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.
‘Til next time, happy barbering!