the CT Barber Expo.

So Jake, could you start by telling me how you first got into barbering?
“I grew up playing music, and I’ve always been a very goal-orientated person: I always knew that I wanted to make a band and pursue that, and I always knew – for whatever reason – that I wanted to be a barber. I put my all into being a front man in a band and getting a record label, touring all over the nation and during that time I had my son.

“For the first couple of months after he was born I was still doing the band thing. Then it came to the point that I needed to make more money. I decided it was time to go to school and just hit the ground running. In barber college I had a gully booked clientele waiting for me – it was the first time I ever touched a pair of clippers. I wasn’t worried about becoming a famous, tattooed Instagram barber. I wanted to be the best barber.”

What would you say your area of speciality is? I know that Layrite approached you to be a sponsored barber because you loved their tools – so what kind of styles do you do and how do they help you achieve them?

“I would definitely say my area of expertise is the traditional style haircut: anything from the 1950s, side parts, pompadours, slicked back. I do like to dabble in some more messy, UK styles: Layrite offer some products that help me do that too.”

And what’s your favourite Layrite product that helps you achieve these looks?

“My favourite haircut to do is a slicked back look, so I would say Layrite Super Hold is my go to. It’s what I use in my hair, definitely my favourite product.”

You seem like you’ve got a fascination with tattoos too. Tell me where that started and where you get your influence from.

“All the men in my family are bikers, completely covered in tattoos – so when I was a kid I just thought that was so badass, that’s what a man looks like. And on the other side is that I’m an extremist: I don’t do anything in moderation. If I have tattoos I want to have the best and the most tattoos. I can’t do anything small.”

Which also explains your loyalty to Layrite – they can pick up your flat-out, all-in attitude.

Yeah. I mean, I’ve got Layrite tattooed on me.”

So, tell me more about where Layrite has taken you and a little bit about your style of education.

“The first thing we did was ISSE, around five years ago. We didn’t have any microphones, we didn’t have anything, just a barber chair on the floor. From there we started doing Chicago, New York, Florida – all the big trade shows. Then they started sending me internationally; we did a Tommy Guns event in British Columbia, a full Japanese tour, talks about doing Australia. They’ve taken me everywhere, but Japan has probably been my favourite.”

And that was spearheaded by Donny Hawley, right? He must have been a huge influence on you…

Donny is in some way or another everybody’s inspiration. He was doing it before it was revamped, before it was cool. You’ve got to give credit where credits due: he’s the OG.”

Now tell me where you see yourself in the future. What’s your ultimate goal?

“It’s not on my radar right now, but the ultimate goal is to have my own barbershops all over: Shipwrecked Barbershop. Maybe set aside the travelling and education for a little while and really hone in on that when I’m ready.”

An exciting next chapter! So as somebody in love with barbering, what are you really loving about the industry right now and what would you like to see change?

“The things I love about barbering: It’s an honest living, I help out my fellow man, they pay me for my service and my time. It’s not overkill, I’m not ripping anybody off. It keeps me an honest man.

“Now, the things that I dislike about barbering right now: These guys that think we’re rock stars, some sort of hip-hop sensation. It’s not a glamorous lifestyle, something that makes you cool. I really don’t like people photoshopping the hair cuts, spray on beards… all that fake stuff. Barbering should be real, it’s honest. Turning something honest into something fake is not all right.”

How do you think that could change?

“I don’t think it could change. I think it needs to phase out. All these barbers doing it for the hype will be phased out.”

So how have you managed to build such an impressive organic following on your own social media?

“I think people like to see that I came from the same area as them. I came from the same hardships and I made something out of it. I mean I grew up dirt-poor, and I figured out how to make money, to travel: I think that’s what people like to see and why people follow me.”

And what words of advice would you give to a young person who wanted to become a full-time professional barber whilst keeping his feet on solid ground

“I would say don’t worry so much about trying to be me or trying to be Donnie Hawley – work on your haircut. Fall in love with hair, work on technique, work on your basic. If you hone in on hair and being a good barber, on putting yourself out there, then sponsors and travelling will follow. Don’t start running before you can walk.”

 

So, barbers who want to follow in Jake’s footsteps should focus on getting to grips with the essentials skills of barbering. You can check out some of the other interviews on the @LarrytheBarberMan YouTube and Instagram pages to see tips from other authentic barbers. Other than that, just keep it real!

 

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