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Barber Jon Bourne Of Barber Town Worcester, Shares His Thoughts On the Barbering Industry 2017

With multiple barbershops and a position as an NVQ assessor, Jon Bourne from Barbertown in Worcester certainly has a lot on his plate. But he still found the time to catch up with me, and share some of his industry knowledge. Starting his career in a family barbershop, he managed to climb his way through the ranks before eventually setting up his own brand of vintage-inspired barbershops. I asked him about how they’re bringing back some of the best traditions of barbering for a modern gent.  

“We tend to buy old barber chairs – I have some great clients that can service an reupholster them. In general, the shops are just organic, they keep growing. Over time trends change and we adjust the shops accordingly. A lot of the stuff is memorabilia that I myself have collected.” 

This means vintage scooters, old arcade machines and everything in between – and it helps to create what feels like a home from home for Jon no matter which of the three shops he’s working at. But there’s more to Barbertown than good aesthetics – it’s also built on a strong work ethos. 

“We are community barbershops, in locations with local schools and colleges, car dealerships, solicitors, local rugby clubs. Rather than being the standard high street spot, we work within Worcester as part of the community.” 

This community spirit has also meant supporting apprenticeships for young, up and coming barbers. “The apprenticeship model is really important. When I started, you started at the bottom and worked your way up. Ash trays needed emptying, foot rests needed cleaning – it was all about attention to detail. That’s how we start our apprentices off now. It gives them a real grounding, and they become much better barbers.” 

 

Of course, that isn’t the extent of Jon’s work in education: he’s also an end point assessor for students completing their NVQ Level 2. “You spend a couple of hours, watch them do a couple of haircuts. It’s about how they interact with the clients, the consultation, the cleanliness, how they use their tools. And if I think they can do all those things competently then I sign them off.” 

Jon also thinks that there should be more regulation within barbering, with to ensure that barbers who work hard to do things properly aren’t undermined by people with low standards who just want to make a quick buck: “I think every barber should go through some sort of registration process, so the standard is the same. 

“It’s frustrating for the barbers that do everything properly to see others who are unscrupulous, almost doing slave labour, paying cash in hand. It needs to be stamped out and everybody needs to be regulated. We have very sharp instruments, there are infections and if you’re doing everything properly then you don’t have anything to worry about. If you’re serious about your business, why wouldn’t you do it?” 

 

Aside from formal qualifications, Jon brings his exacting standards to the modern hub for barbering education… YouTube. “I just thought we’d post a few videos showing how we cut hair. The feedback has been really positive, I’ve been overwhelmed. People are really interested in traditional styles of barbering.” 

This will naturally lead to people wanting more in-depth training on the Barbertown methods of cutting hair, and the good news is that Jon has plans to start his own academy in the not too distant future: watch this space! 

Another interesting aspect of Barbertown Worcester is their ‘Stay Sharp’ logo, which apparently came about as something of a catchphrase that the barbers would say when working with younger clients. “If I had a pound for every time it was used, I wouldn’t be sat here, I’d be in the Bahamas. It’s just become a bit of a mantra. Now we do T-shirts, various products available from our web shop at barbertown.co.uk. Keep visiting, there’s always going to be more content.” Aside from the shirts, there are all kinds of grooming products available from Jon’s shop; I’d definitely recommend taking a look at barbertown.co.uk. 

 

So, what does a barber like Jon, with now over 30 years of experience under his belt, rate as his best moment in the industry? “When I had the vision of barber town. All of a sudden, I had a new love for barbering. Nobody had things like pinball machines, laptops for people to take orders, Sky Sports back then. We were giving beers away, having that extra service.  

“I took on pretty much the biggest shop on the street. It was a real gamble, I had two very small children. But my wife backed me, and hard work has got us where we are today. I’ve got a great team, too.” 

It’s fair to say the industry has changed a great deal within the 30 years that Jon has been cutting, and one of the newer developments is the introduction of social media. While it’s a new addition to the barber’s toolkit, it’s not to be ignored: Jon and his team have embraced the new technology, and Instagram in particular: 

“On the back of that I’ve met some great people and been offered some great opportunities. It’s a great tool if you use it correctly. We have around 60,000 Instagram followers – I think people just buy into the brand and like what we do. We please ourselves before everyone else as well, which helps.” 

 

It has been great to talk to a barber who represents real professionalism and standards. His closing advice to young barbers reading this now? “Just put the effort and the work in. Go to your local barbershop and get an apprenticeship. Even do it for free for a couple of months if you can afford it. Just get it under your belt.”  

Don’t forget to follow Barbertown on Instagram – and check out the Larry the Barber Man channel too once you’re there! You’ll also find me on YouTube and Facebook; follow for more interviews with top barbers. 

 

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Master Barber: Matty Conrad, Of Victory Barbers, Shares The Philosophy Behind His Barbering and Brand Success

After listening in on, one of Matty Conrad’s seminars in California, there was no doubt in my mind that I needed to bring his unique take on barbering to all of you guys. He certainly didn’t disappoint, and I’m delighted to be sharing this fascinating interview.

Those of you already familiar with Matty’s work might be surprised to hear that he started out 22 years ago not as a barber, but as a hair stylist:

“Barbering didn’t feel exciting. It didn’t feel like there was a lot of artistry around barbering, and barbershops were in very steep decline. Into the 90s, it was not this place to aspire to. So, I got involved in hairdressing, everything from Toni & Guy to Bumble & Bumble.

“I eventually worked my way up to working on stage and platforms, technical educating and teaching – and I really enjoyed that, I always did. But it really started to lose that personal level and I started to fall out of love with the industry.”

 

Feeling that it was becoming more about the egos than the hair, Matty was feeling disillusioned and even considering changing job all together. But then something happened that made him reflect on his career – and find a new aspect of hair to get excited about:

“Around then my Grandfather passed away. He was an amazing old guy, he was just a terrific Gent, you know. Always well dressed, always had a part in his hair and a shine on his shoes. I remember thinking to myself where did this go? What happened to the old gentleman, the idea that having a sharp look meant showing respect for the people around you.

“That was a thing that was being lost, I felt. And my Grandfather passing away made me thing a lot about that, and a lot about legacy. About: What is it that you want the world to be like? At that point I started becoming obsessed with this idea of these old classic barbershops, the place where a man like that would have gone to be put together.”

From those initial ideas, Matty found a new purpose: he started investigating classic barbering as much as he could, seeking education from old, traditional barbers while also using his technical knowledge to consider how classic barbering could be developed for the modern world.

“Everybody was laughing at me at the time, because everyone had these Justin Bieber mop-top haircuts and I was doing cuts that looked like they belonged on my Grandad. But I just kept doing them: I thought they were cool, I thought there was something about them that really spoke to me on a deeper level. Something that felt like it had pride and dignity attached to it”.

 

Back to the roots of barbering

Matty may have been going against the grain at the time, but it certainly paid off. In fact, it led him to him going it alone and opening his own barbershop. This was Victory Barbers, opened in 2010 in a small town in Canada, Victoria BC.

He tells me that when he first opened up he thought he might have gone a little crazy, following this obsession with classic barbering so far. But it worked – because it had real integrity: it was authentic to who Matty really is. Now, he owns four shops as well as a thriving brand.

“The word original is just rampant in our industry. Truth be told, none of us invented this – it’s thousands of years old; it goes back long before we were here, and it will be here long after we’re gone. We were just fortunate to be at the right place at the right time, and to have any part in this is an honour.”

No surprise that Matty is also sceptical of the idea, spread by some industry professionals, that barbering is some sort of ‘hot new trend’. That said, he finds a lot to love about the modern barbering community:

“I love the brotherhood and the fellowship that it is right now, the way we’re supporting each other and growing, the fact that there’s pride in our industry again. I really hope that sticks around. I want to do everything I can to support that.”

 

A contemporary twist

One way in which Matty supports contemporary barbering is through the educational work that he’s doing. Aside from teaching his students about the technical and visual work, he also considers the psychology that’s involved in being a barber. I asked him to delve into this a little:

“I talk about establishing a mutual level of respect. Because I believe that any interaction comes out of a place of respect. One of the things that we’re trying to do is not just create a visual appeal for a person, but to make them feel something for a haircut. So my approach has never been purely technical because I don’t think that what we do is purely technical.

“You start to recognise that the technical aspect of what we do is maybe only 50% of why a person comes and sits in our chair. It’s also about how we make them feel, and that’s not just what we say to them, sometimes it’s about how we conduct our service. How we establish that level of respect by how we shake their hand, how we look them in the eye, how we make them feel cared for and confident in the fact that we are confident.”

 

In essence, Matty’s hairdressing philosophy is all about integrity, and he reiterates that it’s important for barbers to have more than technical skill: you also need to have the ability to make the client walk out that barbershop door feeling good and confident about his hair. This means that the design of the shop and the way in which you treat your customer are just as important as how well you cut hair.

He has also worked tirelessly to develop a range of barbering products that modern barbers can use to complement their craft:

“I had a lot of opportunities to do what you would call a white label. So all you need is a logo and a design and you walk in and pick the products that they have then package them up as your own. That is not me, it’s not at all what I wanted to do.

“I had some very strong ideas about what I wanted the products to be specifically. I worked with about different chemists before I found one that I thought understood the direction I wanted to go.”

 

This involves making the product as natural as possible whilst also ensuring that it is entirely cruelty free – no testing on animals – and highly functional. One of his favourite products is Superdry, a dry, matte paste which has been designed to feel light in the hair whilst also making the hair very malleable.

“It is the most perfect product that I’ve ever used. It’s my favourite one for myself and I use it a lot on a lot of different things, for creating texture whilst making it feel like there’s not a lot in the hair.”

Developing these products has allowed Matty to recognise the fact that, as much as he loves classic barbering and the traditional barbershop, it’s also important for barbers to keep developing and innovating: “I wanted my products to not speak about our history and where we were – I want them to support that – but I want them to talk about where we’re going.”

I’ve seen this in Matty’s own work: the cut that he completed when I watched him had natural shine and glow, yet with movement and sculpture. He tells me that it’s all about creating a haircut that a client can then easily style himself when he gets home.

 

Spreading the good word

If you’re curious about Matty’s work, or the products that he’s created, then you should check out some of his videos: he has been producing a lot of content to help barbers who are interested in doing things the Matty Conrad way. This has involved taking part in a project raising money to help send kids to barber school and keep pushing the industry forward, as well as creating what he calls “farm to table” videos, which focus on showing the full story of a haircut from preparation to then creating imagery once the cut is complete. He has also been creating step-by-step instructional videos to help barbers looking to learn new skills.

“I’m happy to share those things. I want to see our whole industry grow together. Being able to share all those little details with people forces you to be creative in the future as well and push your own limitations. It also allows other people to grow in areas where perhaps they need to. Like I said, you can’t just be good at cutting hair any more: you need something else if you really want to succeed.”

This counts for professional barbers as well as beginners. Matty receives a lot of messages from people who want to be where he is, educating others – and he points out that in order to be an educator you need something to teach. It’s not simply about getting up on stage and showing off; you have to be passing something on to others.

 

There’s a lot to digest, and I’m sure that you’ll agree that Matty offers a refreshing approach to what it means to be a barber. Ultimately, his message is that it’s all about making people feel good and creating confidence:

“Because confidence is what people find sexy, not appearance. The appearance of confidence is what we’re attracted to. So if we’re able to leverage both of those things together it will affect your outward appearance. If we’re truly giving that to people, then we’re doing our job as barbers.”

Don’t forget to take a look at the Victory Barbers website to find more about the work that’s they’re doing; you can also follow me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube as @LarrytheBarberMan. You’ll find more interviews with great barbers from across the world, as well as plenty of educational tips to help you hone your barbering skills.

 

USEFUL BARBER LINKS

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Barber’s Resource: https://www.instagram.com/barbarvoo/

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Email       info@larrythebarberman.com

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Barber Videos: http://www.barbers.tv

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http://www.larrythebarberman.com  ( My Online Store )

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Barber Blogs:  http://www.frequency60hz.com/blog

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Hair Clipper Converters: http://www.frequency60hz.com

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