As a Wahl ambassador, Kristi gets to rep for some of the best clippers in the barbering business. I caught up with her at a recent show to find out about her story, and also to learn more about why she loves Wahl products and works as part of the Wahl brand.
Tell me about when and where you started.
“I started 26 years ago in Florida. I actually started with my cosmetology licence. And as soon as I got out of cosmetology school, I moved to a military post. So, I started cutting hair on the military post.
“I had never picked up clippers at all in cosmetology school, but I had a really incredible teacher. After a few months of wanting to learn I started dragging clients into the chair. And at first it wasn’t the best, I was a hot mess. But from then on, I really incorporated barbering into my styling.”
Hearing you speak yesterday, I got the feeling that working in the military really changed you as a hair stylist. Tell me what that experience did for you.
“It was definitely life changing. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today and I definitely wouldn’t be with Wahl clippers. Back then it was $4 a haircut, that’s it. And you only made 40 % on commission. You had to cut a lot of hair very quickly to make any kind of money. So that helped me with my speed and my precision. That’s what made me into the barber and the stylist I am today.”
What kind of things have you had to overcome?
“You know it’s amazing, because I still get thrown into the deep end all the time. Even at my shop – I’ve been in business for a long time – and it’s still a consistent struggle. But I always tell people, if you know your craft, you know your tools and you have the education then you can do anything you want.
“You’re going to have days and struggles where yeah, you mess the hair up. But that is how you learn and how you grow.”
It seems like you’ve simplified the hairdressing process to see everything as texture. Talk me through this simplification.
“Really for me, consultation is huge – especially If it’s a new customer. Because that’s like a blueprint. The questions give me a blueprint, so I don’t have to work harder later in the haircut. Texture also helps decide what clipper I’m going to use. So then later on I don’t have to go back and fix anything.
“So, for instance, when I’m working on our ethnic clients I’m going to use the Five Star clippers. The Five Star range was created by Wahl for multicultural haircutting. It has the strongest motor, the sharpest blades and the most precision. They work phenomenal on anyone with curly, thick or coarse hair.
“That’s why in my classes I’m so passionate about teaching clipper blades, clipper education. Know what you’re purchasing, know your tools. Because what happens is that people, especially stylists, will start to do haircuts with the wrong tools and then they breakdown and never do another cut because they’re frustrated and defeated.”
Let’s say someone was unfortunate and not able to come to a Wahl seminar. Where could they find this information online?
“We have an incredible website. It’s wahlpro.com, and we have so much information on that website. We have a tool selector, which takes you through a process of questions about the type of hair you’re going to cut. Then it goes ahead and pulls up the tool that we recommend for your situation.
“We have our schedule – what hair shows we’ll be at, what classes we’re offering, what cities we’re going to be in. We also have links for short videos with different techniques on them – how to use your clipper, how to adjust your blade, how to oil your clipper… so we have an incredible amount of information on our website, which can pick you up and put you to the places where you need to go.”
So, the moral is to invest some time in education, and maybe invest some money in the professional tools.
“I ask people in all of my classes, what is the most you’ve ever spent on shears? And I think the most somebody has told me is $1500. And I always say to them, you have no problem spending that much on shears, but then you come to the Wahl booth and you want to buy the $29 clipper and have it do the same thing as the $1500 shears. I say to them, it’s an investment. And whatever you can do with shears, you can do faster and better with clippers.”
Let’s imagine an ambitious barber with plenty of years of experience, he’s built up his skills, he’s invested in the Wahl clippers and he now wants to pass on his knowledge and become a Wahl artistic team member. What would be your advice?
“I was very fortunate when I started that they found me. They found me because I was at all of the shows. Now we have what’s called our ambassador program. If you’re a licenced professional, then go to wahlambassador.com and you can sign up for the program. Go through that and you’ll get emails about all the latest and greatest products that we’re bringing out. It will also take you to a link for if you’re interested in becoming a part of the team.
“We look for people who absolutely are passionate about Wahl clippers. You know, I’ve always been passionate about Wahl clippers. They’re the biggest clipper company in the world, family-owned and they’ll be 100 years old soon. You have to be passionate.”
Tell me your favourite two clippers and trimmers, and why.
“Right now, I’m infatuated with all of our cordless clippers. My favourite is the Cordless Magic Clip. I love it because it’s fast, it has a blade that allows you to smooth the hair out, it has a good run time on it, and it’s on lithium Ion batteries so it doesn’t run out of charge. The other won that I’m very excited about is the Cordless Senior. I love the ease. I’m the sort of person that its talking and walking around with my clipper in my hand, so it’s nice not to have the limit of the cord.
“For trimmers, I love our new Retro T Cut. If you remember, we used to have a trimmer called the 8900. And now we’re paying homage to the 8900. My other favourite trimmer is our 5 Star Detailer. But it’s a very close call between that and the Hero.”
Yesterday on stage, I saw you performing a few ninja tricks. I’d love these to be shared around the world. Let’s talk about ninja trick number one: the eyebrows.
“Eyebrows is almost like the finish to the haircut. Eyebrows get passed over so much. You have a nice polished look, and then you have these eyebrows. So what I do is I have the cordless magic clip, blade in the open position so it doesn’t take all the hair off and then just go over it in the direction that the hair grows.”
The other technique that I found interesting was the trick with the hairspray, where you put the hairspray on prior to lining up. Explain that technique and how you stumbled upon it.
It was actually another artistic team member who did it while we were up on stage, and I said ‘what did you just do?’ They sell products especially for that but it’s exactly the same thing. I like an aerosol better because it dries quicker, and once it dries I’ll just take out that trimmer and go over the edge. The hair is laying down nice and flat, and it allows you to see where you’re edging – and it’s going to be a little safer, you’re not going to push that edge back.”
One final question. I heard Matty Conrad and you talking about the technique of holding the client’s head and taking control. Explain your kind of control technique.
“My poor clients, I have all the control. That’s important because that’s your work going out the door, that’s your name. That’s really where you get your clientele from. That’s my logo on their head. I tell people, please greet everybody when they come into your salon. When they’re in my chair my hand is on top of their head: partly so they don’t move, but also to stabilize me. Take control.”
I hope that more barbers take heed of Kristi ’s words and do exactly that: take control of your craft. Whether that means investing in more education, better tools or longer hours practicing is up to you. You can also follow Larry the Barberman on Instagram and Youtube to see regular interviews with some of the biggest names in barbering.