Today’s product demo is the Mobi M8 (pronounced Moby Mate), a unique mobile phone charging service customers absolutely LOVE!
Think about how often customers ask to charge their phone and what an inconvenient interruption it is. You’re placed in the position of having to find a spare outlet, adding stress to your circuits. Or you must interrupt your work flow to root around the shop for a spare charger. Even worse, your customer may want to sit on the floor next to the charging phone so they can use it. Uncomfortable for you and the customer, and not the image you want!
Mobi M8 is a set of 8 mini power paks and a charging station hub. Whenever a customer requests to plug in for a phone recharge, you simply hand them one of these easy-to-use mini-paks. They select which connecting cord works with their phone – each Mobi M8 pak has two – then plug in and charge while enjoying their stay at your shop. It’s that simple!
Offering this sleek mini power pak as an added service is a thoughtful and much-appreciated gesture. Customers can sit back, relax and know they are getting a charge while enjoying your barbering services.
The Mobi M8 base looks fantastic on your front counter, since each sleek mini-pak features eye-catching purple lights when charging and a solid purple band when full.
I know you are thinking the paks will go missing in no time, but that’s not the case. The mini paks’ unique charging points mean they can only be recharged at your Mobi M8 base unit. And the pak is juuuuust bulky enough that it’s very unlikely a customer will walk off with it accidentally.
The Mobi M8 says a lot about you and your dedication to customer care. It is the kind of ‘extra’ people tell their friends about. I think no barber shop should be without one!
That’s today’s product demo; a very handy device that adds a touch of sophistication and thoughtful care to your customer service. I hope you enjoyed learning about it, and if you would like to know more, just shoot me a message at info@larrythebarberman, or watch me demo it on my YouTube @larrythebarberman.
Occasionally you find barbers who have come to the business through salons, breaking in by working with women’s hair.
But Harry Karolis is much more than salon artist turned barber. Getting his start with Daniel Galvin, the current Style Director at Ego Barbers is also the most-followed Instagrammer in all of UK barbering and co-founder of the amazing Kings of Tomorrow Academy, soon to be hosting classes in its own facility.
Harry’s foundation in women’s hair informs his passion for barbering in three interlinking ways: his commitment to shape-before-fade, his enthusiasm for barber education and his strongly-stated conviction that barbers need to charge more for their service.
First, shape before fade! “A lot of barbers will concentrate on a fade rather than the shape, and it’s vital to put a shape into the hair,” he told me when we met at Barber Connect this spring. “Otherwise you’ll find yourself getting it wrong; the wrong shape will come into the hair.”
Bringing scissor work from salon to barber shop
“We look to structure a haircut by putting the shape in before we do anything with the clipper work. It gives you precision, and it gives you the right structure. We blow dry the hair into shape because that’s now the clients going to wear it.”
A simple concept well-stated, which all barbers can take to heart. It’s that kind of advice that has caused Harry’s Instagram blow up to over 225,000 followers, which he puts down to not only posting spectacular haircuts but mind-blowing scissor work which he learned, again, behind the chair in salon settings.
“I was trained for Vidal Sassoon, and I brought my scissor work into barbering, which has really worked for me,” he said. “When I crossed over to men’s hair, I had to learn the clipper work, learn the fades, and so I combined that with scissor work because I saw it was lacking in barbering.”
“What is still lacking in barbering now people are not following shape through the haircut!” he adds with emphasis
I wanted to know if Harry felt a neglect of good scissor work could be bad for business and he definitely agreed. Life isn’t always going to be about fades!
“You got to be ready for any trends,” he told me. “In the next few years, everyone could want long hair and your business takes a hit because you can’t do it.”
“Even today in some barber shops, when a long haircut comes in nobody wants to do it because nobody knows how to do it,” he warns. “But when you know how to follow through a square layer, a round layer, graduation, cross graduation, finding balance in your haircut, you’ll find you’ll be able to care for all hair. That’s the main advantage.”
There’s another one of those Instagram-esque pieces of very sound advice!
“Our main focus is, we like to set the trends.”
The conversation was segueing into education, another topic I really want to pursue with Harry.
“If you’re doing the same fade and you keep doing it, then that’s all you know and you’re not catering to everyone,” Harry states. “There is a limit to what you can do with your work. The fact is, you can add to your work, get the rewards from your finishing, and you can add the fades to current styles. Then you can follow the trends and then you can set the trends.”
“Our main focus is, we like to set the trends,” Harry says firmly.
Harry’s passionate voice and outstanding work caught the attention of barbers on Instagram everywhere, and he was getting as many as 50 DMs a day from people saying they wanted to do what he is doing, wanted to know what he knows. “A lot of people always tell me that I’ve given them the belief that, ‘Maybe one day I can be that guy, that I can inspire people.’ It’s all about believing and giving people belief.”
Harry found it a bit overwhelming, and his response was to start Kings of Tomorrow, EGO Barbers’ academy. He aims to bring barbers up to such high standards no barber is afraid to charge the same as top hair salons. And there’s more, he said. “I want to show you how to showcase your work, how to how to reach people out there. I want people to see what you deliver, something they will admire, that will inspire. That’s my main goal.”
Classes are currently available through Egobarbers.com in a we-come-to-you model. Through a newly launched YouTube channel, Harry expects to offer even more practical advice along with self-presentation tips. Kings of Tomorrow onsite classes are scheduled to start soon. “Just watch out for announcements,” he smiles.
Harry is clearly fired up about KOT. “I want to deliver an education that is so powerful that when you walk away, you’re gonna take something real back to your salon,” Harry said. “At the same I’m gonna give back to the barbering community, give the value into the work that it deserves.”
No more £10 haircuts!
Ah! That sounds like a hint to bring up the topic of raising prices! Harry’s very passionate on the subject, sharing a perspective with Ivan Zoot and others that barbers simply do not charge enough.
Salons banned clippers because owners knew there was more value in scissors work, and why compete with yourself by allowing clippers? If barbers through education continually raise their game, Harry believes, the door opens to charge salon-level prices!
“I want us to get where someone comes in for a haircut and hasn’t got a problem paying you what you’re worth, or thinking 30, 40, 50 pounds is too much. There should be no £8 haircuts, £10 haircuts. You are worth more than that.”
“Why should hairdressers charge £40 for a fade or whatever they’re doing in there when the barber is doing the better haircut? That value is still lacking in barbering even though we’ve grown as an industry. Great kids have long queues, but they’re charging £7 pounds! They tell me the boss is afraid to raise prices, afraid to lose clients. But salons, which can’t match the quality a barber does with their fades, are charging £40 a haircut!”
For Harry, hard work, education, and getting your work out there all combine to create a rising value market, an environment where barbers can feel safe and confident in raising prices and charging what they are worth. It’s a positive, heartening message.
Harry has a lot to share with the barbering community on style, business, and promotion. The blend of education, pricing, style and communications skill combine to make him a unique fixture in barbering, and I believe we are all luckier for having him with us.
As he looks ahead, he believes the sky’s the limit for the barbering industry.
“You never know how far we can go,” he says in closing, “because we’re still growing as barbers. Everyone wants to become a barber! If you want to bring your talent into reality, you got work for it, and you’ve got to educate yourself.” And now’s the time!
I want to thank Harry Karolis, Ego Barbers, and Kings of Tomorrow Academy for all they are doing within the barbering world. You can catch my entire video interview with Harry on my YouTube @larrythebarberman.
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.email@example.com
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!
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.
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.
Today’s barbering interview is with the talented Jay Majors, a man who has used the barbering craft to completely transform his life. As he describes it, he had a somewhat “troubled past”, and he was generous enough to talk to me not only about his current career as a barber, but also about life before finding this new passion. We also talk about one of Jay’s most exciting projects to date: the CT Barber Expo.
“A Troubled Past”
“The gangs were really prevalent in [my] area growing up, and to be honest I got involved just to be cool. I wanted to do what others were doing. I come from a family where my parents did their best to make ends meet, but I wanted the designer things. So, I did the wrong things in order to acquire them.
“I would get incarcerated, and my family weren’t the type of family to send me money so I would have to find ways to make ends meet. Because even though you’re incarcerated you still need to buy cosmetics, food, snacks. I started drawing, doing things like handkerchiefs and I really wasn’t that good at it. So, I got the bright idea, because I really looked up to a barber in my neighbourhood, to start cutting hair”.
Jay already had some styling practice from shaping up his own hair, so he found that he was able to make money from providing haircuts whilst incarcerated. For Jay, then, barbering started as a real necessity: a way that he could survive within a difficult environment. But it certainly didn’t end there:
“While incarcerated, I didn’t have hope. So, I would get out, and get these dead-end jobs – and I wasn’t making good enough money when I was used to making fast money from my other life. Then whilst incarcerated I had this epiphany one day. I was sitting in my cell, and they have these lockers where you put your food and cosmetics – and I had all this food that I was hoarding, hundreds of dollars-worth of food, and all these quote-unquote ‘drug lords’ were having to borrow things from me.
“And a lightbulb went off like why the hell do you try breaking the law, why are you involved with all this knucklehead mentality when you could be making all this money cutting hair? So I went down to the education department and I spoke to this lady, and she said when you get out, call this phone number and due to you being a felon, and because of the programmes you have done, you can get a grant to go to cosmetology school.”
Despite almost giving up several times, Jay stuck to it – and now his life has changed significantly from what it once was.
Living for Success
Jay has gone on to make a name for himself in barbering, cementing his new career by opening up the Major League Barbershop around a decade ago. He describes the shop as a family friendly environment, priding himself on the high levels of sanitation as well as the talent of the barbers he hires.
The story behind the barbershop is fascinating in and of itself, taking both good luck and hard work to ensure success:
“When I graduated cosmetology school I was renting chairs in barbershops and I managed to acquire this high-class clientele despite being in a bad neighbourhood. I ended up getting this client in my chair who people might look at as like a mobster, old-school Italian guy who owned a lot of property and he said ‘listen, we’ve got to take you out of this neighbourhood’.
This man was able to help Jay by offering him an empty shop in a new mini mall that was still being built, telling Jay to mark out the space he wanted on the dirt where the mall was about to be built. This transformed into 1200 square foot barbershop that Jay had to grow into.
“I hired some barbers; 4 chairs went to 8 chairs, 8 chairs went to 12. A lot of people just slap a barbershop together but I bought all these beautiful plasma televisions, had the waiting area as a baseball dugout. I wanted it to be a family friendly barbershop, somewhere clean, somewhere women could go and not get gawked out.
“I’m always remodelling, buying new chairs, upgrading my facilities. I think the difference between my shop and others is also the people I hire – I want people with an entrepreneurial spirit. The majority of my barbers that leave go on to open their own shop.”
Although nurturing upcoming talent might mean creating more competition for his own shop, Jay cares more about giving something back and helping people who might be disadvantaged. This includes working with people who were incarcerated in a community outreach programme, helping those with no jobs and few prospects train as barbers and fulfil a need for licensed professionals.
Making it Big
Arguably, though, what really helped Jay to make it big was the creation of the CT Expo, an event which may have started small but has gone on to attract an impressively wide audience.
“I’ve participated in barber battles in cosmetology and barber schools, and barbers really come out for it.
“The difference between cosmetologists and barbers to me, where I’m from, is that cosmetologists will get their license and then do continued education. Barbers get a license, get a tattoo of a pair of clippers and think they know everything.
“In order to spread awareness that we weren’t charging enough for our haircuts, we weren’t acting like professionals, we weren’t treating our clients with proper customer care… I had to come up with an excuse. And that was the battles. Barbers are really competitive people.
“So, I did a barber battle at a nightclub, letting everyone compete for free. I didn’t think as many people would turn up as did, and I didn’t think it would become what it has. I reached out to all these people to market it, only Ivan Zoot was interested. He got me clippers for the prize bags, which was astonishing. We had around 30-40 competitors – it was a great turnout”.
From there, the show just grew and grew, although not without some teething issues. Growing so rapidly meant that he had more people attending his shows than the venue he used could cope with, leading to complaints and even visits from the fire marshals!
None of this put Jay off though, and he talks about the type of touching moment that made him realise how much he wanted to keep giving back “This kid won second place in the speed fade battle, and he came with his Grandfather and his Mother and his Aunt – his Grandfather flew all the from Puerto Rico to see him compete – and the kid cried like thank you, I’ve never won anything before in my life. From that point on I said I have to give back to the industry that’s been giving to me.”
From 1100 people at that show, 2017’s CT Expo hit around 8000 attendees including vendors. I was there myself, and the event was off the scale; aside from two barber battle stages, there were also a huge range of vendor.
As Jay says, many of the most popular hair shows cater more towards female hairdressing, with barbers taking up a small area. The event that he runs is all about barbers, with a particular focus on how barbers can grow and become more professional while also charging better rates for their haircuts.
A Bright Future
When Jay says that “barbering has truly saved my life” it certainly rings true, so it’s exciting to know that somebody with that much passion is putting so much back into the industry. One big focus at 2017’s expo was education – he sees the battle and the vendors as an excuse for the education which give the show its real focus, working as a draw to make sure that barbers show up and get interested.
Jay is also running Major League Barber Academy, a way of ensuring a bright future for those people who are only just beginning their barbering career. So, what can you expect if you visit the academy?
“I opened my school in the beginning because it was hard for me to find licensed barbers. Or I was finding licensed barbers but they’ve come from a shop that was taught poor practices from an owner who was taught poor practices, from another owner who was taught poor practices… they don’t know how to sanitise properly, they just want clients in and out of the chairs.
“I said you know what, I’m going to start training. And right now, I’m actually in the process of getting financial aid funding, I have a great graduation rate and a great passing rate, now we’re going to be offering a class in Spanish too.
“It’s been a dream come true for me. If you would have told me where I’m at in my career today, even doing this interview, years ago I wouldn’t have believed you. Because I’m from the streets, and nothing is handed to you and you don’t believe anything you hear or see. But one thing I can say is that I work a lot.”
I saw that tenacity and hard-working attitude for myself when I visited the CT Expo; Jay’s whole focus was on making the show a success. His advice to young people on the wrong tracks, then, is definitely worth listening to:
“At the end of the day, you have to learn that there are two paths. There’s no in between. If you’re on the right path and you’re working hard, then hard work rewards hard work. With that, you can make it in any career. So, my advice to you is to start treating the barbering career as a career and a profession, not as a hustle or a way to make cash.”
Remember, these are words of advice from someone who has been there and knows what he’s talking about. You can find out more about Jay’s work at his website mlbcuts.com and, of course, you can get to know more barbers like Jay by visiting my Instagram page – @larrythebarberman – or my YouTube channel, barbers.tv
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.
Multiple award winner, owner of two successful shops, Andis educator and clothing line entrepreneur – not bad for a young man who has yet to celebrate his 30th birthday!
I was delighted to meet the amazing Angel Raws at the Orlando Premiere at the suggestion of my friend Eileen Nunez from Great Clips. I discovered a creative person whose barbering relationship with fellow artists – such as many hip-hop stars – is no surprise. I always love sharing with you the many ways people find barbering success, and Angel’s story is a great one.
Angel surprised me immediately with this opening story: he initially picked up clippers to support his professional skateboarding dream!
“I was 16, riding for a couple of companies,” he told me. “As far as a sponsor for skateboarding, the shop I was riding for closed. My mom had clippers sitting in the garage; she is a cosmetologist. So I picked them up and started doing haircuts for buddies for a little extra cash so I could buy boards and shoes.”
It didn’t take Angel long to realize he’d found his true passion. “Once I picked up the clippers, I left it all behind, and I just fell in love with the industry,” he told me. “I got my license in 2010 and ever since I have been in 50-plus shows and all across the US.”
Angel is the kind of person open to growth and opportunity. What he saw in men’s grooming gave him immediate motivation.
“When I first came into the industry, it was a Bronner Brothers hair show my mom told me about, and it opened my eyes to what the barbering industry was,” he remembers. ”I did not know there was so much you could do with a barbering license, that there were people cutting celebrities’ hair. I couldn’t even fathom that you could be an educator; you can go and compete and do all this. It gave me inspiration.”
Angle seized another opportunity when a contact invited him to a “Barbers at the Roundtable” networking event. “It was by Curtis Smith,” he said, “and the whole XOTICs team was there – Jesse Lima, Denny from Andis, Kenny Duncan – all the big names, and I was just watching. It inspired me to compete and do the things that they were doing .”
Angel realized he had to “get my name out there” and it was his fierce skateboarder competitiveness that suggested a way: “I started to look up competitions (I could join) so people would know who I was ‘cuz I felt I had the skill to get to where these people were.”
His teachers funded a trip to the New York Barber Battle, “my first time even traveling by myself,” he says with a smile. “I ended up taking the trophy! I was so amped up after that. I mean, I went to New York, I win this big trophy, I got this $1,000 check, it was an amazing experience.”
“But that wasn’t the one that meant the most,” he continued. “I came back to Bronner Brothers and they had the Andis overall competition, where you had to dress the model and do the haircut to match. Andis has been my favorite company since I started, so it was a big deal to me to compete, even though I was still in school.”
Angel demonstrated another key to his success by the way he approached the competition: he planned, prepared and practiced. For months.
“I had it down pat by the time I did it live,” he told me. “I did a big shark on one side and an octopus on the other and I dressed my man up as a scuba diver with the air tank the flippers and everything – so when he walked out on stage, he was walking all funny.” The crowd and the judges loved it.
“My mom was there and everyone who was supporting me, and that was one of the biggest highlights of my career. “
As an Andis educator, Angel is influencing barbers all over, but he doesn’t specialize in a particular cut. “It is more of the style, a lot of the real close fades, bald fades,” he says. “The trendy cuts like the Mohawks.”
“People are into a clean-cut haircut, more of the skin fade, that has a lot of detail, that’s more my style. On Instagram you will see that I don’t leave a one guard on the side. I just do mainly skin fades with a lot of detail.”
When I pressed Angel on his strongest skill, I was sure it would relate to cutting hair but he had another surprise. His real strong suit is organization and service, something every barber should sit up and notice.
“Being organized,” he said to me, “taking care of my clients on time, being there when the client expects it.” It sounds simple but so many barbers neglect this basic service, he says.
“They might not show up for an appointment, or they are late,” he observes. “I pride myself on being punctual. I cut a lot of people like doctors and lawyers – people who have jobs and don’t have time to hang out in the shop. That is my specialty: being available and on time.”
Angel is on top of another trend in the industry: bookings by app. It has freed him and his clients from phone interruptions, another service issue. “There is no need for me while I am taking care of this client to be on the phone with the next client,” he says. “(An app) gives my clients access to my schedule, so it might be 2 a.m. and people are booking me. I might wake up in the morning and I have had 6 clients book during the night. They didn’t have to call me; they didn’t have to text me. It’s just convenient.”
In addition to his two Florida shops, Raws Cuts 1 and 2, I wanted to know about his growing clothing line, a fantastic idea he calls “Barber Life.”
He tells me his shops are family style with a relaxed atmosphere where wives and children feel comfortable, “a real tight family and with all my barbers you will feel that vibe.”
His clothing line is another example of an observant man seizing an opportunity. Angel contacted a screen-printing friend in New York with an idea:
“I reached out to my partner BV and said, ‘There is no barbering clothing line, no logo of barbering.’ So we came up with Barber Life, and we went to the Bronner Brothers show with a backpack full of these shirts and we sold out, people were eating them up right out of the bag. The next year we had a booth and it was just a hit. We needed to get a website together, and it has taken off. We have done 50-plus shows, we’ve done barber battles, the website – www.theprofessionalsbarbeshop.com – it has just been a blessing, man.”
What the future holds for this ambitious and talented barber and businessman is a mystery for now (“We’re taking it day by day”), though he loves working in barber education. As for his inspiration these days, he says there are many people he looks up to, but he feels comfortable now sharing his lessons with people starting out, which I am thrilled to pass along to you!
“Don’t be scared,” he says, very seriously. “It might be financial; it might be you don’t want to get up on the stage and compete. You can’t have it because with fear you aren’t going to go anywhere. You are going to be stuck in a box because you are afraid to do anything outside of that box.”
Angel says Andis once asked him to teach a class in Spanish, a task that drove him back to the books and made him nervous since he wasn’t sure he could pull it off. “I speak Spanish with my mom every day,” he laughs, but that was about it!
“But I did it. I studied and I learned the words I needed, and I was nervous, but I didn’t let the fear get to me. I would not be sitting here able to tell you that I am an Andis educator (if I hadn’t)
“So put yourself out there, any opportunity that you get, and don’t be afraid.”
I liked Angel’s humility; he’s grounded. When I asked him his biggest accomplishment, for example, he said without hesitation, “Getting my license.”
“Without that, I would not be here. I truly believe you aren’t a barber without that license. For me, that is the biggest moment. That is what opened the door for me. That is what made me a barber.”
A perfect ending to a great conversation. My thanks to Angel Raws for his valuable time and Eileen Nunez for suggesting we meet. Be sure to watch Angel’s interview and other fascinating conversations with barbering’s most interesting people at my YouTube at LarrytheBarberman. ‘Til next time happy barbering!
Did he Mention his 4-day Dundee-to-London Barbers’ Motorcycle Charity Run coming up July 22?
When I caught up with Colin Petrie at Barber Connect Telford we briefly reminisced about the last time we’d met two years ago, before diving into his crazy busy, creative barbering life at Hard Grind.
“We had two barbers,” says the Scottish entrepreneur, whose Hard Grind shops in Aberdeen and Dundee are home to custom design apparel, good coffee, and first class men’s styling. “Since then, we’ve snowballed. We have upwards of 14 or 15 barbers now. We have warehouses and stock people. Massive!”
Colin says this with an appealing blend of pride, wonder and weariness. “It’s hard, it’s tough,” he says, but you sense he isn’t complaining, just being real. ”Work life balance is something we preach massively but I’m one of the worst at it,” he says with a laugh.
But the barber from Dundee with the business that’s attracting customers and barbers from everywhere with a mix of great service, unique combination of products and savvy marketing has something else on his mind right now: motorcycles. He launches the ‘Harley and Haircuts’ Barbers Ride July 22, a four-day excursion from Dundee to London that benefits London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.
“It started about a year a year ago with Luka from Luka’s Barbers and Ryan from SD Barbers – bike enthusiasts and barbers talking about doing a charity run,” he told me. “It has grown into this monster I can barely comprehend! Then Xavier from Reuzel in the UK and Richie from Captain Fawcett (got involved).”
Enthusiasts of any motorcycle make are welcome, Colin emphasizes, not just Harley riders. The launch event is July 22 at Hard Grind in Dundee. Following a (no doubt extensive) after party and an overnight, wheels hit pavement July 23.
“We will be stopping to do barber seminars, and we will keep it intimate, focused on education,” he told me. No big stage shows. He wants to attract eager-to-learn barbers who can get value from the events. “But we’ll obviously be drinking a bunch of beers and high tailing it to London, so our bums will be sore.” The event will assist not only the Children’s Hospital; Colin adds the Lions Barber Collective for the prevention of suicide is also involved.
Tickets for the seminars are £25, “and you will get a £25 baggie of goodies from our sponsors,” he said.
The ticket for the full four-day ride is £250. “You also get a £250 goodie bag from our sponsors and entry to parties and events.”
“There are ‘giving pages’ for those who don’t ride,” he added. “Go to barbersride.com to find out all about it.”
So, besides running two shops that feature a line of your own apparel and organizing an island-spanning motorcycle ride for charity, are you keeping busy?
Colin’s answer shows the business savvy so many barbers can learn from. “We took our foot off of the gas (after the Aberdeen shop opened) to make sure we were running as we should,” he tells me. “You can push too hard and too quickly and oversaturate something, and we made sure that didn’t happen. We needed to hold on to the crux of what we want to do.”
And now? “Things are running smoothly again to the point we can open up another few shops by the end of this year.”
Another clue to success is Colin’s appreciation for his staff, his willingness to share the human and business side with everyone at Hard Grind. “Just incredible,” he says of Hard Grind employees. “We got guys on the stage today (at Barber Connect), guys getting in publications, which is fantastic. They all moved here from Wales, from Ireland – we have a girl from Melbourne in Australia, Larissa. It baffles my mind people want to move away to work under the Hard Grind brand. It has been incredible and crazy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
I was curious about Colin’s approach to social media, since his brand is so talked about (his Instagram has shot up from 8,500 two years ago to 43,000+ today).
How has he done it?
“We are not afraid to show our personality, which is what people like,” he said. “It’s not just haircut, haircut, haircut. There are stupid videos of us, just shop life. We hang out outside of work, a lot of us are dads, we take our kids, we all get together as a family.”
“If you build something honest people will relate to that. Sometimes it is personal things. Sometimes it is inspirational. It’s whatever it is, and it seems to resonate.”
“We also show the stresses, the dark side of the business. Not just, ‘everything looks great on Instagram.’ There are hard times, so we portray all of it and that is why people respond.” But as far as strategy, “there is no rhyme or reason.”
The emphasis on reality is built into the Hard Grind name. “We were the first to make coffee in a shop and you grind coffee beans, so it was a play on words, but it’s really about the actual grind.”
“Anyone who cuts hair knows it is not as glamorous as Instagram makes it look,” Colin said. “You’re on your feet, you are cutting back to back, and you rarely take a break. It is a grind every day. So the name is a nod to people who go out there every day, not just barbers. If want to get somewhere you have to grind really hard, so it seemed like a great play on words for us.”
I came away convinced that barbers everywhere can take a tip from Colin’s energy and willingness to try products, ideas and sponsorships in creative combinations. Hard Grind has an experimental, even a “crazy” vibe (as Colin says) that people find irresistible.
Right now, he’s working with Brew Dog brewery and pub. How many barbers are doing that?
“We’ve got beer taps going in all the shops, like a full-on bar with kegs,” he says. At last! Beer and haircuts! “We are working on our own ale as well. I love the idea of telling people ‘beers are in the fridge, help yourself,’ and pulling pints of our own special brew.”
I am seeing now how Colin very intelligently sets himself apart from the competition. But there is even more: a reciprocal commitment to his partners. Smart business!
“It’s not, ‘Give us free beer so we can give it to our customers.’ That is not what I am about,” he says emphatically. ”I don’t sit here and ask for handouts and do nothing for you. With Brew Dog we are at their AGM every year with free haircuts and talking up the company. I want to do things for them. We go to the Rock Star factory and do a big popup and free haircuts for the staff.”
“Almost of the brands have more followers than the shops, anyway. So it’s, ‘What can I do for you?’ That’s how it works,” he smiles. This attitude has paid off in partnerships with the likes of The Bluebeard’s Revenge, Sailor Jerry, SB, Dickies, Luc Belaire, the aforementioned Brew Dog and Rock Star, Reuzel, Captain Fawcett, the list goes on.
The man never stops running. He’s branched out to custom products (“We’ve got our own beard oils, salt sprays, all made with custom scents”) and he is growing his apparel line (“We take a lot of time on design and the quality. I don’t put out something out I wouldn’t wear myself”) and now – why not? – he is launching a blog, the Daily Grind. I’ve read it and I have three words for striving barbers everywhere: check it out.
Colin is keen on using the blog to talk about business. “In this age of people wanting to do their own business, it is important to show the true madness that comes with it, the sleepless nights. It’s something I love to do, but I want to paint both sides of it.”
So while on the subject, what is his nutshell advice to struggling barbers trying to build success? Colin’s observations are so extensive and worthwhile, it’s best I list them for easy reference.
“The best thing to have is a business partner,” not just to share the financial load but someone as emotionally invested as you are.
“I like people second guessing me. If I can persuade them that I am working on the right thing, (that improves my judgment). Trying to do it on your own, you spend a lot of time second-guessing yourself.”
Don’t mimic others. Think about how you can put your face on something unique to you.
Soak up all of it! Come to the shows. “Education is massive thing.”
Have patience. “People don’t want to do two years of training or to build things steadily. It’s a long game, not a short game. Don’t expect overnight success and don’t expect there will be no hurdles. “
Understand business basics. “Some think having a barber shop is, ‘I’ll put a man in a chair and that’s it.’ But you don’t know about taxes and VATs and all the stresses, all the struggles, like losing accounts because you are cutting all day. Who is going to answer your emails when you are busy? Who is going to take care of your paper work? It is a minefield.”
You don’t have to take classes, “but look at Google, look on websites. There is plenty of information out there that can help you. Download stuff not just about barbering but about business.”
As we bid farewell, Colin had a few parting words I want to share with you, since they sum up Hard Grind and Colin so well: “I feel lucky because I’m not trying to be anything. I’m just being me, one big dysfunctional Hard Grind family, it just kind of works. There is no trick.”
Thanks, Colin! A lot of food for thought there. Hope you look forward to my next interview as much as I do! Stay tuned and til next time, happy barbering!
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.”
Danny Robinson started his barbering career with few opportunities – but that’s never kept him down. He now owns two successful Oldham shops – Danny and Co Barbers – and also holds the Men’s Hairdressing Federation Young Fed title while on the road as European Artistic Ambassador for the Oster clipper company.
Any one of these achievements would land Danny on my list of incredible barbers, but his multi-faceted successes – and his fight to break into the industry – make him a compelling figure I knew I had to meet.
Humble Origins lead to TV
As I always like to start at the beginning, and Danny told me his beginnings were humble indeed.
“I’m from a single-parent background,” Danny says. “My Mum brought me up on her own when she was just 15.”
If you think Danny’s face might be a bit familiar, there is a reason. The acting bug found him in his humble abode – and bit hard!
“Throughout school, barbering was never something I wanted to do,” he told me. “Instead I went to Manchester and studied at a performing arts school, landed a TV agent and went on to get loads of TV credits on shows like Shameless and Spooks.”
But the lure of the bright lights didn’t last.
“I started to fall out of love with it. It’s a very fickle industry – you can quickly move to the bottom of the pile and find you’re just waiting by the phone for auditions for scrap roles,” he said.
“It was my Mum who pushed me into getting a fall-back job, and she always noticed that I’d enjoyed messing around with my hair, so she suggested barbering.”
Initial foray into Women’s Hair
Danny started working with women’s hair, but it wasn’t the right fit. “Women were scared to death of someone across from them in a La Coste tracksuit with a pair of scissors!” he laughs.
“The salon pushed me towards the men’s side and I enjoyed it; I found I had things in common with the clients, so it progressed quickly.”
From there Danny began a 5-year journey to find his identity in the industry. “I went from shop to shop, eventually breaking away from Manchester City Centre as you couldn’t make much money in a salaried role,” he told me. “I worked on a self-employed ‘rent-a-chair’ basis at a local shop in Oldham and stayed there for 5 years learning my trade there. My old boss showed me the ropes, and taught me the business side.”
Breaking into Business
Having steady work at a job he enjoyed might be enough for most people, but not Danny.
“I’ve always had to stand on my own two feet,” he said. “ I think I’ve got a little bit of a reputation in the industry -I say what I think and I don’t hold anything back. That’s because of my background; I’ve had to learn to fight, to stand out.
“In the end I thought ‘Look, I’ve been working in the same shop for 5 years, lining the owner’s pockets, pretty much running the shop when he’s not there.’ A lot of the clients were coming in for me, and so I realized I could do it myself.”
Gas Explosion Creates an Opportunity
Danny’s search for his own place was made attainable by…a gas explosion. “(The explosion was ) nearby, blowing up a lot of buildings in the area,” he related to me. “This shop was quite rundown, so I bought it cheap. Renting my chair cost more than running the shop!”
“From there I guess you could say the rest is history: it just rocketed off.”
Danny is always shifting his sights to the next level, and once he had his own shop and excellent barber skills, he began looking at the bigger industry picture, entering competitions and following big names on social media.
A career-defining victory soon came his way: being named one of Men’s Hairdressing Federation’s ‘Young Feds’. How did it happen? Danny acting training paid off: he focused on image and presentation.
“I’d figured out that iPhone could only get you so far, so I started putting up pictures using a high-end camera. This meant that, three years ago, my work just popped out because… it looked so professional. Especially at competitions, it got me noticed very quickly. Now it’s the norm, but it wasn’t then.”
Danny’s savvy self-marketing got him the final of the Simon Shaw Search for a Star contest, where he was noticed by Joe Sloan from the Men’s Hairdressing Federation. They eventually met at the Shaw Salon International Competition, which is where I also met Danny for the first time.
“I completely reworked (model) Abdul’s hair (at the competition), doing a completely different look on a different stand, completely mixed it up. Adam and Joe Sloan loved it, like ‘Wow, this is unreal!”’
Once again, Danny’s performance training paid off. “Because I come from an acting background, I could get a crowd going around me. Adam and Joe saw this…and asked me to come down and replicate the cut on camera.”
Two weeks later, Adam and Joe Sloan called to tell Danny one of their four Young Fed winners had to drop out, and they had chosen to award him the position.
He also named the cut he’d created at the International Competition “The Bombay Pompadour,” and it completely blew up on social media. Danny was on his way.
With doors opening, Danny was soon cutting hair for celebrities such as Craig David, Tinie Tempah, Stomzy, Matt Bellamy from Muse and the international Drum & Bass DJ Wilkinson.
And great things just kept happening.
Stepping Up to the Oster Ambassadorship
Every barber covets the chance to serve as a brand ambassador, and Danny recently became the European Artistic Ambassador for Oster clippers. He says he fell in love with Oster’s clippers – specifically the Oster ’97 – at an American Crew course:
“American Crew are known for using nothing but Oster ’97 clippers, so I bought a pair and absolutely loved them, thought it was one of the greatest machines I’d ever held,” he recalls.
“I worked them to death, but I didn’t know you had to change the carbon fibre brushes and thought they’d broke! So, I sent them back over to the distributor,”
Danny met Oster’s Maria Stafford and began sending her pictures of his work and accomplishments, noting he could help Oster in the underserved UK market.
They met again at Pro Hair.
“I did a haircut with a pair of Pro Powers and she asked me to jump on their stand and do a cut,” he said. Danny began doing shows free of charge “because I believe in the products, and helping Oster bring brand awareness to the UK.”
Oster soon brought Danny on as paid rep. He loves the products, saying of the Oster ’97 (or ’76 in America): “The key word is clean – you get clean, clean cuts. It’s your all-in-one clipper, and every barbershop should have one.”
This wouldn’t be a proper Larry the Barber Man interview if I didn’t end by sharing Danny’s advice, and his success lends extra weight to his wise words:
“Always develop yourself – don’t just look at Instagram. A lot of it is smoke and mirrors. Stop looking up to American barbers and look at the great talent we have here in this country.
“Think outside the box. Look at my photography work – it’s different to everyone else’s. Be creative, and be you – every top barber is the best at being themselves, so you need to be you”.
I hope you put these words into practice in your career, and remember: there is always support, advice and inspiration for barbers at my YouTube channel Barbers.TV, or my @LarrytheBarberMan Instagram profile.