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!