EGO Barber’s are pulling no punches, calling themselves ‘the next generation of barbering.’ Just a glance at the work they’ve published on Instagram (@egobarbers) reveals they have the skill and the flair to back up such a bold claim. I knew I had to share their story with a wider audience, so today we will dive into their barbering careers and discover the story behind the EGO Barbers brand.
Putting the Team Together
I met up with director Harry Karolis and barbers Tabby, Stell, and Alex at their shop in North London. I always love group interviews; there’s something special about bringing a barbering team together to get the full picture of how they work. But first, I wanted to hear the unique stories that brought them to EGO.
First up is Tabby, who fell into barbering because he wanted to find a decent job that could bring in some money: “I was about 18 when I started – I was at uni studying business property law. I liked where it was going, but I’d been in the industry for a couple of years by the time I finished and realized I just really like the atmosphere of a barbershop.” His specialty? “I’m the celebrity barber in here… I’m also very down to earth and a very bubbly character so I can entertain people.”
Next up we have Stell: “I’ve been doing it for about 17 years now. I started with barbering and then moved into women’s hairdressing, found that it wasn’t really for me and moved back into the barbering scene. About four or five years ago I got into education. That’s a real interest to me and I think that’s where my special touch resides. I like to embed knowledge and just watch people grow. I think it’s a lot more satisfying”.
Alex started barbering in Cyprus before heading to London and discovering EGO. According to Harry, “Alex literally told me ‘I am going to work here’ after coming in as a client”. He came into the shop and blew Harry away with impressive cuts and particularly flawless fades.
Introducing Harry Karolis
Harry Karolis is the man pulling it all together. Harry’s career has taken him from Daniel Galvin to New York as a session stylist, then back to London as a session stylist and freelance barber in Shoreditch. He tells me about the journey:
“I was taken to Daniel Galvin by my Uncle – my Uncle was a hairdresser from Cyprus – and at the time I was a young man who was up to no good, hadn’t really been doing anything after leaving school, so my Uncle decided to take me to learn a craft. He took me to Daniel Galvin and that’s when it all started for me. I was lucky enough to have one-on-ones with Joshua Galvin. After that, I wanted to further my career and got the opportunity to move to New York as a session stylist.”
Harry was working on film sets and fashion shows – but missing his Mum brought him back to London, where he decided to cross the gap from hairdressing into barbering. He focussed on the traditional values of the trade, going beyond fading and focussing on classic skills and techniques.
“Then I got married about seven years ago, and my wife wanted me to be closer to home, so she suggested I open my own shop. I bought this shop when it was six months old and pretty much started from scratch”.
Introducing EGO Barbers
EGO Barbers has picked up a huge client base, and I was interested in what keeps clients coming through the door. Harry believes the atmosphere they’ve created attracts people, plus “when they leave the shop, they’re well -groomed.”
The EGO ethos is strong: “We focus on shape before fade,” Stell told me. “We construct a haircut by looking at the shape first because we feel that’s the most important element. The fade comes in after. We want our client to have a haircut that will last, however long they’re away from us. The fade grows out quickly, so the haircut needs to last”.
Everyone on the team uses the same structure, so clients can relax, knowing they can get the same result from any team member. “We call it the EGO way, and it’s as simple as that.”
Blowing Up Instagram
The @Egobarbers Instagram page blew past the magic number of 200,000 followers recently – despite team members’ initial trepidation about the site. But Harry soon realized how much inspiration Instagram offers barbers everywhere, and after seeing some great barbering videos, he started sharing his clips.
I’ve looked through their Instagram work. They’ve posted some incredible one-minute clips focussing on stunning angles, all backed by great soundtracks. Although Harry doesn’t speak on camera, you get a real sense of his personality.
Instagram success inspired the team to move into education, “born out of the demand that Harry was getting on social media,” Stell said. With her educational background, it was natural Tell was involved from the start. “Harry messaged me after I left the London School of Barbering, and we spoke about what people would want from an education system. “
“We’re focussing on what we do in the shop. It’s very much about shape before fade. We’ve found many barbers are excellent at fading, but when it comes to structuring a haircut from start to finish and bringing all the elements together, there’s a lack of understanding. And vice versa for hairdressers, who are very comfortable with their scissors, but don’t feel comfortable with fades and clippers.
I wanted to know what Kings of Tomorrow would look like from the consumer’s perspective. “We’re going to offer seminars here in EGO, and we want to make sure it’s an intimate setting. We also want to offer going out to people and working with them on a practical level”.
They team is even producing a course-related textbook so barbers take away a reference to help them maintain their skills. Stell says they want people to “leave and think, ‘Wow, that was too cheap. That was more than I thought I was going to get.’”
Taking to the Stage
Harry is not one to seek the spotlight, but since EGO blew up he’s had little choice. He will make his barber stage debut at the upcoming Irish Barbering Expo. I imagine there’s a lot more of that sort of work coming his way – a crowning achievement for any barber.
Harry has been in the hair industry for 21 years, so who better to ask about today’s state of the barbering industry? “Everyone wants to be a barber now; it’s a phenomenal craft,” he told me. “The industry has grown so much, and there are a lot of passionate barbers out there.
“Instagram has given us that platform to showcase. It’s an amazing craft and if you want to become a barber, do it. We have fun all day.”
Stell adds, “If you were a barber, people used to think you were thick.” Now barbers wear the title proudly, and feel the profession has earned recognition it has long deserved.
In my opinion – and the EGO barbers agree – a lot of this is down to education, with barbering catching up with hairdressing in the breadth and depth of training on offer.
With so much experience behind him, I have to find out what Harry sees as his greatest moment. It’s a good one: Harry is a huge Tottenham fan, and he got to cut the hair of Tottenham’s manager, Mauricio Pochettino.
“My other great moment is having such great staff; we’re like a family in here. We’re all from Cyprus, so we have banter in Greek as well, and the clients are all such characters. Honestly though, Pochettino, the Tottenham manager, was the big one.
Before I left the guys at EGO, I just had time to get words of advice for barbers still finding their feet:
“Surround yourself with positive people who think alike. Once you surround yourself with positive people just don’t give up, keep believing and never stop learning. Your dreams can come true,” Harry said.
Tabby adds that the more you practice, the better you become, and Alex shares a key example from his career: “I remember a time when I thought I was never going to get fades, ever. I just wanted to give up. But I kept going and it worked”.
For Stell, it’s all about persistence. “Complacency kills off a lot of people. Someone said to me that talent will only ever take you so far, but when you have persistence, you’ll outdo somebody with just talent every time.”
The EGO team gave me so much to take away and I hope it has inspired you, too. Please do find them on Instagram at @egobarbers, and look out for the Kings of Tomorrow course, as it’s sure to be exceptional.
You will always find new, exciting content from me @LarrytheBarberMan. There are plenty of interviews just as entertaining as this one. To see my full on-cam interview with the EGO barbers, head to my YouTube channel, Barbers.TV.