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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