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DL Master Barber’s Straight Talking Interview, For The Greater Financial Good Of Young Barbers

Celebrity barber and motivational speaker DL Master Barber is on a mission to make sure that young barbers do the right thing, treat their customers right and ultimately treat their barbershops as what they are: a business. I’m very happy to be amplifying that message for barbers across the world.  

DL hasn’t necessarily had an easy ride to the top: his barbering career saw him earn a lot of money, and then it saw him lose a lot of money. Thanks to this experience, he’s now able to give barbers the jolt of energy that they need to do things differently: 

“When me and my mother came up from Ohio, she had no plan – but she had a purpose, which was to change my life. She just wanted more opportunity for me. Like a lot of us, I graduated from the school of hard knocks. I just wanted something different, to change the financial situation for me and my mother.  

“This made me so passionate about becoming a barber. I didn’t know this passion would move me into a different space and time. Jheri curls came out and barbershops were closing because they weren’t making the transition. And then Hip Hop came along, and the rap artists all had to come to Hollywood and sign their record deals. I was cutting off the Jheri curls and giving them flat tops.  

“So, I end up doing a lot of the New York rappers because they would talk, they’d say there’s this kid who’s nice with the clippers. That catapulted me into meeting more and more rappers. We were having fun, I was cutting hair. I was going to the hotel not knowing who I was cutting because they didn’t have their faces on the album covers.” 

Then ‘Yo! MTV Raps’ started showing music videos and live performances, and everything changed: rappers needed an image to go with their words and beats. DL had already built up the credibility needed to position himself as someone who could help rappers define this style. 

“It changed my life. It changed their life. They needed barbers to create these unique styles for them. Thus, me meeting Tupac Shakur.”  

 

It’s not hard to see, then, how DL was able to create so much success for himself at a very early stage for his career, and it’s hard not to picture him out there living the dream. But it’s not always to cling onto that wealth, especially when you’re young, and barbers can learn as much from the mistakes as from the successes: 

“At the age of 19 I opened up my first shop. At the age of 21 I became a multimillionaire. By the age of 23 I had lost all the money. I didn’t understand how money worked. I knew how to create the money, but I didn’t understand taxes or how to invest the money. I was spending more than I was bringing in. If you don’t know how to deal with your money, you’re gonna lose your money. 60% – 80% of all barbers and hair stylists retire broke, because we don’t understand how money works.” 

The experience of learning this the hard way has made DL determined to give other barbers the education that he missed out on. Helping others in the industry learn how to build their career in the right way has become one of the driving forces in his life. 

“I’m not just speaking it, I’m a living example of it. I want barbers to understand that this is our craft: it’s not just about putting hair on the floor or going to trade shows.” 

As the barbering industry has grown, many more opportunities have opened up. This makes it easier for barbers to network with each other and learn from one and other. But alongside this comes the empty hype, and DL cautions against barbers who turn up at shows or follow their favourite stars on Instagram without actually learning anything. He also warns barbers that trying to copy the work of an inspirational figure isn’t the way to achieve success: you have to be original and find what works for you.  

So how can barbers make this happen? Well, one way is to create standards. “This is what barbers need. Some barbershops have it – a standard of how they do business. You raise your income by raising your value.” Another way is to rectify the mistakes that you’re making. I asked DL to describe the biggest mistake he sees, and explain how it can be fixed: 

“That’s easy. The biggest mistake is education. You have to be educated. You have to be motivated, inspired and empowered to educate yourself. Most barbers want to put hair on the floor but don’t want to educate themselves. Most barbers stay in their neighbourhood, in their shop and think they know everything. If you want to be the best, then you have to educate yourself.” 

And DL is taking a proactive approach in changing this, too – producing content, including books, that barbers can use to educate themselves. These focus on helping barbers create a lifestyle that allows you to save money without struggling. Check out the book, ‘Pocket Game – The Art of Saving Without Saving’ to get all of the secrets. Designed to fit in your back pocket, you can keep this book on hand and get to the wisdom inside when you need it most.  

If you’re not in the mood for reading, then DL also offers mentoring and training sessions where barbers can get. “I did something very different this time: I came up with this idea called the situation room. Wherever I went, I decided to have four barbers come to my room with two problems and came up with a strategic plan to help them overcome these problems. Because a lot of the time, these shows are so big you don’t get the help you really need.  

“I also have a mentoring programme. That’s a six-week course helping people get to their goals. You want to be a platform artist, compete in shows, work with celebrities… that’s what I’ve been doing for twenty+ years. I want to educate, inspire and empower barbers and stylists.” 

 

I’m sure that this video has given you a lot to think about! Perhaps the biggest takeaway is the need to be financially competent as well as good with the clippers to make it as a master barber.  

I think it’s crucial that we bring DL Master Barber to the UK so that British barbers get a chance to learn some of his secrets. I’m going to work hard to help make that happen so that we can get DL on stage, but before that happens, here are the final thoughts that he wants to leave you with: 

“I want you to live your dreams. I want you to stay focused. I want you to believe that you can do what you want to do when you want to do it. There’s an old saying that says ‘if you do what you ought to do, when you ought to do it, then there’ll come a time can do what you want to do when you want to do it.  

“All you’ve got to do is find your ‘it’. And once you find it, what are you going to do with it? Who do you need to bring in to get it? And once you get it, what are you going to do with it? You are a priceless original, so be the best that you can be. And listen to guys like Larry, who are bringing information right into your phone!” 

Follow DL Master Barber on Instagram, and Larry the Barber Man on Instagram or YouTube to get your regular fix of barbering inspo.  

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Times Of Paul Taylor Clinch While At Schorem Barbier Rotterdam 2017

Rotterdam’s Schorem Barbier has become an infamous destination for barbers who want to embrace the crazier side of the industry. I was very interested to speak to the British barber Paul Taylor Clinch to find out how he ended up joining their gang – and what it’s really like to work there.  

“Like a lot of people, I was a huge fan. I followed their work online for about two years: as soon as they started doing videos I was watching them on the way to work to feel inspired through the day. I liked their work ethic: work hard, play hard.  

“One day they posted something in Dutch and I was naturally curious. It was basically saying that they were offering a position. Anyone who has seen their documentary will know that Demon Daan got his job there by writing an email that basically said, ‘I’m the guy you’re looking for.’ I wrote my CV, and thought I’d see if lightning can strike in the same place twice. So, it was a professional CV, but at the end I added ‘I’m the guy you’re looking for.’“ 

It clearly resonated, because almost immediately Schorem were in touch to say that they wanted to fly Paul out for a trial. Nervous but excited, Paul jumped on a flight and left to meet his heroes. Once there he spent the day at the shop watching them operate and waiting for his chance to impress with his cutting skills:  

“When it was my turn to do my two models, Rob and Leen came in. And because it was the end of the day, I had the whole team sat on the waiting bench watching. I kid you not, Rob was just sat in the middle leaning forward and squinting at me. Rob checked one side of my cut and Leen checked the other. Luckily they offered me the job there and then.” 

I doubt that luck had much to do with it. Schorem are committed to finding excellent barbers who can maintain their quality. Part of working their means learning to execute 12 specific cuts: these are the looks that Schorem clients expect to walk away with. 

“I was getting into pomps, but I had no idea how the guys at the shop did it. It’s really nice that we all train together: even though we cut what’s on the posters, and that’s one of the golden rules, everyone has different strengths within that. It’s so amazing that we can keep learning off each other.” 

The guys behind Schorem have managed to create a family atmosphere within their crew, and within the barbering community they’re known almost as much for their hijinks as for their cuts. It didn’t take Paul long to realise what he’d gotten into: 

“My first day I got picked up from the airport and Rob said we’re going to do a photo shoot. I thought okay, probably for the website, like a mugshot. I get there, and Gio is pretty much naked, holding some playing cards to cover himself. So I think, this is going to be a weird photo shoot. Rob says to me, ‘we need you to get naked’. I took my shirt off and he says no – naked.” So barbers who want to join the Schorem team can certainly expect a baptism by fire! 

 

A lot of barbers back home in the UK long to jump on a plane and start working at a shop like Schorem. But is it really that different to the traditional shops that we have here?  

“I think the beauty of it is doing the classic haircuts. In England it started to slow down a bit, people were chopping off the pomps. The classic cuts suit everyone. At the shop now, we only do what’s on our posters. So, I get to do the cuts that I love every day. It’s also amazing to learn while I’m there. Rob especially shares his knowledge so openly and so freely.” 

Aside from the cuts themselves, there’s also something special about the boys that Rob recruits to be on his team. “You have to be a little bit loopy to work there. I love the fact that at Schorem, as opposed to a traditional shop, we face away from the mirror. It reminds people that they’re not just there for a haircut, and it also means that we can all talk together throughout the day.” 

“After we’ve done the last cut of the day, we’ll spend an hour just cleaning up with a beer. We like to chill out at the shop: people will pop in just for a beer and a chat. It’s so much more of a hang out. It’s brilliant because when I’m not in the shop I only hear Dutch speech – I have no idea what’s going on around me!” 

Finding a shop that feels more like a family is a great way to make sure that you’re career in barbering is fulfilling; not everyone can work with the barber at Schorem, but anyone can foster this atmosphere in their own shop. I hope Paul’s account inspires you – for more interesting interviews, don’t forget to follow Larry the Barber Man on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

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A Rare Interview With, Barber Gio (The New Kid), Whilst employed At Schorem Barbershop Rotterdam 2017

One from the archives for you today – I’ve dug this interview out from Barber Connect 2017, when I met with Dutch barber Gio to find out more about the infamous salon Schorem Barbier. Gio was able to give me a first-hand account of life at one of the most interesting barbershops out there, as well as the story of his own career.  

“I started twenty years ago, when I was fifteen. I went into hairdressing because I was always colouring my hair and doing crazy things with it. I always had the thought in my mind that I really wanted to gain a lot of experience.” 

Like a lot of barbers, Gio is able to pinpoint the precise moment that he fell in love with cutting hair and realised that it could be a satisfying career.  

“I loved the job so much after my first experience as an apprentice, with an old woman whose hair I needed to wash. She gave me a good tip and it made me so happy as a 15-year-old guy. I fell in love with that feeling of being given something for your talent. 

“As I turned to hairdressing school, I soon saw that there are a lot of women but not many men in the industry. I had a bit of luck because there was a barber at that school teaching scissor over comb, and then clipper over comb. Then I saw people on TV with the classic pomps, James Dean style: pretty much Gentleman cuts. I loved that. I worked on my skills to do these cuts. The classics always come back.” 

 

These classic gentlemen’s cuts have become the defining aesthetic of Schorem, where the barbers work hard to bring back some of the more traditional cuts. This involves hiring talented professionals to execute 12 specific cuts that are featured on the Schorem posters. It’s a tactic that seems to be working for them, and Gio has been lucky enough to see the shop experience intense growth.  

“It’s unbelievable how much this business has grown. It’s amazing, so many talented people. Everyone adds something different, and I think the experience I’ve had with hairdressing helped me be the barber that I am now.” 

Before joining Schorem, Gio lived and worked in Germany for ten years. He began to feel restless and wanted to return to Holland – but he also wanted to find something that would give him purpose once he got there. “I wanted a good thing, something where I could still learn. To work with someone that I could really look up to. That’s my drive. I thought I’d just send a message and see if there’s a spot at Schorem. I got talking with one of their original crew members and had such a strong, passionate conversation. I applied for a job, wrote a letter to Leen and started emailing every week.” 

It took a few weeks, but ultimately Gio’s persistence paid off and he was able to combine his return to Holland with an exciting new job.  

“History was made for me, and now I’m almost two and a half years at Schorem. Every day is a new day, and every day is a good day. I’ve been there in hectic times, with a waiting line from 30-60 people out the front of the door. Especially in the summer months, it’s crazy.  

“It’s a kind of pressure, but it’s also a nice thing. Right now, two and a half years later, you can see that the barbershop has met the vision of what they wanted. It’s what a barbershop should be, without the hype. 

“They were there at the right time, had a load of luck and did a real good job for everybody. Now everybody gets a piece of the pie and we’re all enjoying it. It’s something that I’m proud to be a part of: I can walk with a smile.” 

 

For some barbers it might be difficult to imagine leaving a shop like Schorem, but for Gio it doesn’t represent the limits of his ambition. “I’m not going to be old in Schorem: this is not my end station. I’ve always been honest about that. I think there will be a time in my life when I want to move on, grow old and look back.” 

Working at Schorem will certainly give Gio a lot to reflect back on once he’s old and grey; in many ways, Schorem is part of a transformative movement in barbering. It’s about a lot more than bringing back classic cuts: it’s about providing a sense of community and celebrating the craft of barbering. 

Want to learn more about Schorem?  Read about their work, their products and their training on the website – or view Bertus and Leen’s channel ‘Project X’ for an educational series featuring 12 of the world’s top barbers. You can also get more tips and tricks from the huge range of barbers featured on my page: just follow Larry the Barber Man on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.

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Curtis Smith: Barbering Great & Founder Of Xotics Barber Battle Tour, Talks Barbering

Celebrity barber Curtis Smith joined me at the CT Barber Expo 2018 to share the story of his barbering career. There’s a lot to talk about – aside from Curtis’ work with celebrities like P Diddy and Usher, he also has the Xotics brand to his name – so I decided to dive straight in with some background on how he got into barbering:  

“My entry into barbering started when I was 13 years old. I picked up a pair of clippers because I saw a friend of mine do a haircut and thought it was something I wanted to try. I did a haircut on a friend and he actually liked it. Looking back on that hair cut now it’s hilarious, but we were kids. For him it was a haircut, it looked better than when he sat in the chair. For me it was an accomplishment.”  

Curtis describes a ‘wow’ moment which many barbers are probably familiar with: realising that you can give something of real value using just your hands and a pair of clippers.  

“It gave me the energy to want to become a professional barber. I started experimenting on my friends for a dollar, then I went and got my licence. I realised that I started to like cutting hair more than what I was going to school for. So, I started cutting hair professionally, got my licence and opened my own salon. Once I opened my salon there was no looking back.”  

Opening up his unisex salon Ebonese in the Bronx gave Curtis a chance to start putting his work out there – and as his reputation built, he started attracting in minor celebrities who would eventually connect him with their top-tier contacts. The real breakthrough came when P Diddy saw his work on an associate and decided he wanted a piece of it.  

“He sent his people to find me – they had me experiment on one of his artists first to make sure. I did this guy’s hair and he did a double take! That was my emergence into the celebrity world. After he saw my portfolio he said okay, you’re my barber for the rest of my life. That was 20 years ago. I just stopped working with him because he moved full time to LA, but I still work with Usher, Ludacris, different people like that.  

“I am looking at tapering down that side of my career. It’s a very demanding lifestyle. I’ve just overcome cancer for the second time, I finished chemo three weeks ago – so I have to change some of the things I do and move a little differently.”  

While he was still a part of the celebrity scene, though, Curtis made a real impact with cuts that became influential around the world. This included P Diddy’s famous mohawk – a cut which, if Curtis had his way, might never have happened:  

“He wanted to do something different for the New York Marathon. He said I want people to take me seriously, because nobody knows me as an athlete. Normally people take six months to train for a marathon, he did it in six weeks. He said everyone says I’m crazy, I want a look that shows them I’m dead serious. 

“I took a survey of all the people that worked for him: should he get a mohawk. Overwhelmingly the women said yes, and the guys said no. He said ‘what do you think we’re doing this for? We do this for the women!’ So, we went with the mohawk. I decided to put a fade in there and put a hairline on it because I’d never seen that done. He loved it and we created a new wave which was something people were doing all over the world.”  

 

Aside from celebrity cuts, Curtis is also known as the godfather of the barber battle. It’s almost difficult to measure just how big an impact this man has had on the industry as a whole, given that much of his work has helped barbers to transform the way in which they see their craft. Now, it’s not uncommon to hear big-name barbers such as Pacinos cite Curtis as one of their influencers.  

“You would be hard-pressed to find a barber that doesn’t like what I represent. Because all we do is help the community of barbers to grow. We’ve energised a community of barbers to become bigger than they knew they could be: they didn’t think they could own their own products or do their own shows. Guys are doing amazing things these days and it’s really because of the energy that we started. For me it’s hard enough just to stay involved now. 

“Right now, the barbering industry is in a really good place. There are a lot of barbers driving themselves crazy trying to figure out how to become something bigger than what they are. But it’s good to see people trying, they’re thinking what else can we do.”  

One of these innovations is the Hair Battle Tour, Xotics’ barber battling tour which has been taking American barbers by storm. I ask Curtis to explain what sets it apart from other barber battles: “People have a good time. You can stand in the barbershop and do serious haircuts all day. When I put a show on, I want people to leave with a smile on their face. We try not to be so serious, we have a DJ playing music and I’m very particular about what my DJ plays. 

“We come with a certain energy and everyone who works for us carries that energy. We’re very accommodating, but very stern at the same time. It’s really just about having fun: we push that. We bring people up on stage, have sneaker battles. Sometimes we have kids come up and compete. One time we had kids come up and dance and collected prize money for the kids to win. Suddenly everyone’s involved.” 

 

It’s not hard to see why so many barbers are inspired to take part in these battles, and it’s great to see new talent emerge at the different events. We have been lucky enough to have Xotics bring their tour to the UK earlier this year, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for their global brand. If you missed the show, you can still benefit from Curtis’ unique style by listening to his parting words of advice:  

“Remember that everything that leads up to being successful happens one step at a time. You can’t overstep yourself. The most important thing you have in your career is the barber chair and the business that you represent. You represent that business first, your clients second and yourself third.  

“If you keep that format in place then you’ll always be straight: you’ll always have a great place to work. If you decide to go and open your own shop, don’t take barbers from your current shop. Every barber tries it but bad karma will follow you. Find your own staff from scratch, train them to where you want them to be. 

“Always be on time. Always treat your customers with the upmost respect. Once you start to make them happy, you can raise your prices: go from the guy who charges 20 to the guy who charges 40. When your income changes your options change; your opportunity changes. So always focus on making sure that whatever you’re doing right now is what you’re focused on the most. Your clients will stay with you until you die, if you treat them right.”  

 

Get more inspiration by following Curtis on Instagram @xotics to see some of his dazzling work; you can also follow this page @LarrytheBarberMan to make sure you’re keeping up with the latest interviews from barbering greats.

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Zach Ramsay Of Out Post Barber Co, Shares Game Changing Barbering & Photography Tips

Zach Ramsay – known as ‘Ramsay’, from The Outpost Barber Company – is known throughout the industry as one of the best up-and-coming barbers on the scene. His unique approach both to cutting hair and to photographing cuts has meant that after just a few years of practice, he’s already making waves. His entry to barbering came not in the form of classes or even a barbershop, but sat in his Mum’s basement some six years ago:

‘College wasn’t the route that I was going to go. I can’t sit there and be lectured, my attention span is just not there! That being said, I was always into getting myself a good haircut. I knew what it took to have a nice fade, a nice overall image. I wanted to further that.’

Zach drew on his artistic skills – he is also talented at drawing and able to understand artistic techniques – to give him a solid base of knowledge: ‘I think that directly correlates with a good skin fade. It’s understanding the shades and proportions of everything.’

Of course, barbering comes from practical knowledge too, and Zach was luck to have a barbering buddy who let him come into the shop and start learning. ‘One day I just said, “I want to get serious with this.” So he gave me my first barber chair, my first mirror and as soon as I got home I ran down into the basement and set everything up. I started doing my first haircuts for free. Then you charge $5, $10… I ended up doing $15, $20 haircuts and onwards from there.’

Once he knew he had the skills in place, Zach decided it was time to get serious: after all, there are a lot of clients who just won’t take a barber seriously if he’s set up in his Mum’s home! ‘I just didn’t feel comfortable bringing professionals into my home. It was kind of just a thing with my friends. I wanted to get into a professional environment and offer real structured services.’

 

Setting up his Outpost

A lot of barbers will get licensed and then spend years working for other established barbershops before even considering going it alone. Not so for Zach, who chose to dive straight into setting up his very own shop.

‘I opened up the shop with my buddy Shaun: he stopped working at the barbershop he was at and we got together. We thought it was a good idea to control your own career. We opened up the store with two large storefront windows, a classic tin ceiling, hardwood floors, a warmer light. It almost feels as though you’re walking into your own house, very inviting.

‘We just wanted to go with a modern style, but the detail and character of vintage items. That correlates with haircutting as well. Everything is always recycled, but with a bit of tinkering.’

As if that wasn’t enough on his plate, Zach has also been doing some impressive things with photography. After seeing barbers like Patty Cuts emphasize their work with phenomenal photographs, he wanted to find out how to take those professional shots himself. Next thing, he was picking up a pro camera and starting to capture unique images with a hybrid of fashion and lifestyle.

 

Defining the approach

Getting to understand Zach’s work better means finding out about his personal approach. I asked him to break it down for me, starting with his approach to cutting hair:

‘With my haircuts, I like to start with a solid foundation. I section off the hair and comb it in the exact direction that it wants to fall naturally. So if the client goes home and doesn’t blow-dry or apply a lot of product, it will still fall naturally and be an aesthetically pleasing haircut.

‘That structure is going to be my blueprint for the rest of the profile. I try to read the person’s vibe, look at their clothes, ask them questions: I want each haircut to be tailored to that person’s lifestyle. Then I bring the person outside and I’ll try and find colours that complement what they’re wearing, as well as the best lighting. If it’s an edgy photo, a lot of shadow and more dark emotions – if it’s more business professional, then it’s perky and upright.’

Finding that aesthetically pleasing image is easier said than done, though, and for Zach it’s a skill that he has acquired naturally – through trial and error – rather than with any formal training. ‘I always get eye level with the subject. This gives the viewer focus, it draws them directly to whatever you want them to see. I’ll walk up and down the street and find good light: I want depth, and a decent dynamic range on my photos.’

Creating a haircut that will look great on camera is also part of the challenge, and apparently it’s all down to precision. ‘I wouldn’t say that there’s too many tricks. It’s just being very precise with your work. Make sure your sections are clean, your cutting line is clean, your fade is clean. I would recommend taking out your phone after the fade and look at it through the camera. It tells no lies. If it looks good on the phone then the camera itself is going to look beautiful.’

 

Taking to the stage

Another string to the well-rounded barber’s bow is platform work, and Zach has also been doing the rounds as a talented stage educator: ‘I like to explain pretty much what we’ve talked about in this interview. How a haircut is not just a haircut. You almost change a person’s facial features by how you cut their hair. You can change someone’s life with a taper around the ear: they go into a job interview and that confidence boost gets them the job. I’ll tell them to wear their suit to the shop and take professional headshots for their LinkedIn or Resumé.’

Find examples of Zach’s work on Instagram by following @Z_Ramsay; this is the main platform that he uses to share the photos of his cuts. I recommend it to anyone who wants a solid source of inspiration; junior barbers in particular can use Zach’s shots to start understanding how to structure a better cut. Here are his parting words of advice for those up and coming barbers out there:

‘I would say it starts from the heart. You have to be passionate about it. Be observant and make sure that you break down every haircut into cause and effect. Each stroke of the clipper, the angle of the blade, the different textures, cutting styles, techniques: taking note of all of this will make you a better barber.

‘And with the photography, get out and shoot just like everybody says. You have to see pictures that you don’t like to understand what you do like. Get down and dirty – there are times I’m laying on my belly in the middle of the street looking weird. I don’t care! I just want the picture. And assess your work. Don’t be hard on other people’s work, compete with yourself. Keep working on yourself and you will get there.’

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Barber Arod: Shares His Story, In a One 2 One Interview, At Elegance Studio, Melrose, Hollywood – As You Have Never Seen Him Before

It’s always exciting to get a top barber in the interview chair, but never more so than with somebody who has reached the heights of Arod, Elite Studio’s million-dollar barber. From reaching a million followers on Instagram – that’s a record among the barbering community – to charging $100-$300 for a cut, this is a barber who’s made some serious waves. Don’t forget to follow him yourself, and then sit back to read his incredible story.  

 

Barbering with military precision 

The scene is set 14 years ago in Puerto Rico, where Arod found himself fascinated by the rhythm and style of the barbershops that he visited. 

“There’s something about it that just grabs my attention for a very long period of time. If you don’t grab my attention in the first three seconds, you’re going to lose it. This was one thing where always my attention was fully into it.”  

It also played into the desire to look good and feel fresh, a big part of Puerto Rican culture. But although Arod had already started to show an interest in barbering, he didn’t immediately turn to it as a career. Instead, he began feeling the pull of the military: “My friend said it’s an option, a steady paycheque, a stable career. So, I said you know what I’ll go with you, and I took the test with him. He didn’t pass and I did – I felt bad!”  

As money became tight, the idea of a military career began to look more and more appealing… 

“Then in 2010 I joined. That first day you just walk in to a completely different environment. Whoever you are right now is going to be torn to pieces and rebuilt from scratch, the way they want you to be moulded. You enter a different life: it marks you forever.  

“But in life you’ve just got to learn from the things that you go through. Your life depends on it, and the whole nation’s too. So it’s very important. When it comes down to that one moment, you can’t make a mistake.” 

This background means that Arod is now able to operate with military precision and discipline. I ask him to share a little about how the army set him up for his barbering career. 

“Well, discipline is one of the main things that they focus on as soon as you get there. They teach you how to walk; they teach you how to look; they teach you how to communicate. The job is just non-stop, you know? 

“Normally right now I go to work, I come home, I sleep for four hours. I don’t wake up the next day fully charged, but I know that I’ve got to get stuff done. And my body knows, it wakes up and I can’t get back to sleep.” 

 

Getting back to basics 

After leaving the military, Arod had to start building a new life for himself – and that meant a return to barbering. 

“I already had clients from the military, so I had a steady beginning. I took everything slowly – you’ve got to pace yourself. I’ve learned that it’s something you get addicted to, you can’t stop.  

“I was in Texas at this point. I went to this barber contest, everybody’s hyped up, I’d never done anything like it. Everybody was waiting on this person that was competing: the battle didn’t start if he wasn’t there. His name is Marcus, my partner. Everything started there. We hooked up and started going to events together” 

Arod and Marcus began travelling to hair shows across America, and met up with another champion barber: Jay. It was a fortuitous meeting, as Jay already had the Elegance brand up and running and he was keen to get Arod and Marcus involved. Originally, this meant a sponsorship deal – but as it was clear the men’s dreams aligned, they decided to come together to create the Elegance Studio: 

“When you start it, it’s just an idea. It comes from sharing those thoughts that one night. And our visions linked together, our souls became one, and we saw that we were going after something bigger than us. Three months later we’re in LA. Elegant Studio opens its doors, and the rest is history.” 

 

Style, decorum and class: The Elegance Studio 

In a word, Elegance studio is stunning. With gorgeous interiors and a VIP space dedicated to luxury experience, it’s the barbershop that every other barber dreams of running. So how did it come to be this way? 

It evolved. It was all part of the process, you know? I’m a firm believer in the journey and the process. You just have to keep things moving: We started in a downtown loft and built from there. 

“We started trying to get clients from different states. It was hard, I’m not going to lie to you. You had to go out there, you had to go get clients, you had to prove that your service was worth the amount of money you’re asking for it. Then one day I was locking up the shop and going home and saw this space that I fell in love with.” 

After managing to secure the space that they wanted, Elegance Studio went from strength to strength. There are stunning mirrors and chairs, as well as a wall decorated with a full street art mural – enough to satisfy customers who are paying $80 minimum for a haircut, often $100. For all the barbers out there wondering how these rates could be possible, I had to try and get Arod to spill his secrets. 

I started at $3. As you get experience and get better at what you do, you charger higher amounts. You get to know your value. You want to get paid and work normal hours. Us barbers, we don’t have someone who can give us a raise. We are our own bosses: you have to increase the price. You can also add things that increase your value as a whole. Services, learning, education, product lines… You’ve got to pay attention to those things. Because if you want to charge 100 dollars, that client is going to come and check you out and if he doesn’t like you or feel your work is worth the value then he might want his money back. Or he might just never come back.” 

Of course, there’s also the Elegance Studio VIP experience. At a cost of $300this is easily one of the most luxurious cuts I’ve ever heard of. So how can an ordinary barber who’s watching this today raise his standards to that sort of level? 

Make a note of this! When you open the door, the first thing you need is communication with your clients. ‘Welcome to Elegance Studio’ should be the first thing the client hears when they come in the door, so they can get comfortable with their environment. You tell them: ‘we offer drinks here. We offer water, tea, coffee, lemonade, all kinds of drink – it’s included in the service’. As soon as they walk in, I make sure they feel comfortable. 

We also have a long line of products that make my job easier and upscale my service. I put the cape on, start talking to the client trying to find a conversation… where are you from, what do you do? Find a way to relate to them. Then I start with the services: I try to be smooth with the clippers, be smooth with my hands. Give the client that smoothness. We have gels, pomades, hair serums, razor blades, aftershave lotions. We have a lot of things that can upscale your service – and they do. 

“After the haircut is complete, we have a steamer, a facial scrub and a shampoo that we can use as part of the service. We style. We make sure you can leave the chair and you are ready to meet the love of your life, to walk onto a TV set, to land a job. They’re the things that you came here to get service for. So I charge $300 but it includes drinks, a shampoo, a haircut, facial hair, it includes a steam, a black mask, facial scrub, deep cleansing, hair styling with whatever product you like… gel, pomade, wax, serum. We do treatments that can justify the price of the service. 

 

An Insta-star is born 

Another side to Arod’s success has been reaching 1 million followers on Instagram: I don’t believe that this has been matched by other barbers. From everything Arod has told me so far, though, it doesn’t seem surprising that he would reach this goal. 

The big key to Arod’s success has been appealing to people outside of the barbering industry, as well as barbers themselves. He has also chosen to work with influencers, people who share his energy and can help to spread his name. 

Arod has achieved all this by making videos that combine barbering and comedy. These videos are appealing to everyone from kids to older people. By studying the analytics of his videos, he can also work to replicate that success, and review what could be improved upon. As he tells me, “The world is changing. We have to adapt to it. 

Since hitting the million mark, he’s had plenty of people in touch to try and do business with him, seeing him as an influencer in his own right. Now people want to come to his barbershop just to associate with him: “I have a lot of celebrities that have found me on Instagram. It’s something that other people use it and they don’t understand what they are doing. They are not assimilating. It’s not there for people to talk negatively about others, it’s there for you to promote your own work.” 

Of course, as with any success, people have inevitably been accusing him of not getting there legitimately. But Arod has little time for the doubters who claim he bought his followers: “They’ve always been saying it since the beginning, it’s nothing new. If you see something that is not normal then you are going to think that it’s not real.”  

Upscale your service with the elegance range 

One of the big things that I’ve hinted at throughout this post is the great Elegance product range, so now it’s time to find out more about these products. I wanted to know which products Arod finds particularly exciting… 

The hair gel. I’ve seen the extra strong and the triple action gel actually change someone’s life. That product right there is exciting. We have the pomade, that’s exciting. We have the gel with colour, that’s exciting. Someone with greys can use that and immediately get rid of the greys. That’s called Elegance Hair Gel with Colour.” 

And what about the game changing products? “The shaving gel. This is a product that landed in the market, I’ve never seen it before. Ad the facility that it gives is just a game changer. It’s better than anything. There’s videos where you see them just slice a grown man’s beard and he feels like he’s 9 years old.” 

One of my favourite products is the Elegance black mask, a face mask that could be a real game changer for a lot of barbers. Arod suggests a couple of reasons to have one in your barbershop: “One reason is that it’s something else that you can offer, and you can profit out of it. So there’s no reason that you should be sitting between a haircut doing nothing when you can apply the black mask and charge $30 more.  

“Second of all, it just gives you a whole new glow. It just cleans all your pores and takes all the impurities out. It makes you feel fresh: after a haircut you already feel fresh, but when you take that mask off it’s different. It’s like the cherry on top.” 

These products can also give a barber a huge return on investment. Taking the black mask as an example, one big bottle can do around 50 applications. But if you buy a bottle for $20 and charge $30 per treatment, you’ve made your money back after the first application. The rest is pure profit! 

 

Paying it forward 

We’ve talked a lot about Arod’s personal success, but I also love his commitment to helping others and supporting his own team:  

Well, they play a big part in my success. I couldn’t be here doing this interview if I didn’t look right, with someone from the shop to give me the freshest beard that is out there right now – that’s Taylor Cutz, make sure you follow him!” 

Not just anyone can join Arod’s barbering team – it’s something that has to be earned. However, anybody is welcome to reach out to him: he tries to read all of his emails personally and is always happy to meet people in the shop. He’s also got upcoming shows all over the world: If you want to keep up to date with these then Instagram is the place to be. Head there right now using this link, to make sure you’re the first to know what he’s got plannedYou can also follow him on YouTube here 

Arod is going to be hitting YouTube hard this year in an effort to bring in his next million 1 million YouTube subscribes. Make sure you’re there to enjoy the content he’s putting out and help him reach another milestone!  

While you’re at it, take a moment to follow @LarrytheBarberMan on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook – you’ll be the first to see interviews with huge barbering stars like Arod! Now let’s hear some closing words of wisdom from the man himself:  

 “My advice to all the young people out there is to believe in yourself, believe in your service, and make sure you evolve as the whole industry evolves. Because we’re moving as a group. Just because I’ve got a million followers and I’m a little bit ahead because of the way I work – that doesn’t man that there’s no room for anybody else.  

No, I’m just paving a way for other people. Because there are thousands of lanes in the barbering industry. So upscale your services, educate yourself, share with the barbers around you, don’t let nobody put you down – and the only person who can actually stop you is yourself. 

http://www.instagram.com/larrythebarberman.com

https://www.instagram.com/arod23pr

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

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

What was your entry into barbering?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Barber Interview: With Jake Shipwreck Of Riverside Shaving Co

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you think that could change?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Floyd Mayweather: Barber Jackie Starr, Exclusive Interview With Larry The Barber Man

You’ve most likely heard of the phenomenal Jackie Starr as Floyd Mayweather’s personal barber. Of course, the truth is that there’s a lot more to her career than that, and from running two barbershops to helping to pioneer the upcoming Las Vegas Barber Expo, I want to hear that. My last interview with Jackie took place in the back of a 32-foot RV… now let’s sit down in the more professional setting of CT Barber Expo 2018.

 

I know that Jackie can be a huge inspiration to other female barbers in what is still a very male-dominated industry. She starts by telling me about overcoming the challenge of being a female barber:

 

“I overcame my challenges by being confident, and not letting men intimidate me. Believing in my craft and believing in the work that I produced. So, to be honest I never was intimidated because once I gained my confidence in cutting, that right there spoke for all the challenges that came my way. When I started there was no social media – it was more show and tell. Your haircut speaks for itself.”

 

She also overcame the challenge of being a single mother whilst building up a barbering brand. II ask her to tell me more about balancing these two aspects of her life.

 

“Well first of all, you have structure with anything you do. My daughter was 11 when we moved to Las Vegas, and we didn’t know anyone; it was very challenging because she was a latchkey kid. And Vegas will swallow you up if you’re not careful and not strong. I kept a tight rope with my daughter, making sure we had a schedule that worked for me and her. I had to rely on being the best parent I could be considering the circumstances.”

 

Apart from having a healthy relationship with your daughter, you’ve managed to maintain a very healthy relationship with one of the top sports athletes in the world: Floyd Mayweather. How have you managed to do this on a general level, and as a female barber in a male dominated industry and sport?

 

“Good questions. Number one – I knew him since 2001 when I first moved to Vegas. Number two – I respect him, and he respects me. That goes a long way with any relationship: respect has to be one of the priorities of the relationship.

 

“I understand that he is a high-profile athlete and a lot comes with that. So, I make sure I’m focused on what it is he needs, and my life falls into place right after that. I understand him, I respect him and I’m a friend too.”

 

Some people question how much work it really takes to maintain Floyd Mayweather’s bald style and facial hair. It’s public knowledge that this work earns an astronomical fee, but in reality there’s a great deal more to it that simply shaving a head, and Jackie doesn’t feel as though she needs to prove anything anymore:

 

“It goes back to what I was saying: my career was at its peak before social media ever came. I was in Vegas, behind the chair doing my thing for many, many years. So that wasn’t ‘just a bald head’ – I had to do every cut out there. That’s what life is about, everybody wants to reach the top.

 

“God blessed me with being Floyd Mayweather’s barber – who else do I need to cut? After I’m done travelling with him, I have to visit my family, I have to take care of the shops. I don’t have time to cut anyone else. That’s what we work had for, to get to the top.”

 

It might be fair, then, to say that now you’re the artistic director of two barbershops, your haircuts are reflected through your team.

 

“Exactly. I am building a team, and I have barbers in place to produce any haircut that’s needed. So, if I’m out of town and I can’t get to a person who may want me to cut their hair, then at the end of the day as long as they the haircut and it’s under the Iced Out banner, what does it matter?”

 

Tell us a little bit about those two shops then?

 

“My first shop opened August 4th, 2004. That’s been 14 years: so my shops are very successful, very well-established. I opened a second location in 2015. I waited so long because I wanted to make sure that it was what I wanted to do, and that it was running successfully like the first one was. With that being said, I am not there all the time. But I make sure everything is done the way it should be done, and I have a team of excellent guys.”

 

Aside from continuing to work with Floyd, do you have any other big plans for the future?

 

“Yes. For 2018, I’ll be doing the first ever Las Vegas barbering Expo along with Jay Majors. We’re partnering up and we’re bringing the expo to Vegas. I’m also working on a product line, I’m working on apparel: I want to keep on branding Iced Out. After all, blood, swear and tears are behind the name – it’s important to me to keep on showing face and make sure that the industry lives on.”

 

Jackie has found the success that many barbers dream of. I’m very keen to hear how the industry as a whole has accepted that success:

 

“I would say that the industry has accepted me well. I appreciate all the barbers and all the love that I have been getting. The barbering industry has been great to me, accepting me as I am.”

 

What do you intend to do differently with the show that you’re doing in Las Vegas with Jay?

 

“I plan on having something different, but I can’t really speak about it yet! Just know that it’s going down in Las Vegas and it’s going to be an epic event. It has to be: the expo is what’s needed in Vegas. And I’m going to convince Floyd to be there!”

 

Finally, what advice do you have for somebody looking to attract celebrity clients?

 

“Be consistent about what you’re doing and stay focussed. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype. Just worry about yourself and focus on what you’re doing. The minute you turn your focus away, you’re off track. So be consistent and perfect your craft. You want to put out quality work.

 

“And let me say this: there is only one Floyd Mayweather. Meaning, everybody wants to be at the top, but they don’t want to put in the work to be at the top.”

 

Take these words to heart and they will help you build a great career in barbering, creating strong and healthy business relationships and carving out the life you want. It was a pleasure to have Jackie in the interview chair once again – if you want to hear more about her work then head to her Instagram page, @Icedoutbarber. You can also read more about the Las Vegas Expo at LVbarberexpo.com.

 

The best way to improve as a barber is to learn from others who have travelled the same path – that’s why I travel the globe interviewing the best barbers out there. Follow @larrythebarberman on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook to see more!

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Barber: Brandi Lashay A.K.A the Original Barber Doll, Talks Barbering (JRL Hair Clipper Educator)

When I headed to the CT Barber Expo in April, one barber I got the chance to catch up with was Brandi Lashay. Brandi is a platform artist, session stylist & brand ambassador for the JRL clipper company. When I met up with her she’d already been hard at work, but she told me she wanted to keep going until the very end!

I wanted to share Brandi’s barbering story with the world, so I asked her to tell me the great story of how it all got started.

“It starts off with being in high school with my high school sweetheart. One of my close friends asked me Brandi, who is your boyfriend? I showed her in the hallway and she said ‘oh my god he is ugly! He doesn’t cut his hair!’

“Now, my Mum wore a short haircut at the time, and always kept a pair of clippers underneath the sink. I used to steal the clippers and go and cut my boyfriend’s hair at 14-years-old, to keep him looking nice. And it developed into a full-blown career. I didn’t want anybody to think Jason was ugly, I loved him! I wanted them to see him how I saw him. And I enjoy it to this day.”

How did it all progress from there?

“It was happening often enough to where his friends would come around and ask me if they could get their haircut. I began to do it so much that I would say ‘Hey, this isn’t fair, I should be getting paid.’ I charged them $5 a head, and that was a lot of money to me. And I was the oldest of four girls, my Mum was a single parent and I brought money home to the house so I could food in the refrigerator. We were living in poverty – it made a big difference.

“As soon as I graduated from high school I went straight to barber school. I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I wanted to learn everything I was missing and catch every technique. I was fascinated with the art and I wanted more. And I’m still in love with it to this day because of how it makes other people feel.”

Okay, now tell me a little bit about your first barbershop.

“It was right next to the school I went to. There were three chairs and two guys in there and they were amazing: they were the Superman and Batman of the city. On our lunch break we would walk past the barbershop and just sort of say ‘there’s another chair in there!’

“The owner came up to me one day while I was out there eating my lunch and he said to me are you a cosmetologist or a barber? I was so proud: it was the first time I got to tell somebody that I was a barber! He said come in here and cut some hair – go get someone, bring them over here and let me see what you can do.

“I worked hard on that fade, I’ve never sweated so much. But it came out pretty amazing and he gave me the chair. That was my barber family for the next 7 years.”

Your talent has definitely been recognised, as proven by the fact that you’ve worked as a session stylist from some huge household names. Who are some of the stars you’ve worked with?

“I’ve done quite a bit of work and along the way I’ve been able to work for Stevie Wonder; I’ve been able to work for Teddy Riley. He’s one of my favourites because we’re able to talk about Michael Jackson – he tells me all these Michael Jackson stories. I’ve worked for Empire, Tyler Perry’s House of Pain and Meet the Browns… R&B singer Tank. The list is long! But it doesn’t feel like that, because they make you family. I could not have imagined that when I was 14 and we were having to split a 6-inch subway sandwich into fours. Barbering is amazing!”

Now let’s talk about the JRL gig. I don’t believe you’d be supporting them if you weren’t passionate about them! So how did you get the job, and why do you think they’re so great?

“I was approached by JRL a few times and I just wasn’t catching the emails. One day I got a phone call saying, ‘I know you’re probably very busy, but we’d love to have you on the team.’ I said, ‘who is this?’ It was one of the team members – Jordan – and she said, ‘as a woman I see you, I see you grinding, and I’d love to have other people see your story.’

“The package came and my daughter said, ‘Mum! It’s digital! It’s a smart clipper, like a smartphone.’ I was genuinely happy, I called Jordan back immediately. When I found out about the technology on the clipper I was sold, it didn’t take any time. It makes barbering easy.”

Your job for JRL is education. Could you explain what it is that you specialise in, and what people could gain by following what you teach?

“I show other barbers how to create clean lines. I am really big on clean line work, clean design lines. I believe it can be achieved by paying attention to the art around you. A lot of people ask me where I get my inspiration from with design work and I tell them tyres. I pay attention to tyre treads, because I didn’t recognise that they vary so much. I’m from LA so I’m really into jeeps. When I started looking at the tyres, the tread had so many different angles, I thought that would look really cool on the side of someone’s head.”

You’ve got a tour coming up: Master the Art Barber Seminar. Tell us about that!

“The class can change literally because of who is sitting in the chair, the model I’ve chosen. It’s not about just having the best-looking model, it’s about making sure you understand what to do with this person’s face. I understand art – how to make someone look like art. And that’s what I teach.”

This is so important. Because I’ve seen barbers try to copy a haircut from a magazine without taking into account the different shape of a person’s face – take a mohawk for instance, the sides may need to be lower depending on the face structure.

“Exactly! Let’s think about you, not the image that you’re pointing at.”

Finally, what would be your parting words to an up and coming barber who wanted to excel to dizzy heights, like you have?

“When I think about talking to my younger self, I would say continue to be honest. I was honest when my pictures didn’t look like other people’s pictures on social media. It’s about saying ‘I’m not there yet’, and being okay with saying that. Because that will lead you to someone who can help you grow. Open up, be vulnerable. Be willing to take a fall: you’ll bleed a couple of times, you’ll cry a couple of times and you’ll think no-one understands.

Then build your platform. Humans are natural carpenters, so build your platform, climb on top of it and then show someone else how to build a platform that can hold them up. I just want to encourage people to keep going.”

 

Now it’s time to sit up and listen – I really hope that every barber reading this pays attention to Brandi’s extremely intelligent advice. I strongly recommend following Brandi’s work on Instagram, @theoriginalbarberdoll, to see some of the most mesmerising patterns around. While you’re there, hop over to @LarrytheBarberMan if you’d like to follow my interviews, as well as the other barbering tricks that I put out on a regular basis.

 

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