Today, I sit down with Kenny Duncan, the Andis educator and barber extraordinaire, to get his story and insight into the barbering industry. Naturally, we start at his humble beginnings. “Just being honest,” Kenny explains, “I really didn’t want to be a barber. I just told all of my friends that I was going to cut hair to get me through college. When I started cutting hair early on, because I grew up poor, I went to the barbershop, and my mom gave me a twenty dollar bill. The barber charged me two additional dollars for my mustache, and she was under the impression that I took that two dollars and went to the game store or candy store and spent her money – she was really upset, and even called the barbershop, where the barber confirmed the price. From that point on, I had to do my own mustache with a pair of cordless trimmers from then on.”
Kenny spent his high school years cutting his own hair, and beginning to cut for others as well. “It started off with me telling everyone the first time was free. I charged four dollars for an outline and seven dollars for a haircut. My grandma’s second-floor front bedroom turned into my mini-barbershop.” Kenny believes the relationships one makes as a barber can make their life much richer, and it shows. Kenny has been traveling with Lady Gaga’s tour the last four years. “I get paid to travel the world,” he admits, “—all because of what I did with a pair of clippers.” This year, he’ll be ready to tour the world again with Janet Jackson.
Of course, traveling with celebrities isn’t the only thing Kenny keeps himself busy with. Asked about some of his other projects, he tells me, “We just finished up with the IBS trade show in New York today. I’m the lead educator with the Andis Clipper Company, and we had an amazing time – broke some sales records when it came to our tools, and had some great educational classes. This weekend as well is an event called Barbercon, where I just won the award for Educator of the Year.” Kenny has won not only that, but the Andis fame and respect within the industry where he strives to change the public opinion on urban barbers.
One would imagine that Kenny would be away from his shop constantly with so much traveling. I ask him how much time he actually does spend on the floor. “I actually balance out how I am going to do the tours – I don’t stay on the tours, but traditionally, I’ll go three days. For instance, I’ll be in the city for three days, work six hours, and then I’ll get to enjoy the city.”
As for his greatest moment in barbering, Kenny answers, “I don’t think it’s one, bro, that’s the crazy thing. I think each and every year, I look to have a decent experience in life, and it just so happens to be that barbering has been the means on how things have happened for me.”
Kenny is also known to have created quite a following on Instagram. Asked on how he gained his 60,000 plus followers, he tells me, “They’re family. I don’t like to put my name in lights. Instead of making the proverbial pie by myself, I’d rather figure out who is in my circle that can make a great crust or filling. I just want to be the person that presents the pie that sells to the masses.”
“If there’s anything I would like to say, is that I like to continue to associate myself with other brands, to figure out how we can partner up, so we can all end up achieving the goals we want to achieve and utilize the platform we have to have balance in life. Even this year, starting in April, I’ll be the artistic director with PP Education Center. I have a direct relationship with the Reserva an Online Appointment booking system – I’m a brand ambassador with them. I recently also became part of the Layrite brand of barbers. I’m associated with a product called Exotics, which has a traveling boutique barber trade show, and a barber competition, called the Hair Metal Tour.” Talk about barber brotherhood and life!
Kenny next talks about his likes and dislikes when it comes to the barbering industry. “I love that social media has put barbering on a new platform, and has shrunk the world. Many different relationships between barbers are also starting to form – there’s a lot of barber love. Barbering is a universal language that everyone speaks. We speak different languages, sure, but when you see someone with a pair of clippers in their hands, you know exactly what they’re trying to achieve and can appreciate it.”
On the flip side, Kenny brings up his dislikes and they are very similar to issues that many barbers I’ve spoken with have claimed. “Social media allows for unqualified, unjustified individuals to pretend they have credibility in a particular topic without any kind of validation or proof to back it up. Case and point: there are individuals who are very popular, but they don’t make a lot of money cutting hair in their barbershops. They sometimes have 200,000 followers on Instagram and suddenly they look like a barber god”.
For fans of Kenny, and his work, I of course have to ask him when his Youtube channel is coming. “I am my own biggest critic,” he admits. “Continue to follow kennyduncan.com and you’ll see the announcements when the Youtube channel is set to launch.”
I ask him about how he landed his gig on the Rocky movie, “Creed”. Kenny responds how he became well known through his Andis education as well as his relationships with other barbers. “A few years back, I was teaching a class in Atlanta and I met a guy named Wyatt Belton. He was a barber for “The Hunger Games” and he came to me to learn some tips on barbering. Since that day, we’ve been cool. Wyatt was good friends with someone who turned out to be a close friend of Michael B. Jordan, who was hired to be one of the lead actors in the movie. It was a challenge, for sure.”
As well as his longstanding career as an educator, barber and semi-celebrity, Kenny also has a range of products he offers to the barbering community. Asked about them, he tells me, “A few years back, I started aggressively focusing on combs. There was just not a good range of combs available in the market, and I wanted to fill the void. Through partnerships, and through relationships I had built over the years, we came up with the idea of creating a cutting comb collection; six different combs with a wide range from a barber taper comb to a flat top comb. They’re all made with quality materials that are heat resistant, and can even be styled with. I also have a series of different wooden razor holders because I became a fan of the Feather razor holder, but the Feather DX razor that I was using was a three-hundred dollar razor. I love it, but I know a lot of barbers that can’t afford it. This was a project I’ve been entered into now for at least a year and a half – I know good things are going to come out it.”
Kenny doesn’t know what the future holds exactly, but one thing is clear: he is going to keep living the barber life and dream, building relationships with barbers all around the world and bringing that barbering unity that the industry could really use more of.
To keep up with Kenny and his exploits, you can go to his site: www.kennyduncan.com or follow him on Instagram @clipperedu. There is always something going on, so be sure and keep your eyes peeled!
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