Brothers Rob and David Braid are co-owners of the wonderful, award winning Braid Barbers – with three barbershops now open in Milton Keynes, Banbury and Leamington Spa. As well as being excellent barbers, the brothers clearly both have very creative minds, with Rob also producing some exceptional photographs that are making waves within both fashion and barbering, and David turning his hand to the interior of the shops and conjuring up an incredible atmosphere. David is also responsible for the business development and accounts, while Rob is in charge of their social media, marketing and advertising. I was very excited to chat to them about their work, find out more about their plans for the future, and pick their brains on how to find inspiration.
David kicks things off by telling me how they got into the industry: “Dad started with hairdressing 40 years ago, with 5 shops at its peak, including one on Bond Street, a couple in Birmingham, Northampton and Milton Keynes.” They both started working within the shops, and although at the time Rob found hairdressing a lot more exciting than barbering, David took to cutting men’s hair. Although he confesses that it was originally down to his nervousness about cutting women’s hair, he adds “I started to love it. Customers start asking for you, and then before you know it you’re just buzzing every day.”
The transition to owning their own barbershop came a few years later, after Rob had been away travelling, leaving his brother in charge of the shop. When he returned, it was to a very different barbering world – one with interesting styles and patterns, and clients starting to take a lot more risks, inspired by figures like David Beckham. With a fresh burst of energy, the brothers opened their first shop: Braid Barbers in Banbury, expanding as they found more great locations to set up in.
Now, if you watch the video interview then you’ll be able to see that one of the things that sets Braid Barbers apart is the design of the shop, something which seems to be David’s domain. I’m curious to know how he decides on the look for each shop and what the process is like:
“First we find the shop and then you start from there. It takes me around 12-18 months to put together the furniture, scouting antiques fair, and travelling all around the country. I try to work it around a few key pieces. The thing I like at the moment is how textured everything is, how aged – you can’t buy the life of a good piece of furniture. Sometimes I buy things not knowing if they’re going to work but I love them, so I take them home and live with them for a bit then try to work them in”.
While not every barber puts this amount of energy into making sure their shop looks right, I agree with David that it’s an important part of the overall experience, and it certainly seems to be working for them since they have now won the accolade of Best Barbershop from the Hair and Beauty Awards. For the full story behind the win I recommend watching the clip – suffice to say that the brothers well deserved the title.
So with that in mind, what separates their shop from the rest? Both brothers are incredibly humble and modest, so it’s no surprise that they try not to compare themselves to others, focusing on being their best rather than outdoing others. Rob does add, though, that “the one thing that sets our shop apart is the way it’s designed really, comfortable and relaxing. Use of social media helps, that has put us on the map so that people will come to us for the next new style or the latest style”. From my perspective, it seems like one thing that sets Rob and David apart is how much they love their customers, as David says: “we’re so fortunate that we get such a broad scope of customers – young and old”.
An Eye for Photographs
Even the models that they use for their impressive photo shoots start out as regular customers, as David tells me that Rob has a knack for spotting people who will look great captured on film. These photos are the work of Rob, and as somebody with a keen interest in cameras and photography myself, it was great to find out more about this side of their business. Rob was kind enough to share the story of how he got into taking such incredible pictures:
“When I went travelling there was no social media, it was all film. I wanted to document my experience, and I found that I wanted to take pictures of people rather than landscapes, people being natural. The second you put a camera in front of some of them they just freeze. In Mongolia, some of the people had never seen a camera before, so I had to try and catch them unawares. So I got a lot of practice there and when I came back I started taking pictures of my kids, chasing them around a bit. I try and capture people naturally, I don’t want them to look like they’re posing. When you get that shot it’s magical”.
He adds that it was this love for photography – and in particular the desire to create great shots that could be used on magazines – that actually encouraged and helped him to improve his hair styling skills. After all, getting the perfect photograph is difficult if the barber work that’s gone into creating their style isn’t just right.
Now these skills are being used to share the wonderful styles of the men who come through the door and get their hair cut at Braid Barbers, and Rob’s work has shown up on magazine covers as well as social media, and decorating the barbershop walls. Yet again, this is a great nod to the clients, and it also shows that the Braid brothers are well aware of the importance of a good publicity shot. My opinion is that, as barbering becomes more and more well regarded as a profession and an art, barbers across the world are going to need to start creating images of this quality.
Right now, a lot of barbers are taking pictures on their mobiles and creating shots that just don’t do justice to the barbering work – so I’d love to see Rob and David start offering a photography course tailored to barbers. This is something that they’ve been discussing, although for now it sounds like it’s left on the backburner. Rob tells me that they’re very busy, with a few things in the pipeline, but this is definitely something they’re considering: a course that covers their way of cutting, as well as how to take a great picture while you’re doing. I certainly hope to see this become a reality, it seems like something that a lot of barbers could benefit from!
Reflections on the Industry
I couldn’t let two talented barbers like the Braids get away without getting their perspective on the industry, so for my final question I ask them what they’re loving about the industry and what they’re not liking so much. David starts: “The thing I don’t like is the sort of ego, it’s almost become like an episode of X Factor sometimes – people who don’t go into it because they love it but because they want to be famous. Don’t do something unless you love it and you’re passionate about it.”
They also think that the industry might be a bit more professional if there were licenses: “People do these quick fix courses and then just go and open a shop. In our experience, once people are qualified, it still takes 12-months to be a good barber, at least. 22 Years down the line, I’m still learning. Some people just get a qualification and open a shop, and I hate to think what goes on with the cut-throats and that sort of thing!”
Those things aside though, it’s clear that Rob and David love the industry as much as I do. Rob tells me that “it’s vibrant, I love the way its exploded and people are getting a chance to express themselves and show their pride for what they do. I’ve made so many friends in the industry, all over the world. It brings out the creativity in people, especially being able to share it.” While David adds that “we’re all bringing each other on, looking at each other’s work and bringing each other forward.”
I think that this message of cooperation and shared creative spirit is a great one to end on, and definitely in keeping with everything that I’ve learned about Rob and David Braid. I hope you agree with me that this was a very inspiring interview: if so, like and subscribe on my YouTube, Instagram and Facebook pages to make sure you don’t miss any great content!
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