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Barber: Alan Beak Of Ruger’s Talks About His Meteoric Rise

 

Ruger’s Alan Beak: Enjoy the Boom and Be Nicer to Each Other!

When I caught up with Alan Beak at Barber Connect Telford, he was just 20 minutes from his stage show and a bit rueful about it. ‘There was never a special path I wanted to follow,” he told me, “I never intended to go down a ‘celebrity following’ route. We wanted to keep it varied: the TV work, multiple shows, traveling, doing education. We are just put 100 percent in the moment. Life’s too short for bad coffee and bad haircuts.”

In case you don’t know, the ‘we’ Alan refers to is not only his brother and fellow Manchester native Reece, with whom he opened Ruger Barber just 15 months ago. He also means the rest of his team, Danielle Corbett, Ellie Rogers, Carlie Firth and Aiden Smith, who he mentions often and are a big part of the rather sudden international fame of the Ruger brand.

It’s clear to me the brothers’ killer social media posts featuring unique photography have helped propel them to the heights they enjoy today. It has been a few years since I interviewed Alan, and I wanted to know how he developed those skills.

“Social media is the key factor,” he says firmly. “It is your personal platform to get your work out there.” Social media is part of personal and professional development, something Alan adds to his education work along with theory, demonstrations and hands-on. “Putting all these things together is the recipe.”

He has done his homework in the technical aspects of his incredible camera work. “You need the right tools, the right knowledge, and the right photography,” he says.

 

 ‘Good barbers, trustworthy barbers, are really hard to find’

“A lot of people are deterred by the camera (due to cost).  I get asked about this a lot, and I don’t keep it secret. My cameras are Canon 600D – that’s 400 pounds.  Quite expensive, but you can get it on eBay now for 120. It’s the 50mm lens that gives us the signature look we have. It has the shallow depth of field, focuses on the head, and everything else is blurred out. It exaggerates the haircut. So the 50 mm is the one, and you can get them for about 70 pounds.”

As the Ruger brand began its meteoric rise, people often asked about opening another shop, but Alan was skeptical. “Good barbers, trustworthy barbers, are really hard to find,” he said. “So instead of finding a location, we thought we should look for the right person (to work with us).  And we came across this young woman, Carlie. Her attitude was amazing, and she cut hair great.   She’s fit in the mold with our team, and it just kind of fell into place.” Carlie is Carlie Firth, who I noticed right away, since she was already doing dynamic stage shows at Barber Connect. Talk about fitting fit in!

With the right crew in place, Alan was ready to expand. The new shop in Lytham started with a business partner in Preston. “He said Lytham would be agood spot for us,” Alan recalls. “We went out there one night, and all the bars were open, we got drinks and something to eat, and they all have these bi-folding doors, everyone was outside, and we were sold!”

 

Months later, after “getting my soft barber hands into bits lugging axes and crowbars, pretending to be a builder,” the Lytham shop opened to booming business.

 

 “Get used to your hairdryer”

Alan is a highly attuned business operator whose philosophy every barber should study. He was typically decisive in launching his product line: “We said we wanted or own product; it is as simple as that. And we’ve done it.”  Ruger Essentials is the main item, “the best product we have ever used and ever will use,” Alan calls it in his (admittedly biased) view.

He hasn’t let expansion, social media success and international attention pull Ruger away from their fundamental Italian strength. Alan says the service and atmosphere identified with Italian barbering “will always be our foundation, but we amalgamate our skills with Afro-Caribbean, fading, lady’s hairdressing with extensive styling. We are becoming a hybrid barber; using the Italian as our base.”

He had a take for today’s barbers that was a little surprising: “Get used to your hairdryer.”

“Styling is 33 percent of what you are producing,” he told me. “Everyone wants to do clipper work; everyone wants to fade well; go to America; watch the American videos; everyone wants to learn more scissors techniques. So yes, obviously, clipper and scissor work. But get used to the hairdryer. Use it in both hands, use it in different products, be able to style hair. Hair is very easily manipulated with chemicals, but also with heat.

“Get used to using your hairdryer very well.”

 

“Seeds are Planted all over the World Every Day”

I found Alan to be fired up when offering thoughts on the state of the industry. First, we’ll cover what he loves.

“There is so much networking going on,” he says immediately with a smile. “People on the outside don’t realize how strangely lovely and incestuous it is. Everybody knows everybody.”

It wasn’t always that way. “I remember being told never to fraternize with the enemy, and the enemy was anyone not in your shop.” Now that’s over and the international flavor of men’s grooming is exciting for everyone, he says. “I had a student who was in Malaysia and wanted to have a look at haircuts there,  and when he said he had worked under us for a while, they took him right in!”

A trip to Barber Connect NYC also made an impact, he said, in particular seeing a multi-racial photo shoot called Council Estate Couture by  Kevin Luchman inspired Alan to get into photography, and hanging with people like Luke Guldan and Miguel helped him realize the importance of accessibility.

“Seeds are planted all over the world every day,” he told me. “Plant a seed and year later you can elaborate on that relationship. It doesn’t come all at once…patience, is what I want to say.”  But meeting people and over time, building relationships with the likes of Jamilla Paul and Chris Foster helped Alan’s personal and professional growth.

So, what does this major influencer think needs changing for the better in our industry?

The “bad attitudes,” Alan says.

 

“They know full well they couldn’t stand having that done to them”

“You see people criticizing work, so fast to jump in and say something negative, but then they don’t post pictures of their own work, or refuse to because they know full well they couldn’t stand having that done to them.” Alan’s teaching experience shows him kindness is best. “I can say, ‘You have done so well, but let’s pick on something so you can continue to progress.’

“We are in an industry that is booming and we should be a family. We should work together,” he adds. “If you are going to say something it should be positive, not putting someone down and making feel bad about their work.,

Alan is also on about criticism of people who post edited work, which he calls unfair. “I know people edit pictures, and I don’t give a shit because it looks good. I know they edited something out, but (so what?)”

“Look, we are all human,” he said. “Not everything has to be 100 percent perfect. I have seen people’s work online and then seen them work in front of me, and I can tell there is a difference, but I like to see that because that person is only human.”

 

“Always go with your gut instinct.”

His advice to all: post your work and don’t wait for perfection. “We are all human, we all make mistakes. Whether it’s a small flaw, post your work!  Get your work out there. Don’t pick out the flaw; pick out the good bits in it.”

What final thoughts does this incredibly focused and busy traveler (he lists off where barbering has taken him and his crew – “Shanghai, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, and soon to Barcelona and Moscow”) want to share with my audience?

 

“Always go with our gut instinct,” he said. “Don’t copy other people. I mean, you are never the first person to do something, but take one thing from this person and one thing from another, and just by taking as much as you can from everyone else, you can decide what is going to suit you and make you original.”

“Again, planting seeds. Plant a seed, build a relationship,” he urges. “Instagram is there for that. Instagram is not about how many followers you have. It is about the relationships you build. So speak to someone, leave a nice comment, send a message.”

He condemns how cliquey barbers can be, and sometimes difficult to get to know, so he recommends confidence.  “Even if you are not confident, tell people that. You can say, “I’m not very confident, but I’d like to meet you.” You may shit yourself at first, but then you will be all right!”

With those words I had to let Alan go, off to another rousingly successful stage show.  My thanks to him, and be sure to catch the entire interview on my YouTube at LarryTheBarberMan.  Follow me Instagram @larrythebarberman and I look forward to being friends on Facebook.

I know I will be working harder to follow Alan’s example! Let’s agree to plant seeds, build relationships and be good to one another. Til next time, happy barbering!

 

 

 

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The Top 3 Cordless Hair Clippers/ Trimmers 2017

Harry Pirate is one of my favourite people to talk clippers with, since not only does he really know his stuff when it comes to the technical element of doing great barber work, but he’s also an active barber in a busy shop who knows how important it is for a clipper to perform well under that kind of pressure. You can read all about Harry’s inspiring career in this recent blog post; today, though, I’m going to be drawing on his expertise to give you reviews of three of the best cordless clippers available right now.

Let’s jump straight in with the first review, and Harry’s thoughts on the Andis Slimline Pro Li, a cordless trimmer which uses the lithium ion battery to make sure that this clipper stays strong:

“People who follow my channel will know that I am in love with these: they’re the best trimmer you can buy. In my opinion, they’re as powerful as the Wahl corded detailers, and once they’re zero gapped they’re amazing – I can’t fault them.

This cuts the closest, the way you can adjust the blade is great, and for me it’s all about the power. When I do head shaves, and the client want their hair razored, I will always use this to do a quick buzz over first. It’s very portable too”

It’s important to note that some barbers have had a few issues with the power button breaking, and that’s something that you should definitely be aware of – in Harry’s experience, though, this hasn’t been a concern. I also ask him how it compares with the iconic T Outliner: there are pros and cons to each tool, but although the Outliner does cut a little closer and a little sharper, for Harry it’s the Slimline Pro Li that wins.

In fact, he gives it a formidable 10/10 rating… a tool that deserves a spot on your shelf.

 

Next up we have the Wahl Magic Clip Cordlessone of the classic clippers that receives a lot of well-deserved praise from barbers across the country. Here’s what Harry has to say:

“There are a lot of things I love about this – the first being, obviously, the power. It stays powerful right until the very end. The blade is great as well; it has a little stagger tooth blade, which means that every other tooth on the bottom blade is slightly shorter.

They call it crunch blade technology, and what it does is give you a very nice texture when you’re fading: it almost fades for you and you really do notice the difference. And that’s because of the whole package –  the ergonomics, the power. Even though I use Andis tools I will always go back to this, I use it for clipper over comb, and I use it for fine tuning fades if there are little shadows”.

Wahl’s blade technology is a great selling point for several of their tools, with a range of different blades available, including that crunch blade that makes the Magic Clip so great. This is one of the key factors that leads to a very respectable 8/10 from Harry, and he adds that “I wouldn’t not have this in my draw”.

 

So, there’s one cordless clipper left to discuss, and for a powerful cordless tool, Harry and I agree that you should turn to the Andis Supra ZR. Let’s jump straight in with Harry’s thoughts:

“Honestly, these are brilliant. The great thing, obviously, detachable blades. These are great for everything: clipper over comb, detailing, you can line with these – if you put the 000 or 0000 blade on it’s as close as a detailer! The power in this is amazing. You have three speed settings, and even the lowest speed is really powerful.

They have a wonderful build quality too, very chunky. I think Andis have really done a great job with these and I think it’s genius having the three speed settings. I use the top speed for clipper over comb, turn it down to mid-speed on beards, and turn it down to the low speed for edging. But there’s no loss of speed!”

Getting good power with a cordless clipper is something that I know some barbers worry about, but with the Supra ZR that doesn’t need to be a concern! Harry rates them at 10/10 and I’m happy to agree that these are an excellent choice for a cordless clipper that can take down bulk.

 

If any of these clippers have piqued your interest then you can find them at my store – just use the links below and feel free to drop me a message if you have any questions. I’d also like to invite you to come and join me on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, where there are plenty more views, reviews and interviews to watch and read.

Featured Clippers:

http://shop.larrythebarberman.com/andis-slimline-pro-li/

http://shop.larrythebarberman.com/wahl-magic-clip-clippers-cordless/

http://shop.larrythebarberman.com/wahl-magic-clip-clippers-cordless/

 

 

 

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