Patty Cuts is easily recognisable as one of Florida’s most talented rising stars – he boasts over 118k followers on Instagram, a sponsorship deal with BaByliss and several prestigious barbering awards. All of which puts him in a great position to help out other barbers who may be wondering how to start or where to go next.
Turn the clock back just a few years, though, and you’ll find a very different story. “At twelve years old, where I’m from in Philadelphia, everybody likes to look sharp. I didn’t have money to get cut all the time, so I started on my own hair. By the age of 16, 17 I was cutting up the whole neighbourhood.
“The only thing was, I never thought it could be a lifelong career. I thought I had to go to college, but I was not a good student. I had no passion for it, but I got through four years. Then in my fourth year, my Dad died – he committed suicide. My life got completely shaken up, and I went down the road of drugs and alcohol for pretty much the next year. I was miserable. So, I packed up all my stuff and moved to Florida, with a plan to become a lifeguard on the beach. This is about four and a half years ago: I was completely miserable.”
Delivering pizzas and feeling like he’d hit a dead end, it’s easy to see why Patty was starting to lose hope. “I like to tell this story where I made a sharp turn delivering one day and buffalo sauce spilled all over my back seat and that was it. I pulled over to the side of the road and made a decision that the next day I would go and enrol in barber school.”
It’s important to remember that unlike many UK barbers who are able to learn on the job, barbers in America need to be licensed: in Florida, that meant 1200 hours of barber school. “They do a lot of different stuff in barber school – but in the second half you get to cut people’s hair. So, I toughed out the first 600 hours and then got to cut hair on the floor.”
For a full-time learner, this takes around a year to complete, with a written exam at the end. The time commitment is worth it though, because it lets barbers get set up in a proper barbershop: for Patty, the next stop was a shop “right in the middle of the hood”, where he had to very quickly pick up new skills cutting textured hair – undoubtedly something which will have played into his more recent success winning Barbercon 2017’s Best Fades of the Year award!
Aside from cutting phenomenal haircuts, Patty Cuts has built up his brand by growing his social media following at an extraordinarily fast rate. This is an important skill for any hair professional who wants to become respected beyond their local community. “I like to talk about what I did wrong first. On Instagram I expected nice cuts to be enough – I was getting frustrated. That’s because I was doing it wrong. I was taking pictures with my old cell phone, I wanted results without putting in the work.
“Eventually I bought myself a camera. That’s when it all changed. I got a nice portrait lens – it all changed for me. My cuts were the same, but presentation was completely different. As I keep going up, I get better with photography because I study that as well. Kevin Luchmun is one of my inspirations, I’ll ask him questions.
“There’s also a time strategy, and a thought process about what I write in my captions, what hashtags people are searching. So, there’s a lot of strategy and kind of a marketing mind behind posting these pictures.”
Getting to grips with posting professionally allowed Patty to promote a unique style, the X-ray part. He originally shared as part of a competition started by Lee from Barbershop Connect, who asked barbers to have a go at crafting a great new look. “It’s two little slashes, but instead of carving them out, you leave it dark and cut around it. I call it the X-ray Part, because it’s kind of the negative of a picture. It just caught on – people started doing it and tagging me in it. I won Lee’s competition, and that was a good break for my social media.”
Patty also has some exciting educational projects in the works, and plans to work with fellow educator and BaByliss ambassador Sofie to produce a course that’s a little bit different. “We’ve discussed doing a three-part class. The first part would be cutting, and we would go about doing our different cuts – she is phenomenal at fading. The second part would be photography, and how to portray images of your cut in a cool, artistic way. Then the third thing would be videography.”
Being able to learn this trio of skills from such a talented barbering duo would certainly be a great opportunity for any barber who wants to show-off their work more effectively. You’ll also get the opportunity to pick up some of Patty and Sofie’s advice – and in closing, I ask Patty to share his most essential tips:
“Never stop learning. I will still take classes, I’ll still learn how to do something better. Right now I’m working on shear work. So, whether you’re accomplished or up and coming, take a class that comes up. And then secondly, if you’re not getting recognised then you probably need to do something different. Get out and meet people. Build relationships with awesome people!”