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Manhattan Barber: Cassie Kurtz Of Her Chair His Hair – Fights For Female Barbers Everywhere

Since meeting up with the charismatic Sofie Pok in April, I’ve been on high alert for chances to talk with women in barbering.  So I was all over the opportunity to meet Manhattan-based Master Barber Cassie Kurtz.  Her popular ‘Her Chair, His Hair’ blog is celebrating talented women barbers everywhere, and her budding philanthropy is changing the lives of the less fortunate.

Cassie works out of a shared private studio space called ‘The Master Suite’ in Uptown Manhattan near Columbus Circle. “It’s a prime location for artists who really want to be their own boss,” she tells me in my exclusive interview. “People set their own prices, set their own schedules but still have that feeling of working with a team,” she says.

In other words, it’s a great gig at one of the planet’s best locations, right?  So what prompted Cassie to start up ‘Her Chair, His Hair’?

“I thought I needed to do something to better our industry, so I decided:  I love to travel, I love to meet new people, I love to write, and I actually like coding,” she says with a laugh.

The result:  “I created a platform for women who specialize in men’s hair; they do the beard trims, they do the shaves, and quite frankly they get a lot of pushback.”

From experience, Cassie finds the water can be a little rough for women barbers.  She saw the icebergs looming on her very first job.

“Clients were walking in saying, ‘I need a haircut,’ and when the manager said, ‘Cassie is available,’ they would say, ‘Oh, no. I’d rather wait.’  Some of them looked at me like as if I didn’t belong in the same space. That really hurt, and I could only think of how many women must feel discouraged trying to pursue this.”

‘Her Chair, His Hair’ features high-quality video interviews, workplace photos and snappy write-ups about women barbers around the US and in other countries. Last time I visited the site, Cassie was featuring more than a dozen barbers and displaying some amazing cuts, beautifully photographed.

It’s also a supportive space, where barbers find much-needed encouragement and positivity.

From a woman’s perspective, does barbering need to change?  “Any woman watching this video will scream out a loud, ‘Yes!’” Cassis replied.

She wants it to start with language. “A lot of women would like to be no longer called ‘female barbers.’ We are barbers, and we happen to be women. I’m not a women’s hair stylist; I’m not even licensed to do women’s color. So when I say I’m a barber, I’m a barber.”

Pricing is also a challenge for Cassie and other women, she said.  “Some people think my gender affects my ability to cut hair!  Now and then I get a gentleman who walks in and says, ‘Yeah, but you’re a woman. You’re not as experienced with men’s hair. How do you feel capable or qualified to charge this much?’  It just throws me off every single time.”

So which women in barbering inspire Cassie to keep going?  She immediately mentions Mariela Perez (Instagram @mariela_the_barber) as a favorite, but hastens to add most of her energy comes from barbers she meets through Her Chair, His Hair.

“Mariela has to fight for everything she has,” Cassie told me “She supports her family and now owns her own house and her own car. She is a spectacular barber. I don’t think she’s given the credit she’s due; she is very talented.  You know, I’m an only child taking care of my family, and it gets hard, you know.  We’re human. We say, ‘I need a break.’  Then I think of Mariela, and I’m like, ’This is easy!’”

Whenever you feel overworked, I recommend you think of Cassie. Besides her successful business and busy website, she also manages to organize an annual ‘Her Chair, His Hair’ Showcase in NYC.

“I started it because you didn’t see enough women on flyers, as educators, as guest judges at showcases, so I said ‘There’s a need,’ and I want to fulfill it in my own hometown in New York City,” she said.

Finding a good cause proved a great way to rally women barbers, and the Showcase is now readying for its third year. The first year was a funder for breast cancer research, the second year supported domestic violence shelters.

Cassie:  “This October we aim to helpThe Door, a safe place for gay and transgendered youth from as young as twelve. If they were kicked out, if they have nowhere to go, if they are beaten up at school and don’t feel safe, The Door is there for them.”

“They’re right down the street from where we’re going to have the (Manhattan) event,” she continued. “They now offer services to immigrant children, so they have a legal department working very hard on multiple cases a day. They also have one or two floors where these kids can learn about cooking or computers. It’s a spectacular and inspiring place.”

And does she have inspiring advice for women either in barbering or thinking of getting into barbering?

“Don’t be afraid!” she told me. “You’ve done scarier things in your life than being a barber.”

“Don’t let people get in your head,” she added. “That’s your space, where you get to cheer yourself on.  You are already your biggest critic, and if you let people get in your head, you will never succeed.”

“If you see something wrong with your skills, be honest with yourself and take that class or go to that event and ask that person, ‘How do you get your fade so smooth?’ or ‘How do you get your scissor cuts so clean?’”

“Surround yourself with like-minded individuals whether they are men or women because at the end of the day (critics) are not the ones putting money in your pocket. You are going to be the reason why there is money is in your pocket! There’s no stopping if you do that.”

Obviously, there is no stopping Cassie Kurtz.

I hope you SEE and SHARE the entire interview on my YouTube @larrythebarberman.  Then head over to ‘Her Chai, His Hair’ for some serious enlightenment, interesting profiles, and beautiful cuts. It’s a valuable web stop for all barbers, women AND men!

Until next time, happy barbering!

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Just a couple of months ago, in April 2017, I was interviewing the team at Ego Barbers when the tables were turned. Stell, former Head of Education at the London School of Barbering and now the head of education for Ego Barbers’ academy Kings of Tomorrow, interrupted me mid interview to find out why I call myself Larry the Barberman despite the fact that I don’t cut hair… and why I’ve never learned those skills.
As I explained, I see the title of Barberman as being about helping barbers with their needs, not being a barber myself. Stell was not convinced – and as many people are now aware, he took control of the live interview to give me a challenge: Allow him to personally train me for two hours a day over 14 days, and get to a standard where I could perform a cut on the shop floor.

Challenge Accepted!
How could I find the time to learn barbering while also running an online store, interviewing barbers, creating how-to videos and writing for BarberEvo magazine? It was a big ask – but I didn’t think twice before accepting! This felt like the logical next step in the Larry the Barberman journey, and where else would I get the opportunity to be personally taught by an educator of Stell’s calibre?
So, what was the experience like? Well, a couple of months on I have called Stell back for a second interview to find out his thoughts, and to learn a lot more about his educational philosophy.
From my point of view, though, it was impeccable. When I started, Stell had a two week training plan ready. What followed was exemplary; we covered the theory of hair, square layering, round layering with scissors, blending, texturizing… and then onto the clippers for clipper theory, graduation, fading, outlining and much more.
All of the above resulted in me performing a walk-in hair cut on the shop floor at Ego barbers in just 9 days. In fact, I performed 3 cuts on live models within 12 days, so it’s fair to say we achieved our goal 5 days ahead of schedule.
I credit this success to Stell’s methods – and he certainly had his work cut out for him considering my lack of prior knowledge. I asked him what he thought of my skills at first:
“Well, you had none. You knew about all the clippers and how to fix them, but when it comes to cutting hair you were a complete novice – no experience. So, taking on a complete novice is a little bit different to working with people who have had some experience. In your case, it was really about starting from the beginning, understanding how to work with the hair.”
I was also curious to hear what my biggest weaknesses were (and relieved to find out that my struggles were common for early stage barbers!):
“Dealing with the long lengths of hair. A lot of time people come in from working rom very short lengths and they don’t know what it’s like to work with longer lengths. Once you conquered that we started going at a much faster pace. I find that all the time though, that is always the biggest challenge.”

Cutting beyond clippers
It’s clear that as the barbering industry grows, there are certain trends that we see more and more of – and one thing it’s impossible to ignore is the explosion of incredible clipper work. In my experience, though, a lot of barbers who have mastered the clippers want to learn to utilise other tools. I ask Stell what challenges these barbers might need to overcome:
“The haircut becomes dictated by what the clippers do, because that’s their strongest point. And that means the shape is always an afterthought. A lot of the time, the clippers will work away s lot of the layers without them even realising it. So, the shape that they’re trying to build isn’t really consistent with what the head shape demands. That’s the biggest challenge: the clippers overtake what’s going on on top.
“By coming to Kings of Tomorrow, they’ll learn the way to construct a haircut. So, yes, their clipper work might be their strong point, but ultimately it doesn’t define a haircut. If you only think that a haircut is made up of one portion – say, the clipper work – then you haven’t got a completed article at the end of it. What you’ve got is one fantastic piece, which is your bottom half, maybe with a quite standard connection, but then a very flat and uninspiring top half.
“What we can guarantee is that the construction of the haircut will be a tailored finish for every single client. Because each client’s hair type and head shape is different.”
Luckily, the fact that most of the barbers at the Kings of Tomorrow academy will have a solid base of knowledge to work off means that they’ll be able to put what they learn into practice very quickly, identifying problems to work on after just one or two days. Then, as time goes on, they can enhance and refine.

A full philosophy
One of the things that I’ve really grown to respect about Stell is the deep level of thought that he puts into his educational process:
“It’s all about understanding the philosophy of the possibilities that you have with hair. Just because you’ve cut a great haircut doesn’t mean you’re great at cutting hair. Understanding the possibilities that you can get from doing certain techniques or building certain shapes will give you the ability to do more styles and not just copy certain trends and master one haircut.
“You don’t want to be a one hit wonder – or you want to be a trendsetter yourself. You need to know why you’re doing stuff – what is the reason, what is the knock-on effect? Then that confidence grows”.
He adds that when barbers get the approach wrong or don’t focus on building their skills, they end up doing the same thing every day and the same haircut for every client. That’s not good for the clients, and it’s not good barbers either as it stops their progression. And, as Stell says, you might think your clients are happy, but most of the time they won’t tell you if they’re unhappy – they’ll just end up going elsewhere, making education all the more important.

A bright future for barbers
With people like Stell on the scene helping our barbers to really hone their skills, it’s hard not to think that things can only get better for this industry which is already growing and beginning to thrive. Stell seems similarly optimistic, adding some words of advice:
“A lot of people are doing fantastic things with education at the moment, and it can only do us good as barbers because why shouldn’t we be charging more money? But with that comes the responsibility of delivering what your charging, and if you can’t deliver for whatever reason then you need to look and think how can I grow, how can I get better results.
“Whether it’s education or YouTube videos, wherever you need to be to grow that’s where you need to put yourself.”
Whilst training with Stell I was blown away by his passion and dedication to barbering education, as well as his vision for all barbers to be able to learn every aspect of barbering and charge what they’re worth. If you want to be part of that vision then keep an eye out on the @EgoBarbers Instagram page, or head to egobarbers.com. To find me on Instagram and see me put more top talent like Stell under the spotlight, search for @LarrytheBarberMan.

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Famos: Trims Chink The Barber – While Chink Shares His Story

Impromptu interviews with the great people I meet on my travels are always some of my favourites, so getting a chance to set up a last-minute chat with Andrew – better known as ‘Chink the Barber’ – while he was in England for the Great British Barber Bash was a real treat. Chink is known for the work that he does at Saint Barbershop with his good friend Famos, and he’s got some great stories to share, so let’s get stuck in!

It’s fair to say that Chink is a reasonably unusual choice of barbering alias, so I wondered where it came from: it’s actually something that Andrew used to hear at school from kids who would make fun of him. After getting into some criminal circles and realising that he needed to adopt a nickname, he decided to reclaim the name, and it’s stuck with him throughout his barbering career.

It was actually this slip into criminal activity and drug dealing that led Chink into barbering, as he realised that he needed to do something differently and make a positive change: “I got arrested and hit rock bottom, I was a drug addict, I made no money anymore. Then Scott – Famos – was cutting my hair and I would stick around, taking an interest in how he was doing hair tattoos. I used to do graffiti so there was a similarity there. Then one day he was putting a Famous Stars & Straps logo in a cut and got me to help him out, then let me try out straight blading on the next guy and it was really cool. So, the very next day I went to hair school and got myself a qualification.”

No doubt, then that Famos has been a huge influence on Chink, and Saint is the third barbershop that they’ve worked at together. However, their relationship has evolved, not only into a great friendship but also a working partnership where they can teach one and other new skills, share information and critique each other’s work.

The first shop that saw Famos and Chink working as partners in crime was the wonderful Notorious. Chink tells me all about his work there: “one of the reasons that I worked there was because I was addicted to drugs; they treated me good and I beat my addiction. The money was good, we went from having 4-6 clients each day to having people just buzzing around us.” From what I’ve seen, Notorious seems to be as much a lifestyle hotspot as it is a barbering destination, and Chink confirms that this is the case; it’s a shop with a unique atmosphere.

The same, though, can also be said for Saint, which is a one-of-a-kind barbershop that brings together a great band of barbers. It’s a little different to a lot of other similar shops, as Chink tells me: “Here I control my own clientele, there are more responsibilities and it’s different, but it’s nicer. I can do what I want now”. Famos adds that “everywhere I’ve worked did commission, and I wanted to make it easier for the barbers. When barbers pay chair rent it’s just easier for everyone, and the barbers make more money.” As Chink adds, the one caveat to that is that if you’re going for chair rent rather than commission or a salary, you need to have a strong customer base that will keep you busy!

It seems to me that Chink has been reaping the rewards of all the hard work that he put into becoming a barber: this trip to England for the Great British Barber Bash was his first stage performance, and it’s a great opportunity that shows the respect that his work has been earning him. It was great to have International barbers over for the event, and these boys brought a whole new vibe to the atmosphere that was great to experience.

Of course, it wasn’t without a little bit of stage fright – and I wondered how Chink got over his nerves and took to the stage: “There were definite nerves, a little bit of gut rot, but it was good man, I started cutting away and then the butterflies just started going away. I’m not saying a lot of people were there to see me, but it was nice having people there watching me and taking photos – I’ve collected a lot of Instagram and it was a blessing. Once you’re up there you have no choice so you just do it.”

It’s inspiring to see another positive story where barbering has changed somebody’s life; as Chink says, it has brought him to England and given him the chance to work with great people like Darren Jones, and to meet inspiring barbers like Alan and Reece Beak. I’m also glad to hear that Chink takes inspiration from these British barbers. In fact, when I ask him what one change he’d like to see in the industry, he heaps praise on British barbering: “I’d like to see more British style barbering in America and Canada. The softer, textured haircuts that are longer-lasting and grow out well”.

Chink has been picking up more and more traction and he even has a new hoodie coming out, not only branded with his personal barbering brand, but featuring a wonderful graffiti style portrait of Chink himself, created by one of Saint’s regulars. With this in mind, I wonder where he sees himself in five years: “To be honest the last thing I want to do is own a barbershop – I see the stress that Scott goes through. I’m always going to cut hair though, I have no retirement plan. No barber does, I’ll just be cutting hair!”

Before letting Chink go, there’s just one more thing I have to know: how does he manage to smash out so many great haircuts, sometimes as many as 22 in a day? Perhaps unsurprisingly it all comes down to the Oster ’76 (or the ’97 for UK barbers). “One word of advice to all barbers, get the Oster ’76 or ’97. I’ve never regretted having one”.

I’ll leave you with those final words of clippering wisdom! All that’s left to say is thankyou to Chink for agreeing to a last minute interview, to Famos for joining us, and to all of you for reading this and hopefully learning something – come find me on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook if you want to be the first to see even more great barbering interviews.

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Barber: Harry Pirate’s Inspirational Interview With Larry The Barber

From one cutthroat business to another, Harry Pirate has been a chef and a music producer in past lives – but now he’s found his calling as a barber, and the proud owner of the Pirate Barbershop in Bromley. In this interview, he tells me about how his career developed and gives advice for the next generation of barbers.

After bumping into Harry Pirate on a few different occasions, I decided it was time to get to know this passionate barber a little better. Although he has only been barbering professionally for around 3 years, he’s been cutting hair since he was 17 – although it took a few career changes before he realised that this was what he wanted to do with his life:
“So I’m a qualified chef, and I worked in all the big restaurants in town – that got really stressful and I hated it in the end, I was stressed out all the time. So I got out of that, and worked in the music industry for around 6 years as a producer, doing a lot of different stuff with a lot of affiliated musicians. I enjoyed it at first, but it felt like I was getting to a point where I was giving my whole heart to people and getting nothing back. The money dried up because more and more people were producing cheap music, and I also found that the industry in general is very dog eat dog, with a lot of fake people. I’m not that guy, so I walked away from it and never looked back”.
Having been cutting hair backstage while touring as a music producer, this was already something that Harry loved, so it seemed like the logical next step: “A, I could make more money. B, I was meeting different people every day, not stuck in the same circles of people who are just out for themselves. And C, it made me happy”. After losing inspiration with his music, this became Harry’s new outlet, and he knew that he needed to do it properly. This led Harry to go for professional qualifications at the excellent London School of Barbering.
As many of you will know, I was recently lucky enough to experience the London School of Barbering’s shaving course, and Harry seems to have had a similarly excellent experience there:
“I had a great time, and that’s where I met H, my shop manager too. I haven’t looked back. I found out I’d picked up so many bad habits; they give you a great base and after that when you go out to a barbershop you do fall back into those bad habits but with an educated mind – so you can turn bad habits into good habits. They turned me from being a barber that loved what I was doing, to being a barber that loved what I was doing”.
He adds that YouTube can also be a great tool for learning, and there are plenty of educational videos out there including everything from information about clippers to tutorials for perfecting a particular technique. If you’re interested in self-taught barbering, Harry has a video outlining some of his favourite educational YouTubers out there – and don’t forget to check out my Barbers.TV YouTube channel for tips and tricks.
On Board the Pirate Ship
Before opening the Pirate Barbershop, Harry was working at Ruffians – but although he has nothing but good things to say about the shop and his time there, it also led him to realise that he needed to do things his own way:
“It’s a great barbershop, love what they do, but it wasn’t my style of barbering, it’s more of a high-end men’s salon. “Here it’s a barbershop, it’s a man-cave. There is swearing, there is rap music playing, there are people drinking beer – it’s a pirate ship and we love it. For me personally, and my style of barbering I needed to get away and do my own thing. We’re a concept barbers, so it’s a one price service. It may be a little bit more expensive, but you get ten times more than at other barbershops in the area.”
No wonder, then, that the shop is already thriving – both with walk-ins off the street and, predominantly, with repeat clients, the true sign that any barbershop is succeeding! They’ve also been building up a range of Pirate products, with an impressive list that includes everything from beard oils and moustache toffees to hand-made soap and bristle bubbles, as well as a new cologne that is just hitting the shelves.
Harry tells me that he is trying to “create a brand rather than just a barbershop”, and he’s also doing this by running a YouTube channel which you can find here. Like me, he loves talking about clippers and gear, sharing reviews that will help other barbers find the right tools for their style of clippers. You’ll also find vlogs, as well as plenty of advice for up and coming barbers; Harry tells me that it’s geared towards people who want to get into barbering but are wondering where to start or how to improve.
Before I leave you with Harry’s words of wisdom for barbers who are new to the trade, I have to take a brief moment to share some of the gear that he loves to use – I never miss an opportunity to talk clippers, after all! After initially using Wahl tools such as the detailer and the magic clip cordless, Harry has found that he much prefers working with Andis clippers:
“Wahl stuff is great and you can do a sick fade, but I prefer Andis now: the guard system is a game changer, especially the old double magnetic guards, they’re brilliant. You can go really high with them, get a lovely transition. I found with the Wahl stuff that the fades weren’t as stretched as they can be. Personally, for my style of barbering, the Andis clippers do it – I also think the build quality is a lot better.” His kit includes the Balding Clipper, Fade Masters and Pro Foil clippers as well as a Blackout clipper and the Pro Mate Precision – both of which I was happy to pass on to Harry as a token of my appreciation for recording this great interview! The American clippers in this list are powered by my frequency 60hz converter, so if you want to try them out then that might be the missing piece of the puzzle: a converter which can power US clippers without any trouble.

So, as promised here is Harry Pirate’s excellent advice for upping your barbering game. As always, you can follow me on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook for more great content – in the meantime, take note of Harry’s wise words and put them into practice whenever you can:
“Don’t step on screws… don’t get electrocuted daily… don’t break your hand… but all jokes aside just work hard, save up money, get a loan if you need to – make it happen, and you will make money. Sort your finances out and if you want a shop just make it happen. I had a great job at Ruffians, I was at one of the greatest shops in the country: I didn’t have bundles of cash, but I made it happen. Grab it and run with it.”

 

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MOD Barber Joey Power Talks Barbering At Barber Barber Shop

To look inside any one of the five glorious BarberBarber shops, you’d be hard pressed to believe that they were only established three years ago, in 2013. With no expense spared and attention paid to every detail, I always love stepping in foot inside their London location. In this interview, I’m joined by Joey Powers – a barber who is going to tell me what it’s like to work for such a prestigious brand, and how he got started.
Joey’s career didn’t start in barbering at all, but with what he describes as a “scrap metal background”, working for his father’s company. After around ten years, though, it was time for a change: “Barbering just hit me like a lightning bolt”. Like so many of the barbers I’ve spoken to, Joey was attracted to the barbershop atmosphere (which BarberBarber seems to have in abundance), and decided to break away from the family business. From there, it was straight into a 9-week course at the London School of Barbering: “ideal” for a keen would-be barber who just wanted to dive straight in.
When it comes to his biggest inspiration or influence, Joey doesn’t have to think too hard – he has nothing but admiration for Dale Ted Watkins, a giant of barbering who has worked closely with Johnny Baba as he’s built the BarberBarber brand. “I remember it vividly. I was on a train, and one of my friends said, if you’re getting into barbering them you’ve got to check this guy out. I was so impressed, so I found ways of reaching out to him & he took me under his wing … I was working in a little barbershop, but we would train two to three times a week after work. There was blood, sweat and tears, but it’s got me to wear I am now”.
A great story of barbering mentorship – and no surprise to those who know Dale that he would “adopt” a talented young barber like Joey and help him to hone his craft!
Now, if you’ve watched the interview then you won’t have failed to spot Joey’s wonderful mod style, which comes from the desire to “look sharp and dress snappy”. With a fascination about British subcultures, the mod style certainly suits him, and has given birth to his internet alias: ‘The Mod Barber’.
Unfortunately, this style of haircut is still a “rare little treat” for Joey, although he feels that the subculture is on the up, and getting some of its “rawness” back. One of the things that I love so much about the barbering community is that sense of style and extravagance, and Joey’s sharp look is certainly no exception.
I know a lot of barbers reading this would love the opportunity to work at BarberBarber – perhaps alongside Joey or in one of their other locations – and if this is your barbering dream then I certainly wish you all the best! So what’s it really like? Well, Joey describes it as the “Harrods” of barbershops, “tough work, but I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.”
He also has nothing but praise for Johnny: “Johnny’s a great guy, I draw a lot from Johnny. He’s a true professional. When Johnny was here working in London, that’s when I really got to see how a barbershop should be run”. He adds that if you do go to work for Johnny, you’d better “prepare yourself for a ride”. At the same time, it is a chance to learn so many new skills, and to create classic, elegant haircuts.
Joey is a great young talent, and it looks like he’s going to have a lot more to offer; it was a real pleasure to meet him. In only 2.5 years of cutting hair he’s had some incredible highlights which include working closely with Dale Ted Watkins, giving a Men’s Hair Workshop for the Fellowship and, of-course, landing the BarberBarber gig. You can hear even more about these key stages of his career – as well as where he’s headed next, and his thoughts on the barbering industry as a whole – by checking out the whole video and picking up more of Joey Powers’ barbering wisdom.
Stay tuned for more videos and articles covering the breadth of the barbering industry: whether you’re looking for educational videos or more interviews like this one, the LarrytheBarberMan channel will have what you’re after. Head to my YouTube, Instagram and Facebook pages and follow me to ensure that you never miss out on new content.

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