When I had the opportunity to sit down with Ryan Cullen of Ryan Cullen Hair at his salon in Newry, Northern Ireland, I was thrilled to learn more about his craft. It’s clear that Ryan is a standout in the hair industry; fans and clients alike are always impressed with his talent. But Ryan Cullen isn’t a traditional barber – instead, he’s a men’s hair stylist and he specializes in texture to create impressive looks for his clients’ hair. Just scroll through his Instagram page, and you’ll find photos of his clients’ sporting stylish cuts, inventive dye jobs, and plenty of texture.
But like most things in life, success like Ryan has achieved takes time. Before he opened Ryan Cullen Hair and gained a substantial social media following (he has around 63,000 Instagram followers), Ryan worked in a salon that primarily catered to women’s hair. He told me, “I started doing hair when I was 19-years-old, and it was something that I had a passion for. I didn’t solely want to get into women’s hair, I wanted to get into the hair industry, the fashion industry.”
Yet Ryan gravitated more towards working with men. At that same salon, Ryan began to slowly build up a clientele with all the men that came in. “Maybe I get on with the men better than the woman,” Ryan says. “Maybe it was the camaraderie with another lad.” Whatever it was, it worked.
Now at Ryan Cullen Hair, he has created an environment that is welcoming and similar to a women’s hair salon. I was impressed with the set-up at Ryan Cullen Hair, and how relaxed all of the clients seemed to be. I could tell right away that clients aren’t only visiting Ryan Cullen Hair for the texture or the cut – they’re also coming for the experience. While clients sat in the chairs or the waiting room, they enjoyed tea or coffee; they also experience the luxury of having the stylist take the time to create a unique look. Ryan told me that when he worked at a women’s salon, they would never let a woman leave without her hair looking good; No doubt, that he takes that same philosophy and applies it to his own salon.
Because of that upscale feel that Ryan offers his clients, I can see why celebrities and football players would want Ryan to cut and style their hair. When I asked Ryan about some of the household names that he’s worked for, he played it coy. “I’ve received work from some quite big names – from TV stars to footballers,” Ryan says. He credits his ability to work with these high profile individuals to his large following on social media. He jokes, “If anyone else wants to get a haircut, drop me a DM.”
It seems to me that Ryan is reaping the benefits of his hard work, but I know that he is going to see more success in his already bright future. When I asked him about future goals, he told me, “It’s quite hard to answer that. I love working hard, and I love doing what I do. I hope the future does hold a lot of things. I guess I’m just going to keep working hard because, so far, it’s worked for me. I’m progressing quite nicely in the industry; I’ve become quite well known. For me, it’s just about keep working hard and keeping your feet in the ground, and looking out for the person that’s sitting in your chair. On the social media front, I’m going to keep doing that and if that keeps progressing in the way that it is, who knows what I might do?”
When it comes to social media, Ryan advises professionals in the hair field (or any field, for that matter) to take advantage of the online tools that are available. “Don’t be afraid to put your work out there, and don’t be afraid of the criticism that may follow,” Ryan says. “Don’t be afraid of what people think, and stay positive.”
When Ryan first started posting photos of his work on Instagram, he jokes that he did receive a little flak from his friends, but Ryan also recognizes that a huge part of his success and following is due to putting his work out there.
It’s inspiring to see how Ryan has used social media to build a fanbase and spread the word about his work. Sometimes it can be easy to fall into a pattern of keeping our work to ourselves because we are afraid of being critiqued. However, if you are going to be successful, you have to find a way to promote your work and be your own advocate. It’s also important to take any negative comments, and find a way to turn them into something positive. Even if people are quick to point out that they don’t like one of your techniques, that doesn’t mean that you quit; that means that you work harder and become better at your craft.
But Ryan does have one more solid piece of advice if you plan on promoting your work via social media: buy a solid camera. I couldn’t agree more.
I’ll leave you with those final words of wisdom, and I hope to see more of you sharing your styling skills on my Instagram timeline. All that’s left to say is thank you to Ryan for the interview, and thank you to all of you for reading – come find me on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram if you’d like to see more interviews with talented professionals in the industry. If you’d like to see more from Ryan, check out his Instagram.