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Adee Phelan: Celebrity Hairstylist, Tells His Story During Sknhead Product Line Photo Shoot

Today I’m bringing you an interview with one of the superstars of British barbering, and a man who needs no introduction: Adee Phelan. From starring on TV Show The Salon, to cutting David Beckham’s most infamous haircut, Adee has certainly left his mark on the industry.

I visited his SKNHEAD shoot in March to hear his story. So, Adee, what are we doing today?

“It’s my new luxury men’s range, called SKNHEAD. The concept came about 17 years ago, and I’ve waited and waited – I know it seems a long time – but if you’re bringing out a new range it needs to have products with unique selling points. Products that haven’t been done before.

“One of the products is actually called the game changer, and it’s a product that can be used as a moisturiser on your face and body, or as a hair styling product. The concept came about many, many years ago – when I had hair, believe it or not. I went to the Men’s British Hairdresser of the year awards, and I used to use this stuff called Coconut Butter: I’d put it all over my body and then run it through my hair. So, I wondered if it was possible to create a product that was light enough as a moisturiser but heavy enough to be a hair product.”

Achieving this has taken years of preparation and perfection: I’m sure that it’s something a lot of you will be keen to try out. The full range will include sea salt sprays, serums, clays, pomades… everything that you might expect from a unique luxury range.

On the day that I catch up with Adee he’s excited to be shooting the content that will surround the launch of his new brand. This includes behind the scenes footage and a huge range of different hairdressing looks on a diverse group of models.

“The thing about the modern barbering world is that you need to be able to do more than a fade. To make yourself an accomplished hairdresser or barber, you really need to know the fundamentals of hair cutting. Some of these young cats I see now dropping in these fades are amazing – but there’s always still a lot of foundation that needs to be done.

“I’ve tried to bring out a range of fundamentally barbering products that can also drop into the hairdressing world”.

 

So, for younger barbers who don’t know your story, you started back in 1999 – what stirred you, what motivated you to get into hairdressing?

“Long story short, I moved from Manchester to Southend-on-Sea and ended up not doing so well: I was basically sleeping rough for about 4 months. Then I got introduced to a really cool hairdresser called Lee Stafford, and I ended up designing his salon, The House That Hair Built.

“I went with Lee to the Men’s British Hairdresser’s of the Year awards in 1999 where he won British Hairdresser of the Year. On the way back in the car he said I’m going to get you a pair of scissors, teach you to cut hair and in a couple of years’ time you’ll be on the stage. Two years to the day, I was picking up that same award.”

Adee describes it as a sort of “rough boot camp”, where there was no room for mistakes – if he messed up a haircut then his mentors made sure he knew about it. But this – alongside the professional courses he took any time he had the cash – gave him the solid skills he needed to start experimenting further.

“There are a thousand ways of designing a house, but there’s only one way of building it: good foundations. I learnt the art of good foundations. And then I won Men’s British Hairdresser of the Year and my life changed. 9-months later I had the opportunity to work with David Beckham.”

 

While Adee’s career has clearly been built on his own hard work and talent, I think it’s fair to say that creating that haircut for David Beckham – the World Cup mohawk which everybody reading this should be familiar with – helped him push his career to the next level.

“It was everywhere. That haircut just became the most iconic haircut of the past 20 years. And then I had the opportunity to win all these awards and from there on it was just like I had the wind in my sails.”

And that wind took Adee to the heights of a hairdressing/barbering career: he’s had the opportunity to work on TV shows, to cut hair for many different celebrity clients, and to really build a personal brand within the industry. But aside from all this hairdressing glory, I’m also interested in his role as an educator.

 

Prior to you doing the TV shows and the celebrity style consulting, you were actually a prolific educator. It was said that, at one show, you mad 36 appearances: tell us about that.

“I got right into the helm of education. I think I did about 1500 seminars in six years. I was at Salon International working for five different brands: I hold the record, I did 39 shows in 3 days, haircuts to music. And I took that concept to America and it was brilliant: I wanted to bring something fresh to it; when you get to that level of talent you can’t be telling people how to suck eggs.

“BaByliss supported me the whole way, and then other brands took on this new approach of haircutting. Lots of technique, lots of foundation but doing it in this very freehand, visual, quick way.”

The big brands were happy to get behind Adee’s new way of doing things – BaByliss even went ahead and gave him a range of electrical goods. Barbers reading this are sure to be envious, and in many ways he has achieved the barbering dream. But there have also been some drawbacks:

“Business started to take over. I was watching these cool cats half my age on stage and thinking I need to get back to the drawing board: these guys are making me look silly here. So for the past few years I’ve just been working on new cuts, new techniques and I’m about to get back on the road and go back to where it all started.”

 

So, Larry the Barberman goes out to all of the barbering community. Will SKNHEAD products be a range that those barbers can actually retail?

“Yes. It will go online and go into shops like Selfridges, but then the quality needs to be at a very high level, so it can go into barbershops. That’s the idea.”

This product has already launched and is available for you to buy: head to this link https://www.sknhead.com/.

Because you started nearly 20 years ago, I also want to hear about how you think barbering has changed from where it was then to where it is now.

“If we’d had the technology that we have now: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. I used to have to do interviews and then wait 6 weeks for it to come out. Some of the models I’m using today are Instagram models, cool cats – they PR themselves, they manage themselves. It’s kind of insane: you do a haircut, it’s global within minutes. So that’s the difference.

“The downside to this technology is that everyone wants to be famous without putting the work in. They want instant success. I just think that they have all the weapons now to be very successful. You can pay a famous person to do a post for you and you’re kind of out there. But at the same time, it can destroy your career: you have to police your brand.”

 

You spoke about an artistic team. Maybe you can tell me about some of the artistic team that you have here today?

“Barber wise I’ve got Tariq Howes and Aaron Dorn. I’ve cot Jez Wilcox who is creative director. We’ve got three video photographers, two photographers, two make-up artists… so it’s a big shoot, trying to get a lot of stuff in.

“Besides that, I’ve been working on two or three new clipper techniques. New section patterns, new haircuts that are going to be taken out on the road. I want to go back to the days of being able to execute a beautiful, beautiful haircut in six or seven minutes.”

And what could be improved in modern barbering?

“I think what a lot of barbers need to learn is the scissor work. You need to be able to work from the baseline to the top of the head. I think barbering will always be in fashion, but the longer thing is going to come back. Barbers these days have mastered the art of fading, now they need to master the art of haircutting. What happens in 12 months when the fade goes slightly out of fashion and longer hair starts coming back in?

“There’s great dudes out there though. Josh Lamonica: lovely guy, technically gifted, wonderful speaker -can do a great fade but can also do a great haircut. And you’ve got Danny Robinson, a new kid on the block, I mentioned Tariq Howes earlier. Kye Wilson, Dale Watkins, my teacher from back in the day. There are so many talented guys out there. It’s all about inspiring the younger generation though isn’t it.

Finally, then, what are your words of advice for that next generation?

“Technique, technique, technique. Education, education, education. Watch, watch, learn, learn. Mouth shut, eyes open. Be obsessed, be obsessed, be obsessed. Training videos, salon international. Be obsessed. Because to be at the top you have to be obsessed with technique and being at the top of your game. And then it’s a little bit of luck.”

 

I’m quite excited to hear that Adee is going to be spending some more time getting stuck into cutting hair, and it will be interesting to see what he comes up with. Don’t forget to check out https://www.sknhead.com/ to hear more about the products that are available; while you’re there, head to Instagram and YouTube to follow Larry the Barberman and see more great interviews.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YORfNtLRMWI

I recently had the chance to run a feature about 5ive, one of the faces of Wahl’s creative team, in the excellent barbering magazine Barber NV – which gave me the chance to interview the incredibly talented barber and learn what stories he had to share about his career, and what lessons he good impart for other barbers. For those of you who didn’t get the chance to read that article, I’m going to run through some of the best bits right now, although if you want the full in-depth interview and a lot of other fascinating barbering content then head to the Salon NV site and flick through the back issues!
So, on to 5ive: he’s a barber that doesn’t need too much of an introduction, since his work with Wahl has already put him well and truly in the barbering spotlight, however for those of you who aren’t familiar with his work 5ive is a self-taught barber with multiple awards to his name and an impressive list of celebrities that he’s styled.
As a self-taught barber, his initial barbering experience was picked up as a teenager practicing on friends and relatives – and he fondly remembers getting a set of clippers for his 16th birthday: “it was like getting a new iPad, it was incredible”. Simply by pushing himself to learn at home, 5ive was able to hone his skills and land a spot in a barber shop, and it wasn’t long before he’d started scooping up awards, with his first win coming in 1992.
Once again, 5ive’s friends were part of the story here, pushing him to take the plunge and start doing some competition work. He admits that it was a nerve-racking experience – but one that he grew to love, and which paid off as he started gathering more acclaim and respect within the barbering community. 5ive’s growth wasn’t over, though, and after around 6 years focussed exclusively on barbering he decided to give himself “a new challenge”: hairdressing. While this is a somewhat unusual career path for a barber, it’s not unexpected from a man who seems to be focussed on carving is own path. Now, 5ive boasts an impressive collection of hairdressing awards alongside those that he picked up from hairdressing.
His next step was to start working with Wahl, as part of the elite group known as Wahl’s Artistic Team. So what is it really like to have such a desirable barbering job? Here’s what 5ive had to say about working at Wahl: “It’s great. It’s one of my passions I love to do, because yet again it’s another side of 5ive – put me on a platform I come to life so to speak. Working for Wahl is great because you get to travel, you get to pass on your knowledge and teach, which is a great thing to do – especially to youngsters that are trying to get into the game and improve their technique.”
I was very keen to pick up some tips from 5ive while I was fortunate enough to have him in the interview chair, starting with the tools that he makes use of on a day-to-day basis. The key tools that make up 5ive’s collection are the Cordless Super Taper, a Cordless Detailer, Academy Chrome style Cordless Clippers, a selection of different trimmers and plenty of blades, combs and oils to ensure that he can remain versatile. That said, he also tells me that your “original barbering tools” are your hands, and if you’re going for something like perfect Beyoncé curls, they’re going to be the most essential tools in your collection!
He also has some advice to share with early career barbers wondering how to make an impression on the industry: “Stay true to yourself and trust yourself. Have the right kits, professional tools. And pay homage to the barbers that came before”. Throughout the interview, 5ive comes across as a humble man, and this combination of humility and confidence certainly seems to have worked for him. I also wondered whether he has any predictions for the future of the industry: “It’s going to keep growing, and I think we’re going to start seeing more high end hair care products, as well as a lot of female barbers making their mark.”
If this interview has inspired you to see 5ive perform then you can catch him at a number of high profile events, such as Pro Hair Live, Salon International and Barber Connect; he also has some products being promoted by Wahl, including a straightener designed to tackle afro hair, which you can pick up at most online barbering retail stores. As always, don’t forget to head over to my Instagram, YouTube and Facebook pages to make sure you don’t miss out on any upcoming content… in the meantime, embrace 5ive’s advice to become a stronger, more professional barber.

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Celebrity Barber Kenny Duncan Shares His Barbering Story

 

Today, I sit down with Kenny Duncan, the Andis educator and barber extraordinaire, to get his story and insight into the barbering industry. Naturally, we start at his humble beginnings. “Just being honest,” Kenny explains, “I really didn’t want to be a barber. I just told all of my friends that I was going to cut hair to get me through college. When I started cutting hair early on, because I grew up poor, I went to the barbershop, and my mom gave me a twenty dollar bill. The barber charged me two additional dollars for my mustache, and she was under the impression that I took that two dollars and went to the game store or candy store and spent her money – she was really upset, and even called the barbershop, where the barber confirmed the price. From that point on, I had to do my own mustache with a pair of cordless trimmers from then on.”

Kenny spent his high school years cutting his own hair, and beginning to cut for others as well. “It started off with me telling everyone the first time was free. I charged four dollars for an outline and seven dollars for a haircut. My grandma’s second-floor front bedroom turned into my mini-barbershop.” Kenny believes the relationships one makes as a barber can make their life much richer, and it shows. Kenny has been traveling with Lady Gaga’s tour the last four years. “I get paid to travel the world,” he admits, “—all because of what I did with a pair of clippers.” This year, he’ll be ready to tour the world again with Janet Jackson.

 

Of course, traveling with celebrities isn’t the only thing Kenny keeps himself busy with. Asked about some of his other projects, he tells me, “We just finished up with the IBS trade show in New York today. I’m the lead educator with the Andis Clipper Company, and we had an amazing time – broke some sales records when it came to our tools, and had some great educational classes. This weekend as well is an event called Barbercon, where I just won the award for Educator of the Year.” Kenny has won not only that, but the Andis fame and respect within the industry where he strives to change the public opinion on urban barbers.

 

One would imagine that Kenny would be away from his shop constantly with so much traveling. I ask him how much time he actually does spend on the floor. “I actually balance out how I am going to do the tours – I don’t stay on the tours, but traditionally, I’ll go three days. For instance, I’ll be in the city for three days, work six hours, and then I’ll get to enjoy the city.”

 

As for his greatest moment in barbering, Kenny answers, “I don’t think it’s one, bro, that’s the crazy thing. I think each and every year, I look to have a decent experience in life, and it just so happens to be that barbering has been the means on how things have happened for me.”

Kenny is also known to have created quite a following on Instagram. Asked on how he gained his 60,000 plus followers, he tells me, “They’re family. I don’t like to put my name in lights. Instead of making the proverbial pie by myself, I’d rather figure out who is in my circle that can make a great crust or filling. I just want to be the person that presents the pie that sells to the masses.”

“If there’s anything I would like to say, is that I like to continue to associate myself with other brands, to figure out how we can partner up, so we can all end up achieving the goals we want to achieve and utilize the platform we have to have balance in life. Even this year, starting in April, I’ll be the artistic director with PP Education Center. I have a direct relationship with the Reserva an Online Appointment booking system – I’m a brand ambassador with them. I recently also became part of the Layrite brand of barbers. I’m associated with a product called Exotics, which has a traveling boutique barber trade show, and a barber competition, called the Hair Metal Tour.” Talk about barber brotherhood and life!

 

Kenny next talks about his likes and dislikes when it comes to the barbering industry. “I love that social media has put barbering on a new platform, and has shrunk the world. Many different relationships between barbers are also starting to form – there’s a lot of barber love. Barbering is a universal language that everyone speaks. We speak different languages, sure, but when you see someone with a pair of clippers in their hands, you know exactly what they’re trying to achieve and can appreciate it.”

On the flip side, Kenny brings up his dislikes and they are very similar to issues that many barbers I’ve spoken with have claimed. “Social media allows for unqualified, unjustified individuals to pretend they have credibility in a particular topic without any kind of validation or proof to back it up. Case and point: there are individuals who are very popular, but they don’t make a lot of money cutting hair in their barbershops. They sometimes have 200,000 followers on Instagram and suddenly they look like a barber god”.

 

For fans of Kenny, and his work, I of course have to ask him when his Youtube channel is coming. “I am my own biggest critic,” he admits. “Continue to follow kennyduncan.com and you’ll see the announcements when the Youtube channel is set to launch.”

 

I ask him about how he landed his gig on the Rocky movie, “Creed”. Kenny responds how he became well known through his Andis education as well as his relationships with other barbers. “A few years back, I was teaching a class in Atlanta and I met a guy named Wyatt Belton. He was a barber for “The Hunger Games” and he came to me to learn some tips on barbering. Since that day, we’ve been cool. Wyatt was good friends with someone who turned out to be a close friend of Michael B. Jordan, who was hired to be one of the lead actors in the movie. It was a challenge, for sure.”

 

As well as his longstanding career as an educator, barber and semi-celebrity, Kenny also has a range of products he offers to the barbering community. Asked about them, he tells me, “A few years back, I started aggressively focusing on combs. There was just not a good range of combs available in the market, and I wanted to fill the void. Through partnerships, and through relationships I had built over the years, we came up with the idea of creating a cutting comb collection; six different combs with a wide range from a barber taper comb to a flat top comb. They’re all made with quality materials that are heat resistant, and can even be styled with. I also have a series of different wooden razor holders because I became a fan of the Feather razor holder, but the Feather DX razor that I was using was a three-hundred dollar razor. I love it, but I know a lot of barbers that can’t afford it. This was a project I’ve been entered into now for at least a year and a half – I know good things are going to come out it.”

 

Kenny doesn’t know what the future holds exactly, but one thing is clear: he is going to keep living the barber life and dream, building relationships with barbers all around the world and bringing that barbering unity that the industry could really use more of.

 

 

To keep up with Kenny and his exploits, you can go to his site: www.kennyduncan.com or follow him on Instagram @clipperedu. There is always something going on, so be sure and keep your eyes peeled!

If you enjoyed this interview, please be sure to subscribe to see more interviews, tutorials and content! For more information, you can email me at: info@larrythebarberman.com. I’d also like to invite you to follow me on Instagram @larrythebarberman for other free barbering content. You can also email me at info@larrythebarberman.com

 

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