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Interview With Barber Jack Robinson Pullen Of MBA (Mobile Barbering Academy)

I am always looking for new talent to bring to you in my interviews, and Jack Anderson Pullen was an easy choice. At 25 years old, he’s already a 12-year professional and he’s been running the popular Mobile Barbering Academy since he was just 19.

A veteran competitor, he’s a Wahl British Barber of the Year, two-time BBA Master Barber finalist, winner of the 2014 NHF and has many more accolades. He’s also found time to open his own salon in Thirsk in North Yorkshire and has another ready to go in Catterick.

Oh, he is also brand ambassador for SCISSORHANDS, the high-quality professional scissors well-loved among the best barbers.

Other than that, not much happening, right, Jack?

“It can become difficult to manage the schedule,” he agreed when he squeezed in a few moments in the Takara Belmont chair for an interview with me at Barber Connect. “My girlfriend will tell you I am very much a flitter. When I do something, I will do it passionately, but it may be 6 or 7 things at one time. “

Jack has been running full throttle since he was just 13. “I started in a salon in Milton Keynes called One Salon with Graham Horne, a fantastic hairdresser. Over the years I‘ve been fortunate to work with a lot of people you have interviewed,” he told me. “Tony Roberts, Greg Mc Cerlane and a few others. I eventually moved up north to open my first barbershop with my girlfriend in North Yorkshire, called King and Captain.”

Starts Mobile Barbering Academy while still a teen

Jack started the Mobile Barbering Academy at just 19 years old (“with my mom” he says with a laugh) because of his keen appreciation for education and the fact high costs made it out of reach for so many.

“I felt courses were expensive,” he said “ I didn’t have the money at 19 myself, so I wanted to come up with something I could offer people booking these courses to bring them more knowledge, and make additional education accessible to them.”

Working with just his mum, “we’d go to salons and we give out educational materials – a pack of 50 pages. We would do demos and work with individuals on their weaknesses and adding new skills.”

This kind of ambition is bound to grow, and today Jack has a team of 12 at Mobile Barbering, delivering courses in salon shops and colleges all over the country.

His success has given him a possible dilemma many barbers would love to have. “My long-time dream is to be a member of the Wahl artistic team,” he says. “But it would be a conflict of interest right now, and a big decision about whether to pass the Academy onto someone else in order to join the Wahl team, if that were to happen. But right now, I am happy doing what I am doing.”

Not that Jack is hurting for brand deals. He’s been with Scissorhands for three years, an adventure that started oddly: his car was broken into.

“I lost a lot of equipment in the theft, and after I’d saved up to buy a pair of scissors, I started by going to AUK and met Linda from Scissorhands. I bought a set, used them to enter competitions and sent the pictures back to Ashley Howard and Linda to show them what I’d done. They offered me Salon International and a one hour slot, which turned into a day slot, which turned into a weekend slot which turned into becoming an educator for them. It’s all about helping people.”

Why Jack prefers his 50+ Scissorhands scissors to most clippers

As a competitor and platform barber, Jack has made his name with textured, feathered, what he calls ‘soft” cuts. “I love my patterns and skintight work but what separates me is that I started as a hairdresser and moved into barbering. Everything is a lot softer (in hairdressing).

“The strong, sharp square shapes that a lot of people are producing – their work is fantastic. But for me, I like a lot softer, so I like using my scissors more than my clippers.”

I’ve never seen Jack without a belt at his waist holding as many as 50 scissors. Here was my chance to ask about that. He covers the Scissorhands basics.

“There’s the straight blade which can vary in length from 5.5 to 7 inches, and our trademark scissor – called the EVO – which is a texturing, layering scissors with 15 teeth. This makes life easier because you don’t have to go back to do three different jobs by cutting your baseline, point cutting, texturizing. You can do everything in one hit.”

“We talk about a kit, a traditional barber kit, which for us is one short blade which you work inside the knuckle and by point cutting, if you ever need to point cut – with the EVO you don’t really need to do that. “

“The long blade is your scissor-over-comb and your bulk removal and your soft cut, better for softening blend lines.”

“You can work through the whole back and sides of a gent’s haircut using the soft cut: your traditional thinning scissors, your EVO – which is your layering – and your all-in-one, which I call the Swiss army knife of scissors.”

As for the dozens of scissors on his belt, Jack says Scissorhands believes every scissor has a unique job and a unique talent using it, so there custom Scissorhands designs feature many variations, colors and different types of steels.

The Wahl team keeps coming up, and when he talks of the future, Jack says the Wahl dream is still there/ “When I reached the final of the Wahl competition and got up on their stage in front of hundreds of people at Salon International I achieved one of my dreams. It is still burning inside of me to win competitions I’ve got one more dream – to get on the Wahl artist team eventually.

“If you’re passionate, you don’t always come across as you should”

Jack’s intensity earned him an early reputation as a rambunctious sort, which he doesn’t shy away from. “If you are passionate, you don’t always come across the way you should,” he says. “I write for BarberEVO and I spoke to them recently about a piece that was designed to come across hotheaded in order to separate view and make people think about views.”

Luke Dolan wrote article about egos in the industry, and I think he was saying it’s more of a case that people are passionate about things and they don’t believe in each other’s views and sometimes it conflicts.”

That’s true as far as it goes, Jack believes, but he’s also recommending the value of listening and appreciating mentors. “People above you in terms of age and experience, such as Chris Foster, have given me yeas of advice and guidance, even though we are in competition now since he has an academy, too. Mike Taylor is another. I still go to them and look up to them because they have been at it a long time.

It’s clear to me Jack’s passion about making people think is connected to his determination to never stop learning and growing, something that he offers as his top piece of advice for barbers coming up.

“Have an open mind,” He says. “I’ve worked with people who have been cutting hair for forty years and are still open to learning. I know people who have worked for five years for only one person and have closed off their minds.”

“Gary Machin, Eric Lander at the BBA, there are so many great ambassadors with great views and passion so always look to everybody – younger or older – to take experience and knowledge from.

“The most important thing is to be open to learning and never disregard a technique or product or tool. Don’t ever limit yourself.”

To see my entire video interview with Jack, stop by my YouTube channel http://www.barbers.TV

Until next time, Happy Barbering!

 

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From Eye Cancer Survivor to Master Barber: The Unique Life of Alison Scattergood

I love Salon International for any number of reasons, but one is the chance to catch up with people I hear about more often than I see. East Durham College’s Alison Scattergood is one of those. The Peterlee educator is well known for her master-level barbering, work with young people, advocating for more regulation of barbering and more recently, as a survivor of childhood eye cancer and an advocate for research into this dangerous disease.

Clearly, we had a lot to talk about.

I learned Alison discovered both men’s hair and education while very young, working as a hairdresser for men and women from 16, and getting qualified to teach at 21.

“Barbering is my baby now,” she says with a smile. “I’ve got many students, and I coordinate all the level two and level three barber courses at EDC. I also work at a barbershop in Durham City on the weekend, because if you are teaching, it is really important to be in the industry. It is a good balance to see both sides of the job.”

Her work with young students has led Alison to her strong views on standards.

“If you are a nurse you give injections and things like that, and you have to be on a register,” she told me. “Even a taxi driver needs a license.”

“With barbering, you work with open blade razors, you are doing hot towel shaves,” she points out.

“There are amazing shop-floor trained barbers out there who are really good, yet don’t have official qualifications,” she adds. “But I know some that are not (so good), and I thing that needs to be policed.”

It’s a point I grasp readily. After all, an unregulated builder may wreck your home, but a poorly trained or unsupervised barber can jeopardize your health and even your life.

“If you had an electrician or a plumber doing your stuff, it would scare me if they had no qualifications at all,” Alison agreed. “So I think it should be regulated if you are using razors on members of the public. I believe the industry needs it. “

“We are attracting over 35,000 people (to barbering) and to think that is still isn’t standardized is quite bizarre to me. That is why I push with the Barber Council, with the government, that is where we should be headed.”

In addition to representing education on the Barber Council, Alison is also hard at work with the City and Guilds, working on TechBac programs. Through EDC, her students earn a City and Guilds certificate attesting that they have passed and can earn a Barber Council certificate of registration as well.

“It is exposing the Council to students and I tell them all the time how important it is,” she said. “They are surprised to find out there is no legislation, so I tell them how important it is to be registered.”

“It’s all because clients come first,” she told me firmly. “If they walk into the salon and see their stylist, their barber is registered and you display the certificate, that’s really important and what I want to get over to my students.”

I am very proud to be consultant with City and Guilds and work on TechBac qualifications, working on grading criteria for apprenticeships,” she says. “I contribute to the latest textbooks, with a write-up on the latest level two about the industry and how to work toward what you want to be in life.”

Alison’s connection with City and Guilds is key and could have a big impact on the future of barbering education. She told me Adam Sloan, the Chairman of the City and Guilds Barbering Industry Board, deserves a lot of the credit.

“There has been a Hairdressing Industry Board for quite a few years, but there hadn’t been a barbering one, so Adam really pushed for that,” she recalls. “He got it set up, and then a year and half or two years ago he invited me on, representing education.”

“It is important to try to raise the standards, where students come out of college with the best,” she explained. “Colleges get knocked in the industry because some colleges don’t train to a great standard. I want to raise that for all colleges.”

Whew! If you get tired out listening to all that Alison’s involved in, she’s also finds time to help her students with competitions, enter a few herself, and pick up some prestigious recognition. A highlight of her year is membership in the Fellowship for British Hairdressing, the leading body in hairdressing. “They’d never had an education slot on stage” before inviting her back for membership, she told me.

Other recent highlights: she was in the boxing ring at the Barber Connect finals at Celtic Manor in 2014, was a finalist for Wahl Barber of the Year at Salon International a few years ago, and in 2015, became the first woman to be made a British Masters Barber by the British Master Barbers Alliance.

“(Nationally-known Master Barber) Chris Moon was coming to EDC one night to visit with our students and surprised me with the plaque,” she recalls. “It was such a shock, I didn’t have a clue! It was really nice, for my contributions to barbering from Antony and Toni Copeland. It’s mounted on the college salon wall!”

But she was most excited about bringing her students down to London for Salon. “I bring students to be models because the college can’t pay for professionals, and it’s brilliant because it gives the students an amazing Salon experience and they see thing from both sides. We rehearsed and rehearsed and got really good feedback when we came off stage, so we feel really good.”

I couldn’t let Alison go before learning more about her recent work with the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust, or CHECT. She told me she lost her left eye to cancer (retinoblastoma) at just 10 weeks old, and for years tried her best to keep it from everyone except those closest to her.

“I wanted to be known for my work, not for having lost an eye to cancer,” she said. But her behind the scenes work with CHECT persuaded her to speak openly.

“It went massive on Facebook and I got so much response from families even in America who had children suffering from the same retinoblastoma, and it helps them to see somebody able to do what I’ve done with my career because their kids’ are still quite young and they aren’t sure what the future holds for them.”

To her great surprise, Alison’s friend Mike Taylor, co-founder of the BBA and fellow member of the Barber Council, revealed that his young daughter is fighting eye cancer.

“When Mike contacted me about his daughter,” she shakes her head as if still surprised, “I had never met anyone else who had it. It is such a rare form of cancer.”

“We decided to work together to raise awareness and money and help CHECT, because it is such a small charity,” she continued. “Having so many friends and colleagues in the same industry, it is a no-brainer to do something together, and we plan on doing it next year.”

Just add that to the list of things to do for this amazing educator and passionate barbering industry advocate. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to meet Alison, and I hope you have to. If you are interested in helping with CHECT, just reach out to Alison or visit the charity’s web site, https://chect.org.uk/

or contact Alison direct:

Alison.scattergood@eastdurham.ac.uk
Instagram: Alison Scattergood1
Facebook:  Alison Scattergood
Twitter: alisonscat@38


 

‘Til next time, happy barbering!

 

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Wahl Cordless Senior Launch Update: Availability And More

By the time they plunked down in Takara Belmont chairs for an interview with me, Simon Shaw and Julius “Caesar” Arriola were exhausted after three days as one of the main attractions at Salon International 2017 in London.

Why all the fuss over Wahl’s European Artistic Director and an American Wahl educator?

Because for the first time, Wahl was launching a major new product in the UK and chose Salon International to do it. And it wasn’t just any new product, but the long-awaited Cordless Senior Clipper. Simon and Julius had the privilege of being Wahl’s onsite reps “when the floodgates opened,” as Julius put it.

The pair had been swamped from the first moments. The new clipper took the event by storm as barbers “were running towards us when the doors opened up like it was the new iPhone,” Simon said.

That’s what happens when your reputation for excellence precedes you, right, Simon?

“We sold out in about nine trading hours, 500 units,” he said.”We have 3,500 coming in the next two or three weeks that are already allocated. We’re 1200 in the red on it.”

Even Julius, who’d been flown in from the US on behalf of Wahl especially for the launch and debuted the Cordless Senior on stage, told me, “People in the US might not believe me, but they are really strict about buying more than one – I can’t do it.”

I told him I’d had the same problem! The fact the Cordless Senior was available but in short supply sparked a surge in demand unlike anything I’ve seen. Talk about Wahl-mania!

The Low Down on the Cordless Senior

So – how does the new must-have Cordless Senior behave?

“In comparison to the Corded Senior itself, whether it is the 5-Star, the Sterling or the regular Wahl Pro, the Cordless is an impeccable machine,” Julius told me.

“(The Cordless Senior is) high-performance, high impact, it is going to mow through anything from white Caucasian hair to thick curly hair,” he added. “The performance you’ve been expecting is there, whether precision blending or clip–over-comb. I am cutting on stage with it, and it is literally effortless; the hair is coming right off.”

Worn out as he was, Julius’ high level of enthusiasm was still shining through. “In 15 years of professional barbering, I’ve always felt, ‘Man, I love Wahl Senior. I just wish it was cordless.’ And now it’s 2017, and here we are in London Town, launching.”

Cordless Senior vs. Magic Clip

Many people compare the Corded Senior to the highly popular Magic Clip, so I was especially curious about how the Cordless Senior stacks up.

“You can’t go anywhere without seeing a cordless Magic Clip. It changed the game,” Julius agrees. “But what you love about the Cordless Magic Clip, the dream has been fulfilled in the Cordless Senior.”

In testing the Cordless Senior, I couldn’t hold it with my thumb, unheard of for a cordless. What was Julius’ reaction?

“The weight of the machine is exactly what you’re looking for,” Julius enthuses. ”If you’ve got the Magic Clip or here in the UK the Super Taper, you may have thought it too light in your hand (because) you are used to the corded machine. “

“All that conversation is going to halt because the weight is there in the Cordless Senior; the aluminum body, obviously the classic five-star senior face, the surgical blade, you can’t go wrong. The battery time is enough for what you need to do, too.”

Though Julius was happy to compare the Magic Clip and the Cordless Senior, he thinks most barbers will still need both machines.

“Obviously the blades are different,” he said. “You’ve got your surgical blade on the Cordless Senior, which comes on your classic Five Star as-is. Whereas the Magic Clip has the devil in the details, and one of my most favorite things about it is the crunch blade the stagger tooth blade.”

“But anything you felt might be missing in the Magic Clip, you will find in the Cordless Senior.”

How to use surgical blades (and oil!)

I wanted Julius to talk a bit more about surgical blades and how they are used.

“It is on the scalp cutting,” he said. “The Cordless Senior is going to be the precision cutter for your bald fades and your skin fades. You have your 45° bevel blade; it curves in. Three screws compared to two screws (on the Magic Clip). A surgical blade for me, it means you cut more on the ergonomics of a 45 out rather than the classic C stroke, because the surgical blade is not beveled.”

I agree with Julius, telling people that a surgical blade should be used like a trimmer, and scooping with a trimmer cuts the client. And since it is so sharp, you can set the surgical blade on the scalp, mini-strokes and it will do the same work as the big strokes.

Julius thinks so too, and Simon adds that the high speed of the Cordless Senior speaks to the need to keep it oiled so that it stays cool and sharp.

“You will need to oil it,” he says firmly, “because of the revs.” 6400 revs per minute as compared to the 5400 (of the Magic Clip).

“You have to, because not only will it last longer, it will run cooler – feel cooler on the skin – and it will feel sharper, hair won’t bunch up and clog,” Simon said, noting that many damaged clippers he sees suffer from poor maintenance, i.e., too little oil creating too much friction and damaging the blades.

So a word to the wise: get some Wahl oil in addition to what comes in the box, and use two or three drops after every cut. I show you how in this Larry the Barberman How To Video (LINK HERE)

 

 

“You want Yeezys before Kanye has Yeezys

Back to the Cordless Senior. Anxious barbers want to know: when can we expect enough to arrive in the UK for everyone who wants one?

After the allotment of 3500 (already committed) units by mid-November, “we’ve got more coming in December and January,” Simon said. He thinks it will be February or March before the manufacturing schedules in the US catch up with UK demand. So we have to sit tight!

Julius says, “It’s like I’m Kanye West and you’re asking me for a whole box of Yeezys; you want Yeezys before Kanye has Yeezys. You guys want a Cordless Senior; I’m trying to get the Cordless Senior myself! I am humbled to say I feel you guys, I would love to have them in my hands if I could.”

“All I’m saying is patience is a virtue. It’s well worth the wait, and once you have it in your hands, it won’t disappoint.”

LARRY….WANT TO MENTION YOU WILL BE STOCKING THE CORDLESS SENIOR?

 

‘Til then, happy barbering!

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Lieanne Buckley Talks About Being a Late Starter, Her Barber Connect 2017 Debut, and Yes, She Can Cut Afro-Caribbean Hair!

Cheshire’s Lieanne Buckley (@lieanne_) doesn’t want to be pegged as just a female barber and never ever wants to be “someone that just does five, six days a week and goes home.  I want to be more than that.”

A new face on the barbering scene, just three years ago Lieanne was an increasingly dissatisfied retail worker.  At 27, this daughter of a hairdresser had taken some training in a perfunctory fashion, but felt uninspired.  “I was disheartened, stuck in a rut and obviously getting older,” she told me at Barber Connect in Telford. “I was really envious of friends who had good careers, getting their own houses, and I’m like, “’I really don’t know what I want to be. I wish I knew.’”

A combination of desperation and inspiration pushed her into the direction of men’s barbering.  Whilst working in a fitting room one day, it just hit her, she told me.  “I want to cut men’s hair,” she says. “There was a girl at the shop who was a mobile hairdresser and I just went over to her and I said, “How I can get into barbering?”

At the beginning, “I used to go home and do my dad’s and brothers’ hair, so they got butchered,” she smiles.

Fast forward about three years and Lieanne is onstage at Barber Connect, earning an excellent reputation and building an online following.

A specialty is Afro-Caribbean hair, which makes her a rarity among Caucasian barbers, especially the relatively few females in the barbering world.  Gaining acceptance was a challenge, she recalls.

“The shop I work in is very multicultural, we have a lot of Afro Caribbean hair, but I found being a white female, a lot of people would steer clear,” she said. Clients were understandably a bit surprised and somewhat reluctant to patronize someone who at first glance, seems likely inexperienced in cutting Afro-Caribbean hair.

“I didn’t see it as a big thing because I just do hair – Afro-Caribbean hair, Asian hair- in a multicultural shop, it’s just natural.”

Nevertheless, Lieanne says she shared some of her customer’s trepidation as she started her first Afro-Caribbean cut.

“I can remember going in with a trimmer, and I was really out my comfort zone.  I was thinking to myself, ‘Can I do this or can’t I do this?’  The hair is so different from Caucasian hair, so I was like. ‘Right, just do it, try it. It’s got to work!  It has to work!’”

“So I went in with a detailer back then – must have been because I use Andis now – and I remember thinking, ‘Right, what do I do next?!’

“But because I was around people that cut Afro-Caribbean, I sort of pick things up, so I was like, “Okay, so you need to go with the grain, not just against the grain.”

But the first-timer challenges continued.

“The customer just had a one on top and then a skin fade on the sides.  I remember thinking, ‘How am I gonna get this hair that clogs together?’ I learned to comb against it and go with the grain. That was a big thing, trying to get the combing; going in, comb it down, going back in, and then getting the cutthroat on it.

She learned quickly, “You can’t always use a cutthroat on people with Afro-Caribbean hair because they’re prone to bumps, rashes (and keloids),” she says.

“I’d just say, ‘Are you okay with the razor?’ And if they are, they’re okay around the front but not around the neck area, also the same with a shaver.  Never use a shaver with Afro-Caribbean hair. Ever.  I don’t risk it.  It’s just the way the hair grows out the follicle.”

Obviously spoken like someone who knows what she’s doing!

“As for people who think, ’You’re not cutting my hair because you’re a woman,’ I will say, ‘Just let me do!  Let me do it and if you don’t like it, don’t pay for it.”

Very early, Lieanne brought her honesty, determination and talent to social media. Her YouTube success has many roots, including her emphasis on quality and her drive to self-brand.

“My goal (at the beginning) was always a quality haircut over quantity, I always had that in the back of my mind,’ she said.

“And I never want to be your standard barber that you go and see for ten minutes and that’s it, so I did a promo video to see if it takes me anywhere, opens any doors.”

After posting on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, Lieanne says her inbox was jammed with messages from people “saying they wished my video was longer,” she remembers.  “They said they wanted to see how I work. So I was like, ‘OK, this can open doors!’”

She began posting Instagram cell phone photos taken in her kitchen. “This was just around the time Instagram was taking off” three years ago, she recalls.  “I was uploading onto Instagram, and I was getting people saying, ‘Why don’t you come work for us?’ when I hadn’t even worked in a barber shop before.  It’s actually really overwhelming.”

Today, her video style remains focused on brevity.   “People get bored,” she says.  “I do just short bursts of process on a taper or scissor-cut styling, what products I use.”  She still shoots most of them on her Samsung 7.

I suggested making a video of Lieanne cutting Afro-Caribbean hair to prove the doubters wrong, a definite smash hit!

“I know!” she agrees. “I wanted to bring someone with Afro-Caribbean hair today (to Barber Connect) and I couldn’t get anyone.’

This made for an easy transition to her first major stage appearance.  How did it go?

“Rather nerve-wracking,” she allows. “You’re trying to work and it’s really hot, and you can’t see what you’re doing.  I was trying to prep my model and I was just stressing out!  Then Alan (Beak) came over and he was like, ‘Lieanne, just say a few words, like where you’re from. You’ll get a head mic.’ But my heart was definitely going a little bit when you can hear the crowd behind the curtains.”

“Then the next minute it was over!” she said. “It went so quick and I was like, ‘Get me back on there! I want to go back on now!’  Once I was up there I felt really comfortable.”

Clearly Lianne is growing more confident all the time. Already a proven success as a “late bloomer,” a woman in a male-donate field, and an expert in Afro Caribbean hair when so many though it couldn’t be done, who does this inspiring figure look to for inspiration?

Her choices say a lot about Lieanne’s eye for quality.

“Nay; she’s @nayqueenoffades,” she says. “She’s from Amsterdam with Mokum Barbers. She is absolutely amazing. Her fades look as though they’re actually filtered. They’re just so blurry.  How does she do that?”

Also from the start I would have to say Dani Lewis @toastiestyles, she’s a cool barber. She’s done some really nice work.

@StayGold31 from America,’ she adds “Sofie Pok is brilliant! She’s killing it. She’s next level.  She’s different.  American barbers are, because they use different clippers.  So I’m always learning from her work and seeing what she’s doing on social media.”

“Sean from @seanbryancutandsew is a really cool guy. He’s so good not just cutting hair but the business side of it. He’s got something like four shops, he deejays, he looks after God knows how many members of staff.  His branding and what-not is brilliant as well; his apparel.”

As part of her brand building, Lianne is also getting into the apparel line with distinctive T shirts.  As for closing thoughts from this motivated and talented woman, she says something I hear more and more barbers say – there is too much negativity, especially in social media.

“I really don’t understand people bashing each other on social media. ‘That cut is not good,’ and ‘Look at that blend,’ and ‘I can do better than that.’ I just don’t understand some people’s mentality towards each other. We all need to look after one another and help each other.”

I’ve always believe tiny gestures and little steps can lead to big change. Lieanne agrees, saying she’s offered to help a young barber in Cheshire improve his Afro-Caribbean cuts, just as a service to a colleague.  We definitely need more of that!

My thanks to Lieanne Buckley, another source of inspiration for me and I certainly hope you feel the same way.  If you want to see my entire interview with Lieanne, please visit my YouTube @larrythebarberman.

‘Til next time, happy barbering!

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Barber: Leroy Garcia Of Modern Shave Shop – Success Principles

One thing you need to know about Leroy Garcia from The Modern Shave in Connecticut is he will be on time.  And he expects you to be on time, too.

“An essential part of the craft is being professional,” Leroy told me when we met up in the US this spring.  I had just asked him about his principles. “Part of being professional is being punctual.”

27-year-old Leroy is a young barber with a fresh, original approach and getting well-known for his firm views on professionalism, as well as his well-tailored staff and scrupulously clean, comfortable Connecticut shop. He welcomes both men and women while offering skin care and scalp care as well as haircuts.

“When the client arrives at ten, and the sign says you are open at ten, and no one shows up until noon,” he shakes his head. “And then the next day a customer comes at ten and there is someone there, but the day after, no one is there until eleven, well,  we need consistency in something as basic as being open when you say you are open,”  he said firmly.

Leroy’s professionalism is rooted a sense of pride in barbering history and his passion to revive that pride amongst barbers everywhere.

“You see photos from the 20’s and 30’s and barbers were some of the most dapper people, guys in dress shirts and ties, and that is how I want to approach it, bringing that old feeling  (of pride and professionalism) back, which is now so rare.”

Ironically, it is the super-modern mobile appointment app BOOKSY that has been “a blessing,” in making things happen, Leroy says.  Since every customer has a unique self-made appointment through BOOKSY, Leroy’s barbers have to be prepared and on time for every customer, ready with a clean work station, sanitized tools and a personalized greeting.  Customers expect it.  In Leroy’s shop, old fashioned professionalism gets a boost from 21st century technology!

BOOKSY is also saving Leroy time and money, he says. “In starting my business, I did not want to pay for an assistant, so BOOKSY allows your phone to be your assistant.  We are reaching about 300 clients on BOOKSY now,” he said.

So what is the customer experience at Modern Shave so many are talking about?

“The first thing you will notice is a structured environment,” Leroy says, and I can tell this is a real passion for him. “There’s no obscene music playing; there is just smooth jazz instrumental.  There is a nice aroma, nice and clean. You won’t hear people hooting and hollering. You will see presentable barbers ready to attend you. You will get into the chair on time and you will see a clean environment. After a hot towel, you will walk out with one of the best haircuts of your life.  You will be serviced with the best organic products, and I repeat, organic,” he says with a smile.

That is just the beginning of the full experience, though. “There are brands out there that produce great products for your skin and for hair care, so although we specialize in all types of haircuts, it is not our only approach.  We like to service skin and scalp, we like to do dermal therapy scrubs and skin detox facials, waxing services.  All this comes from the knowledge I accrued from Todd Bernard at I Cut Pro, being part of that fraternity.”

Leroy believes gaining greater public respect for this range of professional services means barbers can’t “show up in flip flops and basketball shorts and sweat pants and think it is OK. It all starts with a presentation of what we are.”

I wanted to pursue the Todd Bernard angle, but first I asked Leroy how he got started.  He told me he’s been cutting hair since he was just 15, and “the next youngest guy in the shop was my age now, 27,” he recalls. “Everyone else was even older, my father’s age.”  What did he take away from that? “It showed me you only learn from the passage of time. If you surround yourself with experienced people who have learned through the passage of time, us younger ones can learn not to trip over the same rocks they tripped over.”

Back to Todd Bernard, Leroy says the man is a wealth of information and inspiration for barbers at all levels.  “Even with ten years’ experience, it made me feel like a new student, made me feel like I had never picked up a clipper,” he said. “People want to have strong suits and stay in their comfort zone, but when you step out of that  boundary and admit maybe your scissor game isn’t the best, maybe you don’t know how to part properly,  maybe you don t know how to talk to clients, you become a better barber and a better person.”

Leroy told me Todd Bernard’s high quality products help him build Modern Shave’s brand. He says Bernard’s “It’s Butter” leave-in conditioner sold out his initial 12-bottle shipment in two days.  “Our clients trust that what we offer and they know we aren’t just trying to take extra money out of their pocket. They know it is full of quality and will fulfill the need they have whether it is skin, scalp or hair.”

Leroy “100 percent” recommends the I Cut Pro web site, where a monthly subscription can bring all the benefits of attending live courses in New York. “It’s a blessing in my life,” he says.

As we wrapped up our chat, Leroy came back to what was learning is a favorite subject, and  I want to leave you with his main point:  the absolutely critical need for a commitment to punctuality, cleanliness, professional appearance, expanded services and a laser-like focus on the customer.

“Yes, we have urban shops and more classic shops, but these are the principles that should not be negotiated, that should not be missing in any shop,” he insists. “It is the foundation that we need to teach the new generation in events like the Irish Barber Expo.”

“We see people leaving their 9 to 5 to start barbering, but we need to lead them the right way, and if we take it upon ourselves, the new generation that is arising in the industry is going to start doing things the right way from the beginning.”

Well said by a man who clearly has been doing things the right way from the beginning, even though at age 27, he is really only beginning himself.

It was a pleasure to meet Leroy and I wish him all the success in the future.  He is an amazing soul with a great passion for the profession. I hope you enjoyed meeting him, too!

Click over to my YouTube @larrythebarberman to watch the entire video with this impressive young talent, and look for another interesting post from me in the very near future.

Until then happy barbering!

 

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Booksy and @barbersince98: Two Industry Dynamos Team Up to Aid Barbers Everywhere

You know @barbersince98 – also known as Oscar Torres – as the barber running one of the premier showcase sites in the business with more than a quarter million Instagram followers.  An American based in Rhode Island,  Oscar recently retired from cutting hair to blend his enormous online presence with Booksy, the powerful mobile appointment app and industry game-changer.

When I had a chance to interview him in Ireland this spring, I wanted to know the story behind Oscar’s incredible successes and his decision to go all in with Booksy.

Haircuts in the bathtub

Oscar told me he’s loved barbering since his mom plunked the kids into an empty tub for their homemade cuts. “When she said, ‘Strip down to your underwear and get in the tub,’ we knew it was haircut time!” he recalls.  “To be honest, though, I wasn’t the biggest fan of my mom’s skills.”

“When I was thirteen I found inspiration in my sister’s boyfriend, who would give me and my brothers haircuts,” he added. “I used to watch and think ‘This seems doable. I think I could try this.’”

Oscar soon talked his grandmother into spending most of his back-to-school money on his first set of clippers and trimmers, and Mom was not too happy.  “She said, ‘We’re taking this back to the store.’  But I was like, ‘Mom, I can make the money back!’  A couple of days later I had people knocking on my door for haircuts and that weekend I made all the money back.”

After being offered an apprenticeship by a classmate’s father, Oscar went to work in a barber shop. “That was 1998,” he said, “I took it seriously and it has been a blessing ever since.” It also explains where @barbersince98 comes from!

As his barbering and video/journalism skills grew, Oscar became a fast-growing fixture on Instagram. When Booksy began to take off, the two began to see a potential partnership, one based on mutual respect for innovation and skill.

“I saw the uniqueness of what Booksy is doing,” Oscar said. “There are a lot of tools in our industry, and most of them are just ordinary, but Booksy is helping people make more money, obtain more clients, represent themselves in the most professional manner.”

In my travels, I’ve found many barbers struggle with staying organized, even though doing so increases consistency, reliability and ultimately makes for a more successful career.  Oscar agrees;  one reason he loves Booksy.  “Booksy is helping barbers stay organized and helping clients communicate with their barbers,” he said.  Booksy takes the pressure off barbers to handle phone calls and walk-ins while trying to concentrate on the person in the chair, a fundamental and serious organizational problem for many.

With Booksy, customers see their barber’s schedule on their mobile device and book their appointments themselves 24/7, or even cancel or reschedule. All a barber needs to do is give great haircuts and check the calendar to see who’s next!

Meeting Obama’s barber

Oscar’s a big believer in consistency and reliability, and Booksy’s organizational tools help barbers develop both.  Oscar recently got big support for that point of view from Barack Obama’s personal barber, the legendary Zariff at Chicago’s Hyde Park Hair Salon.  After landing an Instagram interview with Zariff, Oscar told me “Zariff focuses on being consistent and reliable.  He feels skills are vital, but the first two are the most important. A skilled barber that is not consistent and not reliable, how effective can that barber be?”

Probably not effective enough to land Barack Obama as a client!

Oscar knows marketing and PR inside out, so he immediately grasped how important it is that Booksy goes above and beyond their already-innovative appointment management tool to help barbers market and grow.  Booksy can integrate a barber’s web site into the Booksy domain to boost Google rankings, and geolocate Booksy barbershops, attracting clients with practically no involvement from the barber at all.  “With Booksy a regular person like me or you can go to a different city,” he enthuses, “and if you don’t know any barbers there, you open up the Booksy app and it gives you the closest barbers. That’s bringing new clients to you.”

Oscar is so enthusiastic that he happily retired from barbering to focus on helping barbers get Booksy into their working lives.  Booksy’s power, combined with Oscar’s industry presence and marketing expertise, are a huge benefit to barbers everywhere.  “My job is to introduce Booksy to people who haven’t used it before or who are using it and need some help on how to make their page more presentable,” he sums up.  “By me dealing with so many businesses on this platform, that allows me to give people advice on what to do and what not to do.”

“I offer brand exposure,” he added. “I like helping brands who have a meaningful purpose in our industry.  My Instagram is a showcase platform.  If you have a brand that stands out and you need some help, I can help you out with that.”

“You can’t reinvent the wheel, but you can change the ride”

I always ask my interviewees for advice to young barbers and Oscar is straight up with his.

“One thing I learned is that you are never going to reinvent the wheel, but you can change the ride,” he told me.

“Social media is a big platform. You can be appreciated by people who will probably never sit in your chair because they are in another country, but I can’t stress enough, don’t lose the importance of your community.

“It is cool to get likes and follows by people you will never meet, but you need to focus on your community and the people who go into your business on a weekly and a monthly basis.”

And while Oscar agrees there is no substitute for persistence and hard work, he comes back to how important it is for barbers to be organized.

“If you think you are grinding now, tighten up your belt because it’s a long ride!” he laughs. “There are things you are going to go through, a lot of clients you will lose and gain, and at the end of the day, you need to stay organized!”

“That’s another reason I am with Booksy.  It helps barbers who are young stay organized and keep your clients,” he adds. “Focus on your clients, stay organized and good things can happen.”

My thanks to Oscar for a fascinating conversation.  You can contact him and inquire how he can help your business by emailing Oscar.torres@booksy.net

It’s amazing to me how Booksy is gaining traction all over the industry, and it is inspiring that so many barbers recognize its value and are not being left behind!

Be sure to watch the full interview on my YouTube @larrythebarberman, and ’til next time, happy barbering!

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Just a couple of months ago, in April 2017, I was interviewing the team at Ego Barbers when the tables were turned. Stell, former Head of Education at the London School of Barbering and now the head of education for Ego Barbers’ academy Kings of Tomorrow, interrupted me mid interview to find out why I call myself Larry the Barberman despite the fact that I don’t cut hair… and why I’ve never learned those skills.
As I explained, I see the title of Barberman as being about helping barbers with their needs, not being a barber myself. Stell was not convinced – and as many people are now aware, he took control of the live interview to give me a challenge: Allow him to personally train me for two hours a day over 14 days, and get to a standard where I could perform a cut on the shop floor.

Challenge Accepted!
How could I find the time to learn barbering while also running an online store, interviewing barbers, creating how-to videos and writing for BarberEvo magazine? It was a big ask – but I didn’t think twice before accepting! This felt like the logical next step in the Larry the Barberman journey, and where else would I get the opportunity to be personally taught by an educator of Stell’s calibre?
So, what was the experience like? Well, a couple of months on I have called Stell back for a second interview to find out his thoughts, and to learn a lot more about his educational philosophy.
From my point of view, though, it was impeccable. When I started, Stell had a two week training plan ready. What followed was exemplary; we covered the theory of hair, square layering, round layering with scissors, blending, texturizing… and then onto the clippers for clipper theory, graduation, fading, outlining and much more.
All of the above resulted in me performing a walk-in hair cut on the shop floor at Ego barbers in just 9 days. In fact, I performed 3 cuts on live models within 12 days, so it’s fair to say we achieved our goal 5 days ahead of schedule.
I credit this success to Stell’s methods – and he certainly had his work cut out for him considering my lack of prior knowledge. I asked him what he thought of my skills at first:
“Well, you had none. You knew about all the clippers and how to fix them, but when it comes to cutting hair you were a complete novice – no experience. So, taking on a complete novice is a little bit different to working with people who have had some experience. In your case, it was really about starting from the beginning, understanding how to work with the hair.”
I was also curious to hear what my biggest weaknesses were (and relieved to find out that my struggles were common for early stage barbers!):
“Dealing with the long lengths of hair. A lot of time people come in from working rom very short lengths and they don’t know what it’s like to work with longer lengths. Once you conquered that we started going at a much faster pace. I find that all the time though, that is always the biggest challenge.”

Cutting beyond clippers
It’s clear that as the barbering industry grows, there are certain trends that we see more and more of – and one thing it’s impossible to ignore is the explosion of incredible clipper work. In my experience, though, a lot of barbers who have mastered the clippers want to learn to utilise other tools. I ask Stell what challenges these barbers might need to overcome:
“The haircut becomes dictated by what the clippers do, because that’s their strongest point. And that means the shape is always an afterthought. A lot of the time, the clippers will work away s lot of the layers without them even realising it. So, the shape that they’re trying to build isn’t really consistent with what the head shape demands. That’s the biggest challenge: the clippers overtake what’s going on on top.
“By coming to Kings of Tomorrow, they’ll learn the way to construct a haircut. So, yes, their clipper work might be their strong point, but ultimately it doesn’t define a haircut. If you only think that a haircut is made up of one portion – say, the clipper work – then you haven’t got a completed article at the end of it. What you’ve got is one fantastic piece, which is your bottom half, maybe with a quite standard connection, but then a very flat and uninspiring top half.
“What we can guarantee is that the construction of the haircut will be a tailored finish for every single client. Because each client’s hair type and head shape is different.”
Luckily, the fact that most of the barbers at the Kings of Tomorrow academy will have a solid base of knowledge to work off means that they’ll be able to put what they learn into practice very quickly, identifying problems to work on after just one or two days. Then, as time goes on, they can enhance and refine.

A full philosophy
One of the things that I’ve really grown to respect about Stell is the deep level of thought that he puts into his educational process:
“It’s all about understanding the philosophy of the possibilities that you have with hair. Just because you’ve cut a great haircut doesn’t mean you’re great at cutting hair. Understanding the possibilities that you can get from doing certain techniques or building certain shapes will give you the ability to do more styles and not just copy certain trends and master one haircut.
“You don’t want to be a one hit wonder – or you want to be a trendsetter yourself. You need to know why you’re doing stuff – what is the reason, what is the knock-on effect? Then that confidence grows”.
He adds that when barbers get the approach wrong or don’t focus on building their skills, they end up doing the same thing every day and the same haircut for every client. That’s not good for the clients, and it’s not good barbers either as it stops their progression. And, as Stell says, you might think your clients are happy, but most of the time they won’t tell you if they’re unhappy – they’ll just end up going elsewhere, making education all the more important.

A bright future for barbers
With people like Stell on the scene helping our barbers to really hone their skills, it’s hard not to think that things can only get better for this industry which is already growing and beginning to thrive. Stell seems similarly optimistic, adding some words of advice:
“A lot of people are doing fantastic things with education at the moment, and it can only do us good as barbers because why shouldn’t we be charging more money? But with that comes the responsibility of delivering what your charging, and if you can’t deliver for whatever reason then you need to look and think how can I grow, how can I get better results.
“Whether it’s education or YouTube videos, wherever you need to be to grow that’s where you need to put yourself.”
Whilst training with Stell I was blown away by his passion and dedication to barbering education, as well as his vision for all barbers to be able to learn every aspect of barbering and charge what they’re worth. If you want to be part of that vision then keep an eye out on the @EgoBarbers Instagram page, or head to egobarbers.com. To find me on Instagram and see me put more top talent like Stell under the spotlight, search for @LarrytheBarberMan.

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Female Barber: Lena Piccininni, Speaks Of Her Rise To Barbering Stardom

Lena Piccininni’s work is the epitome of modern barbering, with her versatile skills representing perfectly the way in which barbering and hairdressing are becoming more and more interconnected every day. She is also a talented makeup artist, and the versatility of these three skills mean that she is able to educate both male and female stylists in a way that they can engage with.

Aside from all that, name is an educator and ambassador for Pacino’s – an achievement that any barber would be delighted to have to their name. She’s also one of the most professional and driven people I’ve met, with a work ethic that should make her an inspiration to barbers and hairdressing alike… so let’s hear what she had to say!

 

A journey to the top

“Well, I started doing hair and makeup, and then I went through some life experiences and basically need a job – so I ended up in barbering. I realised that it’s extremely difficult for a woman to make it in a male dominated industry and I needed to make sure my skills were 100%. Sometimes I thought, I need to be better than the men in the barbershop.”

This spurted Lena on to look at educational classes, and it was here that she first met Pacino – a hugely admired celebrity barber, educator and platform artist who was impressed by Lena and able to propel her career forwards.

But while she found she was learning a lot from educators, and from watching classes, she also felt like there was an important piece missing. In particular, she felt like her fades just weren’t living up to the high standard she’d set herself:

“Because I do makeup and makeup is all about blending, I stayed saying if you have issues take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Pretend the hair is an eyelid and you’re blending the eyeshadow, it’s the same thing. You can see the same dark lines and what needs to be darker or lighter.”

As I mentioned above, Lena’s diversity is one of the things that elevates her. This has been the case since the very start of her career, when she tells me that she saw every single client as worthwhile, since she was focused on widening her client base. This is an important point for early career barbers; you can’t just chase the fades and pompadours of you want to get your name out!

It’s the same with Lena’s educational classes, where she describes her clientele as “everybody” – meaning, barbers, hairdressers and cosmetologists alike. Specifically, she tries to draw on details from each element and puts it all into her education. And, as Lena notes, as we are seeing more and more crossover between barbering and hairdressing, her style of education is exactly what a lot of people within the hair industry are looking for.

 

Humble barbering roots

I was also curious to hear more about how Lena first got into barbering – a story which is inspiring in and of itself, even if her career hadn’t reached the heights that she now enjoys:

“I was in a hair salon and they changed owners and they basically wanted to cut my pay to around half. They were paying around $5 an hour to assist on reception, clean and shampoo. At 17 I was very stubborn, so I said no way, I’m quitting. Unfortunately, then my father passed away and I had to get a job – I had to take over a mortgage, with my brother, at 17 years old. I was fresh out of high school, no money, no nothing. No clients, not really any education in hair. I couldn’t get a clientele.

Then a friend of my fathers – I feel bad now but I say thank god, he broke his shoulder – because he had a full book of clients and couldn’t cut for them. I said look, I can do this.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly given her determination, this worked out well for Lena, and from their she was able to start working in an actual barbershop, fading and learning classic barbering skills for the first time.

From this combination of luck and good judgement, it was hard work that drove Lena forwards. This is particularly evident when looking at how she came to work with Pacino, a man who has had a big influence on her career: “without him, I wouldn’t be where I am. His initial class that I attended has opened up so many doors over the past few years. From where I started, I never dreamt that I’d end up educating in so many different countries and places”.

 

Always staying classy

One of the things that impressed Pacino initially was Lena’s sense of professionalism, and desire to be considered great because of her skills and not for any other reason:

“First of all, when I was starting as a barber I wanted to make sure that anybody sitting in my chair was there because of my skills and not what I looked like.  I try to teach this to a lot of girls; sometimes I see them wearing more revealing clothing to get clientele, but that is the wrong clientele.

My clientele is very respectful to me and that’s how I like it. You want to make sure you’re barbering for the right reasons – not to meet to guys.

Thankfully, right now I don’t have any [challenges as a female barber], because I’ve worked so hard to put myself out there. When I first started, the biggest challenge was just being taken seriously. I’ve had people get out of my chair. I’ve had guys be like ‘you know what, never mind. Maybe you should just be sitting at the front desk, maybe you should be sweeping the floor. I’ve had all those comments. It just pushed me further.

So the challenge really is just getting guys to take a woman seriously in a barber shop.”

It’s a challenge that Lena has clearly overcome, as her personal brand has grown huge, with 120,000 followers on Instagram and a star status in the USA and Latin America.  Again, a lot of this is down to the professionalism with which she conducts herself and her business, ensuring that her Instagram is purely focussed on her work without personal distractions: “Honestly, that’s what Pacino noticed – he said I’ve seen your page and you’re just working and working and working. You really want to keep unrelated things private with separate pages for work and personal life so that your brand stays completely professional.”

 

Just put yourself out there

No surprises that her advice for other barbers focusses on the strong traits that Lena has demonstrated throughout her own career, and she talks about versatility as being one of the key skills to master:

“One of the questions that barbers always ask me is how do you build a clientele and being a woman, building a clientele is particularly hard. But it’s because I was versatile. I see a lot of guys who worked at the barbershop that I worked at and they didn’t build a big clientele because they only wanted to cut certain people.

I was never scared to cut a kid, long hair, short hair. I would take anyone and make sure I was versatile, and that helped me stay busy and make money.”

This is great advice for every barber, so I hope that you’re able to use it in your own career – but I also wanted to know whether Lena had any particular advice for female barbers who want to become an ambassador, an educator or an influencer as she has:

“You’ve got to just put yourself out there. Again, my number one thing is always be classy, always be professional. Really, you’ve got to practice and you’ve got to show your work; you have to promote yourself, promote your brand, get yourself out to these shows.

I drove four hours just to come walk around and see everyone, and I’ve been to these shows so many times but I still keep putting myself out there. If you have to take a day off, take a day off and come to these shows, meet people, use Instagram.

So, I say if I can do it anyone can do it, I started from nothing. I started from being poor, from never cutting men’s hair to travelling the globe and educating. If I can do it you can do it, but you have to work hard and practice, you have to have patience because it takes time.”

 

I’m sure that Lena’s words will have inspired you to take that time and work your way up; her eclectic skills, confidence and sheer determination are certainly inspiring to me! To see more interviews with top professional barbers like Lena, please visit larrythebarberman.com, or come and find me on YouTube at barbers.tv or on Instagram as @larrythebarberman, where I am constantly putting out new videos and posts so that you can learn from some of the best in the business.

 

 

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Barber: Tyler Trotter of Clean Clean Cut Grooming rose from Prison to Platform Barber

It’s no secret our industry is booming!  Every day, more talented people are building successful barbering careers, and I love bringing you their stories.

I never thought a barbering story would start in jail in the southern United States, with a drug-addicted, homeless young man, serving a one-year term for robbing a druggist.

But many stories start at rock bottom, and that jail cell was rock bottom just a few years ago for Knoxville, Tennessee-based Tyler Trotter, whose brilliant recovery was capped off when the young man with the fierce red beard appeared onstage at Premier Orlando.

“I don’t think that has soaked in yet,” he told me when we sat down for an interview. “That I am here at Orlando Premier and I am a platform barber – it’s amazing!”

It was a coincidence that I’d met up with Tyler at the Premiere. We hadn’t planned an interview. But he graciously agreed to spend some time with me so I could share with you.

I was eager to hear more of his one-of-a-kind story. “I was penniless and homeless,” the recently certified Master Barber told me of his jail time.  “I’d lost my children to Protective Services; I served a year locked up 23 hours a day, going through withdrawal.”

“And it was all because of my choices, my drug addiction,” he continued. “I lost everything that was important to me. Most importantly, I lost respect for myself.  I had no idea who I was.”

“Pain is a really good teacher and motivator,” he added with a smile.

If you are one of his more than 6,000 YouTube subscribers, you know Tyler brings it with unsparing honesty, a trait winning him more barbering fans on social media every day.

“I couldn’t stop using drugs,” he said bluntly. “When I got arrested and was locked up … desperation took over. I decided I can’t do this. I didn’t know how to get a job, I didn’t know how to keep a job, I didn’t know how to pay bills, I didn’t know how to do anything, and I was ready to give up.”

He said a last-minute call to a local addiction help center introduced him to the 12-step recovery program and to a spiritual side he had long neglected.

“I started to find out who I was and started to believe in myself,” he told me. “I found out I was extremely ambitious. I had a desire to be successful in life;  to be a great husband and a great father, so I started trying different things.”

He recovered his sobriety and worked as a counselor at an addiction treatment center (“It was fantastic!” he recalls).  He reconciled with his wife; his two children were back in his life.  His family was soon expecting a third child.

 

“Our financial situation meant I couldn’t continue working as a counselor,” he smiles. “We agreed I’d become a stay-at-home Dad.’

And that’s how it started: former inmate and stay-at-home Dad giving haircuts to his kids.

“Giving haircuts was special to me, it was a moment of nurturing,” he says. “One day, my son says, ‘Can I have a fauxhawk?’  I didn’t know how to do it, and a little voice inside – my conscience, and I believe God speaks to me through my conscience  –  said, ‘I wish I could cut it the way he wanted it.’ So I went on YouTube to look at different haircut videos.”

And he never looked back.

“After the fauxhawk video, I wanted to watch the bald fade video, and after that, I wanted to watch the other haircut videos, and I thought, ‘Yeah, this looks fun!”

“I watched student barber YouTube journeys.  I got excited, and this passion and ambition started snowballing inside me.”

After stitching together funding, Tyler was soon studying at the Knoxville Institute of Hair Design and You Tubing every step.

“I had watched other barber students document their journey, and I found value in it, so I said ‘I am going to start right now.’  My first video is me before I even owned any clippers, saying, ‘I am going to be a barber. Watch this!’”

“I documented and blogged my entire experience through barber school. I did reviews on all the clippers and all the tools that I saw,” he told me. “And I continue today.”

“If a barber wants to know how to be successful,” he said, switching to his current YouTube offerings, “I do my best to document my victories as well as my failures.  I document the process of what it takes. I document the hard work.  I document the time away from my wife and kids. I document the grunt work and the labor, scrubbing the rust off the chairs that are going into my shop.”

“A lot of people share the glory,” he concludes, “but they don’t share the story.”

Besides his strength, determination, ambition and love for the industry (“I want to breathe everything barber and pursue it”), Tyler’s belief in relationships shines through. One of his most important bonds is with fellow American and Barber Society Administrator Christopher Burke.

I recently interviewed Christopher for my channel, where he went out of his way to mention Tyler as a top mentee.

Tyler told me he met Chris through sheer doggedness, peppering Burke with questions via social media while a student.

“Christopher not only answered me, he showed me how to hold a pair of clippers in a comment thread by taking pictures,” Tyler recalls with amazement.  “Him being a busy man and me just a student – there were 9,000 members in the Barber Society – for him to take the time to show me these things, I didn’t want it to go to waste.”

Tyler realized his path to success was simple. Not easy, of course, but not complicated.

“When Chris gave me advice,” he says enthusiastically, “even if I didn’t like it or didn’t want to do it, I did it anyway.”

“To be successful, I have to listen to the people who have already attained success.  I need to do the things they are telling me to do or the things they are sharing with me, and Chris, man, he has never stopped helping me.”

Tyler’s ambition and drive have already taken him far. He developed his own beard oil while he was a student, giving it away to class mates and almost immediately becoming overwhelmed by demand.

“It is all essential oils so your beard absorbs it,” Tyler said.  “Plus it takes care of the most important part of your beard, which is the skin and the follicle the hair grows out of.”

“I can’t give you a wholesale price on 50 bottles a month right now because I don’t have time to make it, I can’t meet the demand,” Tyler said. “I still make it myself in my kitchen.  I still mix it in my blender. There is just no time to make it that way much longer, and I am looking at mass manufacturing that will preserve the integrity of the ingredients.”

Not a bad problem to have for someone who just got a license two years ago!

From a man who has seen so much hardship and then so much success I wanted to know how Tyler views the industry, and what thoughts he might share with other barbers.

“If you want to become a barber, find barbers,” he said firmly. “Go to shops, look at what they do, look at YouTube videos, make sure it is what you want to do.  If you continue to aspire, ask somebody to show you how, and when they show you how, do what they show you to do.”

“You don’t just wake up one day and know how to be a barber,” he continued. “You have to do something you have not done before. If you want to see something you have never seen, you have to go places you have never been.”

“So get a mentor, develop relationships, and if the first person, the second person, the third person you reach out to don’t reach back, keep going because if you don’t continue to reach out, you guarantee you are never going to find that relationship.”

“I suggest you focus on people and focus on yourself.  Character first, then business.”

That last line is as good a slogan for barbering as I’ve ever heard.  Words of wisdom from Tyler Trotter and words of thanks from me, Larry the Barberman.  It was a great interview and a privilege to meet such an inspiring figure.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Tyler as much as I enjoyed talking with him.  Be sure to check out our entire interview on my YouTube @LarrytheBarberman.

Until next time, happy barbering!

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Schorem’s: Leen & Rob Reveal The Secrets To Their Success Past & Present

They say revolutions happen quickly and indeed, it has been just six years since Rob and Leen, “The Scumbags of Rotterdam,” opened Schorem.  Their 6-chair, men-only shop was an immediate sensation. Their unique personalities, classic barber shop style and devotion to haircuts from the 50’s and 60’s took Europe and then the world by storm.

Today, their haircut posters are legendary, their shows pack 2500-seat theaters from Australia to Sweden, their lovingly crafted old school products sell in the thousands and their inked, bearded, straight talking, rock and roll, no BS attitude is a barbering world ethos.

The pair sat down with me during a 30-minute break in their frantic schedule at Orlando in June, minutes before hitting the stage for another jammed performance.

I away love to know how great barbers got started, and true to their blue collar image, each is self-taught.

“I started after high school,” says Leen, tall, bespectacled and full-bearded “I was 15 and my brother was already doing hair. I had to have some work, so I was in there washing hair and doing everything an apprentice does, but I also started learning how to cut hair, and I was really good at it. It was appealing and I loved the interaction with people.”

Rob started out in his northern Holland hometown after leaving high school, cutting hair for the musicians and artists who made up his social group. The path to Schorem started for Rob when he fell in love.

“I had this girl,” he recalls, “and she moved to the south because she wanted to go to school for acting, so I followed and looked for a job.”

“One day I walked into this shop and there was this guy standing on a stool putting little shampoo bottles on a shelf. He was thin and had long hair in braid dyed black and he was just about the gayest guy I ever saw in my whole life. It was super funny to me.”

Rob didn’t get the job, but “I spent the whole day there talking, and we laughed so hard. It was part of a franchise, so they gave me the number for the headquarters and I got into one of their other shops.”

A few months later, “I was at a hair show and I saw Leen again and we ripped the place apart!  We got drunk and made fun of the of the hairdressers on the stage,” he remembers.  From that time, “we never left each other.”

Leen says: “The way he works and the way I work is  similar and we never saw anybody cut hair the way we cut hair.”

“We turned the way of working with hair upside down,” Rob agrees. “The technique I learned on the streets, I never saw anybody do it, and when I walk into his shop and he’s doing it the same way and I was like ‘Where did you learn that?’ and he said, ‘ I taught myself.”  I said “I cut like that, and I taught myself!’  Maybe that is where the whole idea of Schorem was born.

 

Besides their posters (more on that later) the Schorem shop became instantly well known for its meticulous devotion to classic barbering gear. The shop uses two chairs that are at least 100 years old, a lather machine that goes back to the 1870’s, and a now world-famous mirrored art-deco cabinet, a showpiece the many photographers who visit Schorem alas want to work into the shot. It’s a French Art Deco piece from 1890, which they found in a Belgian antique shop after being steered there by a relative.

After seeing it in the store, Rob returned to Leen, who was in the car. “My face, it was very happy and he was like, ‘Rob, we have to bargain.’ This woman, we scared the shit out of her. She thought she was going to be robbed and we were like ‘We heard about this barber cabinet.’ And there it is, in mint condition, a cabinet that is 120 years old and my face just like..(jaw drops). The only thing I could say was ‘I don’t like it,’ because Leen still had to bargain.”

Finding the cabinet “that was the turning point in the whole shop,”  Leen said.

“It’s a very important part,” Rob agrees. “We are very honest that it is our shop, but we stole every idea from around the world. We love the American barber shop.”

The classic American shop of the 50’s is the inspiration for the now famous Schorem posters, which launched Schorem to social media stardom and demonstrated the pair’s marketing (and psychological) insight.

“We found that a successful barber shop is not just the haircut. It is about understanding the psychology of a guy in general,” Rob told me during our interview. He said many barbers forget that “the barbershop has always been for the average Joe. We forgot they were lost (in modern times), looking at magazines with male models who were perfect  with perfect bodies and the jawline chiseled from marble, and they had to take this magazine to this beautiful girl and say, “Hey, I want my hair like this.”

Leen and Rob decided to save men the embarrassment and take pictures of great haircuts on ‘average Joes.’  “These guys are your friends, the people you meet in bars, so (having the posters on the wall means) you can point and go, ‘Hey, man, can I have that?’  That was the best thing!  And we didn’t know shit about photography or Photoshop, so we made the most human posters possible. No models.”

The honesty of the posters made Schorem an internet sensation and they sell thousands. To this day in the Schorem shop, custom posters display the 22 haircuts available. “If you don’t see it on the wall, you are in the wrong place,” Leen says.

True to their honest ethos, Leen says “it doesn’t matter” if posters or products or cabinets go viral. “We make these things without a purpose. We just do everything that we think that we like. So it does not matter if it goes viral, and if you think like that, then it is easier.”

Rob tells me the same goes for their hugely popular stage shows. “I feel like a complete moron on stage. When they asked us to do a hair show, we were like, ‘We don’t have flashing lights we don’t have models, we are just guys from the streets.’”

Keeping their image honest and BS-free takes effort, he says. “It is hard. We don’t want to blow smoke up our asses because Schorem is far from the best barbers. We have been friends for long and we see how absurd it is that we ended up on stage, because we are really a little bit of screw-ups.”

“We go on stage and go, ‘How did we end up here?  We just own a little barber shop!’ “We realize we are not afraid to screw up anymore. So we just hug each other and we say ‘OK, let’s have some fun.’  We try to take the feeling from the barber shop to the stage.”

Social media success was almost an accident, the pair told me. Their advice for up and coming barbers is “be honest” and avoid filters and Photoshop. “Make sure you have beautiful photos, make sure you do it at one recognizable point, so when people are scrolling through their feed and see this one shot, it makes them say “Oh, these guys posted that.”

“Social media has gotten so big, and it’s hard,” he added. “Be sure you have a personality in everything you post, make sure people like what you are doing, that you are not pushing it on them.

Leen’s take is simple enough: “I’m not a social media guy at all. I don’t like social media.”

The next challenge for the dynamic pair was a custom product they named Reuzel. They started out with a red water-based and green oil-based sheen and added a heavier blue water-based tonic (“like barbers used to use,” Rob said) and a pink oil-based. “The water-based means you can put it in as a gel. It looks like a wax,  but you can rinse it out as a gel, and the oil-based product needs buildup, so the more it gets in your hair, the better.”

“All the tonics used to be made by the barber himself,” Rob said. “There were all these secret formulas and I love that shit!”

The expansion and ideas never stop. “ If we do a new-school product, there always has to be an old-school product. Now we’ve come out with two:  Geek Guys in pomade class, a fiber;  and a matte product,  Matte Clay Pomade.  We needed them for a looser look.

Shaving cream “that smells like grandpa,” Rob laughs, is another new product.  What he means by that, he says, is the cream has a rich aroma that’s reminiscent of soap and tobacco, “like you’d smell when you went to kiss grandpa.”

Leen: “We have beard foam that acts as a deodorizer, and we have a degreasing formula because there was a lot of asking about cleaning up oil-based products. We have a beard balm that acts more like a conditioner.”

I asked about best sellers and Rob says, “I would say the pink because that is my favorite product, together with the grooming tonic, but we know our best seller is the blue, but the fiber and the clay are breathing down blue’s neck!”

So what is in the future for two of the hottest barbers on the scene today?

“We are working on a project that has never been done before,” Rob says. “A DVD that is only partially including us; it is going to be cool shit and we are going to raise money with it to make sure kids that are born in prison or born in poverty have a chance to get an education in barbering or whatever. It is the biggest project we have ever done and you will be hearing more about it.”

I love to ask for final thoughts and I had two for these world travelers: one, what are their favorite places?

ROB:  “Dublin! I am a sucker for Ireland. I love the people, love the hospitality, love the Guinness! Ireland is it for me.”

Leen: “I just went to Tuscany and that is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.”

Secondly, how has their success has impacted them?

Rob says it still takes them by surprise. “It was never planned.”

“But the best thing was when this older guy comes up to us in Canada and says, ‘Boys, I have had a barber shop for forty years, and the last 15 years have been so bad that I was getting close to bankruptcy. Then you guys started your shop and all of a sudden I got these kids coming in asking for haircuts,  and for the first time in 20 years I took my family on holiday.’ And he had tears in his eyes. We don’t realize the impact this little barber shop has. That is the best story I ever heard.”

Leen adds, “That is one of the reasons we are on stage, because we did not want to be on stage (at first). But so many people tell us they are inspired by us, and we are still having fun on stage.”

“And that is why we do it.”

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