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Barber: Alan Beak Of Ruger’s Talks About His Meteoric Rise

 

Ruger’s Alan Beak: Enjoy the Boom and Be Nicer to Each Other!

When I caught up with Alan Beak at Barber Connect Telford, he was just 20 minutes from his stage show and a bit rueful about it. ‘There was never a special path I wanted to follow,” he told me, “I never intended to go down a ‘celebrity following’ route. We wanted to keep it varied: the TV work, multiple shows, traveling, doing education. We are just put 100 percent in the moment. Life’s too short for bad coffee and bad haircuts.”

In case you don’t know, the ‘we’ Alan refers to is not only his brother and fellow Manchester native Reece, with whom he opened Ruger Barber just 15 months ago. He also means the rest of his team, Danielle Corbett, Ellie Rogers, Carlie Firth and Aiden Smith, who he mentions often and are a big part of the rather sudden international fame of the Ruger brand.

It’s clear to me the brothers’ killer social media posts featuring unique photography have helped propel them to the heights they enjoy today. It has been a few years since I interviewed Alan, and I wanted to know how he developed those skills.

“Social media is the key factor,” he says firmly. “It is your personal platform to get your work out there.” Social media is part of personal and professional development, something Alan adds to his education work along with theory, demonstrations and hands-on. “Putting all these things together is the recipe.”

He has done his homework in the technical aspects of his incredible camera work. “You need the right tools, the right knowledge, and the right photography,” he says.

 

 ‘Good barbers, trustworthy barbers, are really hard to find’

“A lot of people are deterred by the camera (due to cost).  I get asked about this a lot, and I don’t keep it secret. My cameras are Canon 600D – that’s 400 pounds.  Quite expensive, but you can get it on eBay now for 120. It’s the 50mm lens that gives us the signature look we have. It has the shallow depth of field, focuses on the head, and everything else is blurred out. It exaggerates the haircut. So the 50 mm is the one, and you can get them for about 70 pounds.”

As the Ruger brand began its meteoric rise, people often asked about opening another shop, but Alan was skeptical. “Good barbers, trustworthy barbers, are really hard to find,” he said. “So instead of finding a location, we thought we should look for the right person (to work with us).  And we came across this young woman, Carlie. Her attitude was amazing, and she cut hair great.   She’s fit in the mold with our team, and it just kind of fell into place.” Carlie is Carlie Firth, who I noticed right away, since she was already doing dynamic stage shows at Barber Connect. Talk about fitting fit in!

With the right crew in place, Alan was ready to expand. The new shop in Lytham started with a business partner in Preston. “He said Lytham would be agood spot for us,” Alan recalls. “We went out there one night, and all the bars were open, we got drinks and something to eat, and they all have these bi-folding doors, everyone was outside, and we were sold!”

 

Months later, after “getting my soft barber hands into bits lugging axes and crowbars, pretending to be a builder,” the Lytham shop opened to booming business.

 

 “Get used to your hairdryer”

Alan is a highly attuned business operator whose philosophy every barber should study. He was typically decisive in launching his product line: “We said we wanted or own product; it is as simple as that. And we’ve done it.”  Ruger Essentials is the main item, “the best product we have ever used and ever will use,” Alan calls it in his (admittedly biased) view.

He hasn’t let expansion, social media success and international attention pull Ruger away from their fundamental Italian strength. Alan says the service and atmosphere identified with Italian barbering “will always be our foundation, but we amalgamate our skills with Afro-Caribbean, fading, lady’s hairdressing with extensive styling. We are becoming a hybrid barber; using the Italian as our base.”

He had a take for today’s barbers that was a little surprising: “Get used to your hairdryer.”

“Styling is 33 percent of what you are producing,” he told me. “Everyone wants to do clipper work; everyone wants to fade well; go to America; watch the American videos; everyone wants to learn more scissors techniques. So yes, obviously, clipper and scissor work. But get used to the hairdryer. Use it in both hands, use it in different products, be able to style hair. Hair is very easily manipulated with chemicals, but also with heat.

“Get used to using your hairdryer very well.”

 

“Seeds are Planted all over the World Every Day”

I found Alan to be fired up when offering thoughts on the state of the industry. First, we’ll cover what he loves.

“There is so much networking going on,” he says immediately with a smile. “People on the outside don’t realize how strangely lovely and incestuous it is. Everybody knows everybody.”

It wasn’t always that way. “I remember being told never to fraternize with the enemy, and the enemy was anyone not in your shop.” Now that’s over and the international flavor of men’s grooming is exciting for everyone, he says. “I had a student who was in Malaysia and wanted to have a look at haircuts there,  and when he said he had worked under us for a while, they took him right in!”

A trip to Barber Connect NYC also made an impact, he said, in particular seeing a multi-racial photo shoot called Council Estate Couture by  Kevin Luchman inspired Alan to get into photography, and hanging with people like Luke Guldan and Miguel helped him realize the importance of accessibility.

“Seeds are planted all over the world every day,” he told me. “Plant a seed and year later you can elaborate on that relationship. It doesn’t come all at once…patience, is what I want to say.”  But meeting people and over time, building relationships with the likes of Jamilla Paul and Chris Foster helped Alan’s personal and professional growth.

So, what does this major influencer think needs changing for the better in our industry?

The “bad attitudes,” Alan says.

 

“They know full well they couldn’t stand having that done to them”

“You see people criticizing work, so fast to jump in and say something negative, but then they don’t post pictures of their own work, or refuse to because they know full well they couldn’t stand having that done to them.” Alan’s teaching experience shows him kindness is best. “I can say, ‘You have done so well, but let’s pick on something so you can continue to progress.’

“We are in an industry that is booming and we should be a family. We should work together,” he adds. “If you are going to say something it should be positive, not putting someone down and making feel bad about their work.,

Alan is also on about criticism of people who post edited work, which he calls unfair. “I know people edit pictures, and I don’t give a shit because it looks good. I know they edited something out, but (so what?)”

“Look, we are all human,” he said. “Not everything has to be 100 percent perfect. I have seen people’s work online and then seen them work in front of me, and I can tell there is a difference, but I like to see that because that person is only human.”

 

“Always go with your gut instinct.”

His advice to all: post your work and don’t wait for perfection. “We are all human, we all make mistakes. Whether it’s a small flaw, post your work!  Get your work out there. Don’t pick out the flaw; pick out the good bits in it.”

What final thoughts does this incredibly focused and busy traveler (he lists off where barbering has taken him and his crew – “Shanghai, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, and soon to Barcelona and Moscow”) want to share with my audience?

 

“Always go with our gut instinct,” he said. “Don’t copy other people. I mean, you are never the first person to do something, but take one thing from this person and one thing from another, and just by taking as much as you can from everyone else, you can decide what is going to suit you and make you original.”

“Again, planting seeds. Plant a seed, build a relationship,” he urges. “Instagram is there for that. Instagram is not about how many followers you have. It is about the relationships you build. So speak to someone, leave a nice comment, send a message.”

He condemns how cliquey barbers can be, and sometimes difficult to get to know, so he recommends confidence.  “Even if you are not confident, tell people that. You can say, “I’m not very confident, but I’d like to meet you.” You may shit yourself at first, but then you will be all right!”

With those words I had to let Alan go, off to another rousingly successful stage show.  My thanks to him, and be sure to catch the entire interview on my YouTube at LarryTheBarberMan.  Follow me Instagram @larrythebarberman and I look forward to being friends on Facebook.

I know I will be working harder to follow Alan’s example! Let’s agree to plant seeds, build relationships and be good to one another. Til next time, happy barbering!

 

 

 

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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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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YORfNtLRMWI

I recently had the chance to run a feature about 5ive, one of the faces of Wahl’s creative team, in the excellent barbering magazine Barber NV – which gave me the chance to interview the incredibly talented barber and learn what stories he had to share about his career, and what lessons he good impart for other barbers. For those of you who didn’t get the chance to read that article, I’m going to run through some of the best bits right now, although if you want the full in-depth interview and a lot of other fascinating barbering content then head to the Salon NV site and flick through the back issues!
So, on to 5ive: he’s a barber that doesn’t need too much of an introduction, since his work with Wahl has already put him well and truly in the barbering spotlight, however for those of you who aren’t familiar with his work 5ive is a self-taught barber with multiple awards to his name and an impressive list of celebrities that he’s styled.
As a self-taught barber, his initial barbering experience was picked up as a teenager practicing on friends and relatives – and he fondly remembers getting a set of clippers for his 16th birthday: “it was like getting a new iPad, it was incredible”. Simply by pushing himself to learn at home, 5ive was able to hone his skills and land a spot in a barber shop, and it wasn’t long before he’d started scooping up awards, with his first win coming in 1992.
Once again, 5ive’s friends were part of the story here, pushing him to take the plunge and start doing some competition work. He admits that it was a nerve-racking experience – but one that he grew to love, and which paid off as he started gathering more acclaim and respect within the barbering community. 5ive’s growth wasn’t over, though, and after around 6 years focussed exclusively on barbering he decided to give himself “a new challenge”: hairdressing. While this is a somewhat unusual career path for a barber, it’s not unexpected from a man who seems to be focussed on carving is own path. Now, 5ive boasts an impressive collection of hairdressing awards alongside those that he picked up from hairdressing.
His next step was to start working with Wahl, as part of the elite group known as Wahl’s Artistic Team. So what is it really like to have such a desirable barbering job? Here’s what 5ive had to say about working at Wahl: “It’s great. It’s one of my passions I love to do, because yet again it’s another side of 5ive – put me on a platform I come to life so to speak. Working for Wahl is great because you get to travel, you get to pass on your knowledge and teach, which is a great thing to do – especially to youngsters that are trying to get into the game and improve their technique.”
I was very keen to pick up some tips from 5ive while I was fortunate enough to have him in the interview chair, starting with the tools that he makes use of on a day-to-day basis. The key tools that make up 5ive’s collection are the Cordless Super Taper, a Cordless Detailer, Academy Chrome style Cordless Clippers, a selection of different trimmers and plenty of blades, combs and oils to ensure that he can remain versatile. That said, he also tells me that your “original barbering tools” are your hands, and if you’re going for something like perfect Beyoncé curls, they’re going to be the most essential tools in your collection!
He also has some advice to share with early career barbers wondering how to make an impression on the industry: “Stay true to yourself and trust yourself. Have the right kits, professional tools. And pay homage to the barbers that came before”. Throughout the interview, 5ive comes across as a humble man, and this combination of humility and confidence certainly seems to have worked for him. I also wondered whether he has any predictions for the future of the industry: “It’s going to keep growing, and I think we’re going to start seeing more high end hair care products, as well as a lot of female barbers making their mark.”
If this interview has inspired you to see 5ive perform then you can catch him at a number of high profile events, such as Pro Hair Live, Salon International and Barber Connect; he also has some products being promoted by Wahl, including a straightener designed to tackle afro hair, which you can pick up at most online barbering retail stores. As always, don’t forget to head over to my Instagram, YouTube and Facebook pages to make sure you don’t miss out on any upcoming content… in the meantime, embrace 5ive’s advice to become a stronger, more professional barber.

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Why Andis Fademaster & US Fade Blades Cuts Skin and Pull Hair

Difference between Surgical Blade and Bevelled Blade

With the popularity of the Andis Fade Masters, I’ve found a worrying trend for complaints from barbers who have had problems with it pulling on their client’s hair or even cutting the skin! This is because, unlike most of the Wahl and Andis clippers that you probably have in your collection, the Fade Master uses a surgical blade rather than a bevelled blade, and you need to be able to use this tool in a different way.

To help you get to grips with your surgical blades, Harry Pirate from the Pirate Barber Shop in Bromley has kindly given me a quick rundown of the difference between the two, as well as how you should be using the Andis Fade Masters and other similar clippers safely – without cutting your clients’ skin. He adds that these tips are also useful for the Wahl Senior; although that uses a combination blade rather than a surgical blade, it is very similar so these tips should come in handy for both tools.

The key difference that you need to be aware of is that the surgical blade is a lot sharper and a lot flatter, without the rounded safety edge that you’ll find on bevelled clippers. Harry tells me: “I use the surgical blade purely for afro hair, very tight to the skin cuts and very close skin fades. You must keep it dead close to the skin, no flicking. Honestly if you try and use it like you use a bevelled blade your client is going to get cut – they’re going to look like Freddy Krueger has had a right go at them when they walk out your shop and they won’t come back.”

At the Pirate Barber Shop, they’ve had clients coming in who have been cut up by other barbers and need their haircuts fixing! Obviously, no barber wants to give their clients this kind of poor service and, as Harry says, there’s really no excuse for it: you need to learn about the tools that you’re using and make sure you have all the necessary information before you start your cut. If you have a Fade Master on hand then take a look at the blade now and you’ll be able to tell how much sharper it is; no wonder, then, that barbers are finding that they can seriously hurt people. Harry recommend that barbers who aren’t experienced with these blades only use them for skin fades – and even then, you need to be careful!

Essentially, if you think of any surgically bladed tool you have as being akin to trimmers and use them in the same way – flat against the skin – then you should be able to give a better service, stop pulling on clients’ hair and, most importantly, avoid cutting the skin. Harry also points out that you don’t need to zero gap these blades: otherwise, as he puts it, you’ll be “literally just scalping people”.

That’s really all there is too it, so thankyou to Harry for providing this simple but incredibly informative guide to the difference between bevelled and surgical blades, and to all the barbers reading this please get to know your clippers so you can keep your clients safe and satisfied. Head over to my YouTube, Instagram and Facebook pages to find more great, educational barbering videos and articles so that you can make sure you’re a barber who really understands their tools.

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Hair Stylist: Tom Baxter – Though Larry The Barberman’s Eyes

Tom Baxter is an exceptional hair stylist – find out why I don’t say barber or hairdresser in just a moment – who has quickly risen to success, picking up an impressive selection of awards after just a year of competition work and building an excellent reputation as an innovative an exciting hair professional. Like me, he has also taken to YouTube to help educate barbers and hairdressers across the globe, with a wonderful web series that sees him strap a camera to his head to give a bird’s eye view of the haircut process as it happens.
There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s dive straight in: my first question to Tom was to find out whether he labels himself as a barber or a hairdresser – but Tom chooses to steer clear of these labels all together! In fact, he sees the line between the two as becoming more and more blurred, with more colouring and curling being introduced into barbershops, and a lot more clipper work taking place in hairdressing salons. As he puts it: “If you cut hair & you’re passionate about it that’s enough for me”.
That said, he did start working in barbering, before making the move into hairdressing salons because he wanted something more interesting. So, what do his male clients think of his slightly more unusual work, and how does he convince them to let them doing something different with their hair? “I see a window where I can throw something a little bit crazy in … they know I would never let them leave the house looking silly or daft. I’ll push my clients on to sort of what’s going on at the minute. If you don’t like it, you can just rinse it out”. Focussing on non-permanent options means that Tom can experiment while still giving his clients the opportunity to change their mind.
I also wonder what other barbers think of Tom’s work, and it’s great to hear that they really do appreciate it, to the point that he’s invited in to do training sessions – with an upcoming course on colouring at Slicks Barbers in Glasgow as just one example. As he points out, at this year’s Wahl Barber Final pretty much every model on the stage had colour in their hair, and it means that Tom’s able to “really enjoy being able to express what I like to do with hair through barbering”.
Now, every stylist’s path into the trade is different, and like many Tom tells me that he “didn’t set out with a childhood dream to be a barber”. Instead, it was a case of being in the right place at the right time, and of all things it started with a football tournament in Barcelona. To take part, Tom had to have a shaved head or bleached hair, and when he went to got his hair bleached, he heard the shop’s owner saying that they needed a junior. “I overheard and said I can come after school for two hours every night. Then I did an apprenticeship rather than 6 weeks’ holiday … I really got into it”.
With this in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that Tom thinks the apprenticeship route offers a more rounded education than college and academy training for younger barbers. He tells me that spending two or three years on the shop floor, getting involved with the running of the shop gives Juniors a “real understanding of barbering from the bottom”. He also finds that it helps you to build up a rapport with clients: “A lot of my clients have become friends, and that’s barbering, that’s hairdressing. It’s a relationship.”
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Tom has also been strapping a camera to his head and producing an educational web series. How did that idea come about? “It was one of those things where it’s just an idea that snowballed. One of the girls I work with was saying how do you cut men’s hair. So, I said I’ll get a camera and show you – it was just a bit of a laugh – and she watched it and said it was great. When I watch tutorials, you can kind of see the haircut taking shape but not the details … I think it’s a better way of learning, because you can actually see it from where I’m seeing”. Since then, it’s really gained traction: there are now around 20 videos in the series, with one picking up an impressive 85,000 views, thanks to Kamisori Shears’ support. With a general viewership of 35-40,000 views it’s fair to say that Tom is picking up a loyal following, and I’m glad to hear that he has more videos lined up.
In fact, his work as a brand ambassador for Kamisori all came about because of the videos – after seeing his work, using their products, they quickly offered to send more scissors over in exchange for more clips. “It’s a really nice brand to be with, high quality. I used them before I was brand ambassador, and it’s just really, really good quality. For me personally, you’re not going to get a sharper or more precise pair of scissors.”
He also tells me that “you’ll see me in London, in February, with the camera strapped to my head, it’s the first time I’ll have done it on stage. I’ll basically show everyone who wants to be a stage artist what you’re going to be looking out and cutting”.
And that’s not all that Tom’s been up to: he also has his own product, born from a desire to have a product that he really believed in to use, with the main aim being to improve his own work. Passing them on to his clients also means that he can give them the education that goes alongside the product, ensuring they can achieve the same style at home.
Alongside his web series, other forms of education have become a big part of Tom’s work, with stage shows, medium sized classes of 25-75 people for the NFH, and smaller educational classes at barbershop and salons. He tells me that the videos he’s producing are also useful for these workshops, since he can give the barbers and hairdressers a video of the session to rewind and watch again as they’re practicing.
Like a lot of barbers I’ve spoken to, Tom also thinks that the industry is definitely moving in the right direction. Is there anything he’d like to see change? “Not a massive amount. I’m really pleased that you’re seeing more female barbers, although I’m not a huge fan of the terminology – I’ve got girls that work for me, and they’re not ‘female’ barbers, they’re just barbers. Apart from that, I’m really enjoying the crossover from hairdressing to barbering.”
Finally, I want to know where Tom gets all his inspiration, since he certainly doesn’t seem short of it. Unsurprisingly, it comes from “anywhere and everywhere”, and often from hairdressing rather than barbering. While names like Jamie Stevens, Mickey Grahams and Darren Jones pop up, Tom also says that he doesn’t necessarily look to one person or thing. Instead, he takes inspiration from wherever it comes – a great motto to live by!
Want to cut hair like Tom Baxter? I definitely recommend taking a look at his web series, to get a glimpse through his eyes! You can also find my educational videos on YouTube, and follow me on Instagram and Facebook for more videos, including interviews like this one – I hope to see you there.

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Simon Shaw: The life And Times Of Wahl’s Euporean Artistic Director

I have something really special for you today: an in-depth interview with Wahl’s Simon Shaw. As Wahl’s European Artistic Director, Simon has one of the most desirable jobs in the industry, so it was a pleasure to sit down with him. As Simon says, Wahl is ‘the jewel’ that so many barbers want to work at, so I was very interested to find out how he got started in the job.
In 1985, he was working as a hairdresser in Dimensions, and started broadening his work to include shoots, journal covers and trade shows. This led him to start working with Goldwell, joining their academy in Mayfair; over the next 5 years Simon tells me that he completed around 300 courses – becoming one of their most popular educators.
After this he was introduced to a Wahl rep, and started doing exhibition work, managing to juggle the additional workload while still keeping up with his other commitments. This is the first of many examples of Simon’s utter dedication to the industry, putting his all into everything that the job throws at him. Then, back in 1999, he was asked to help open up an academy to educate people on how to work with clippers. They started with just two courses, basic and advanced, and have just gone from strength to strength… the rest, as they say, is history.
To get a real sense of what it takes to live Simon Shaw’s life, he talks me through his schedule over the previous week. As a man who is often on the road myself shooting videos and meeting barbers, I know just how much it takes out of you to be constantly travelling and, in Simon’s case, performing. This is just a small sample of Simon’s life as artistic director at Wahl:
On the Monday, he started his week in Hereford, doing a seminar with one of Wahl’s biggest accounts. On Tuesday, he was meeting a tailor in Belfast, before flying all the way back to Bolton for a seminar. By Thursday, he was in London, doing an in-store demonstration for Debenhams accompanied by two barbers from Ted’s Grooming Room. He made it back home to Yorkshire on Friday for a couple of nights, before heading down to Kent on Sunday for a two-day course.
It’s tiring just hearing how much work Simon puts in, and this is one of the points that he reiterates throughout the interview; young barbers need to understand how much effort it takes to work at the top, with first-rate companies like Wahl. As Simon says, although it is important to find time for your family – he has two children and three grandchildren – when you’ve committed to a job, you just have to do it.
Working with Wahl
Renowned for clippers that set the standard throughout the industry, as well as world-class training and other exceptional products, it’s safe to say that Wahl is a giant of the industry. So, while I have Simon with me, I don’t want to waste the opportunity to find out more about the work that he does with Wahl.
He explains the two different sides to his job: on the one hand, devising the upcoming training programme and looking for the best educators for different courses, and on the other teaching his own students. Watch the full interview to find out more about these very different roles, as well as what Simon describes as his “forte”: the evening seminars where he mixes hairdressing, barbering and entertainment to create an excellent stage show.
These also include his trademark haircut, the flick and smack. I ask Simon a little more about it: “We’d devised a texture blade which could thicken add texture, but the results I was seeing looked too bulky. So, I practiced and practiced to make it better, got the flick of the comb and the clipper technique going.”
We also talk about the rest of the artistic team: Michael Damiano, 5ive, Carl Blake and Joth Davis. Simon finds that they all bring different strengths to the team, and gives me a real sense of what he calls the “orchestration” of the incredible barbers that he works with. He adds that he is taking notice of the other excellent barbers out there today, who may be interested in joining the team – but has to wait for the right moment to bring new people in. That said, there are other positions which top UK barbers are starting to fill: notably Hooker and Young, who ate coming in as creative directors in 2017, so that will be big.
One of the recent pushes from Wahl has been cordless clippers, using lithium batteries to increase the power and longevity. I ask Simon about this product range: “People think corded clippers will give them more power, but with cordless clippers you’re getting the same movement. They also think it will run down halfway through a cut – with our products, like the Finale, the lithium batteries make them quick charging… we’d love to convert some of the old-school barbers.”

Life on the Road and the Future of the Industry
So how does somebody as busy as Simon Shaw relax? Well, he admits that he finds it difficult to switch off, but he still finds a respite from work in his family. Spending time with his girlfriend, two children and three grandchildren is the most relaxing part of his life: “you forget everything when you see them”.
I also ask him where he thinks he’d find himself if he hadn’t got into this industry. It’s clearly something he’s thought about before – and he admits that he sometimes worries about it – but trusts in his winner’s instinct. At any rate, seeing how passionate Simon is about the hair industry makes it hard to imagine him doing anything else!
But, although it can be a busy life, Simon also finds himself very lucky to be able to spend so much time travelling around the world. At the moment, he’s particularly interested in India, seeing a whole untapped market of ordinary barbers, as well as Europe, where the barbering skills are becoming very strong and producing a lot of up and coming talent.
I also wonder what’s got Simon fired up about the barbering industry right now – after all, he must have seen some big changes in his 31 years in the industry. He tells me that barbers have “galloped the gap recently, it’s become cool to be a barber… barbering used to have such a low reputation, but it’s the fastest growing part of the industry. It’s like a tidal wave, with the style and the old-school chairs – now everyone wants to be a barber. There are academies where you can learn while doing your day job.”
On the other hand, he sees the huge egos that the industry creates as a possible negative, with some barbers becoming too caught up in the competitive element of barbering. While the barbers that I meet are very grounded, I’ve heard this same concern from them too. In the full interview, you can hear us talk a little more about what might be behind it – including Simon’ thoughts on social media – and how to overcome it, or keep it real.
We also spoke briefly about state regulation; while some states in America are considering deregulating barbering, Simon – who sits on the barber council – sees it as a good thing. That said, he thinks that the hair and barber council “need to up their game, get more information out there, explain what state registration really means (…) it’s about high standards, qualifications.”

To wrap things up, I just have a few final questions for Simon, including what he sees as his biggest achievement at Wahl?
“I can get quite emotional talking about this, my biggest achievement is going into the shops, going into Harrods and seeing a shelf full of products with my face on the packaging: Premier products. Everybody wants a product range, to see their products in shops like Selfridges, and that’s my biggest achievement in Wahl.”
He also shares some advice for barbers who aspire to reach the same heights in their own careers: “I’m a big believer in being at the right place at the right time. Make your own luck. Be seen at events, especially when you’re young. Go to ever award, every lunch, to be seen and meet people. You need to be seen out there, but you need to be nice.”
If you’d like to see Simon in action, then you can head to one of his seminars; take a look at the Wahl website for upcoming dates. He also has more courses coming up at the Wahl Academy if you want to work with him in a more intimate setting. In the meantime, don’t forget to follow me on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook pages; you can also contact me online to find out more information about my work.

 

 

 

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Wahl Barber Of The Year 2016: Andrea Raymond’s Interview

At just 22 years of age, Andrea Raymond has done excellently to become the first female Wahl Barber of the Year. Although I’ve managed to interview a few female barbers for the Larry the Barber Man blog, it’s certainly true that they don’t get as much publicity as men in the profession… so I couldn’t miss the chance to interview Andrea and find out a little more about her career.

Now, something that I’ve heard from a lot of barbers is that they love the creative side of the trade, and for Andrea this is where it all started: she joined a hairdressing college – the same one that Paul Mac attended – looking for a creative and practical career. However, the theoretical side of hairdressing college was not enough for her, so she left after a year and went the route that is increasingly popular with young people cutting hair: an apprenticeship.

From there, her path into barbering was almost an accident, as she tells me that she started a barbering night course just to add another skill to her collection. But, like many barbers I’ve spoken to, once Andrea started barbering she couldn’t stop, finding it “more creative and more challenging”. So, starting out as a junior barber at Bladez Barbers in Cork, she worked her way up to senior barber in Lancaster Barbers, another Cork based salon where she still works today.

I hear many different stories of barbering through these interviews, and Andrea’s journey shows that making the switch from hairdresser to barber can often be a viable and inspiring career move. I also wanted to know how she made the move from day-to-day barbering in Cork to becoming Wahl Barber of the Year. As the first female winner, I think her insights could be very useful for other women looking to progress their barbering careers:

“They posted the competition on Facebook, then you just send 4 to 6 pictures and a bio about your career via email. It needs to be a nice shoot, with good images! Then they pick the finalists from a couple of hundred entries, narrowing it down through specific categories. It’s very easy to apply; I thought it would be a lot more complicated, needing professional photos and a model, but I just used pictures taken on the shop floor. It’s simple; I recommend it to everyone”.

This should be great news for any barbers with limited resources who still want to try their hands at competitions! We also talked about barbering inspiration, and for Andrea the two big names that have motivated her throughout her career are Reece and Alan Beak. As well as enjoying their work from afar, Andrea got the chance to meet the wonderful brothers – and it was their positive reaction to her work that gave her the courage to push forwards.

She also tells me how generous and friendly Paul Mac has been throughout the competition process, offering tips and tricks despite being direct competition. This is the sort of thing I always love to hear about; the barbering community coming together to offer each other support, and become friends as well as competitors.

So what was Andrea’s show-stopping cut that saw her crowned winner? “I went with a regular skin fade, nothing too fancy. The model’s hair was bleached on top but naturally dark. So with the texture on top I wanted to wanted to show the contrast of the colours, complementing the contrast of the skin against the hair. I like clean sharp lines, and put a lot of effort into each aspect … the sectioning on top, line work, the blending, everything.  So I used a plain, simple, easy structure – and it worked.”

I’m sure that a lot of barbers will also be curious to know which tools make the cut for Andrea’s toolkit. Well, here’s a quick rundown:

Two Regular Taper 2000s.

Wahl Beret Mini Clipper

Wahl Icon Clipper

Wahl Shaver

Corded Razors… as many different types as she can get her hands on!

Watch the full interview to find out more about this clipper collection, including why she prefers to use corded clippers wherever possible, and how she’s customised her kit to suit her own cutting style. We also discuss scissors, and after trying a few different models Andrea is lucky to be having some made by Dan Quartered Steels Wild – as she says, they’re “more expensive but custom made by a wonderful guy”.

Finally, I asked Andrea to share any advice for other female barbers who may be looking to follow in her footsteps. Her message was clear: stick to your own style, and don’t try to emulate somebody else. Whether you like simple, classic cuts like Andrea or something a little more extravagant, her advice stands strong: “stick to what you’re good at. Perfect your own techniques, your own skills. So just don’t try to be anywhere else and that will get you far.”

Watch the video to hear even more about Andrea’s fresh perspective on barbering, including changes she’d like to see in the industry and what she’s up to over the next 12 months as a Wahl Barber of the Year. There are plenty more inspirational and educational videos to come in the not too distant future, so keep an eye out for those too, and follow Larry the Barber Man on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. Or to find out more about my work, why not get in touch – you can contact me here.

 

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Barber’s Andis Pro Foil Shaver and Wahl Super Shaper Shaver Review

I often have barbers calling up to ask me about the differences between the Andis Pro Foil Shaver and the Wahl Super Shaper Shaver, and while I know plenty about the technical specs of each tool, to get a real sense of what they’re like on a busy barbershop floor, I think you need to hear it straight from the barbers themselves.

So, I’ve come together with Marc Republic – all the way from Philadelphia – and Champ of Champ’s Barbers to get a feel for their experiences using each of these shavers. Without further ado, let’s get stuck in; first up, it’s the Andis Pro Foil Shaver.

I get Marc’s perspective first, and he tells me that he prefers the look and feel of the Andis tool, finding it stronger and more resilient. Although his experience is that the Wahl shaver gives smoother results, when you’re thinking of the bottom line this shaver is going to save you money. It also has a better battery life, which can make all the difference!

He also gives me a few tips for use: Marc prefers to use it at an angle, cutting with just the top blade and, although he thinks it’s a great all-rounder for all fading situations, he suggests being careful on the neck since it can irritate the skin.

Champ is quick to tell me that he loves the machine, and uses it every day. The strength is a big factor for Champ too – especially since he has dropped it on the shop floor and still been able to keep on using it. The most important factor for him, though, is the great battery life, and this is complemented by a nice grip with multiple options for holding it comfortable, the ability to clean it easily and the quick charge.

Marks out of 10? Well, Marc gives it a solid 7.5/10, citing a few of the Wahl’s superior features – especially the width -as the reason for shaving off a few points.

Champ gives the Andis Pro Foil Shaver a very solid 9/10.

 

On to the Wahl Super Shaper Shaver; Marc finds that people will always result back to this tool, which offers a very solid cut. He finds that the wider top is beneficial, as is the slightly firmer blade – although it falls down a little with a shorter battery life.

Champ tells me that it’s a good machine, but lacks a few key features that the Andis offers. This includes the lack of different grips as well as a far shorter battery life, a key consideration for busy barbers. Most important to both barbers, though, is the fact that, as Champ says, “if you drop it then it’s dead”.

This is why Marc drops its rating to 6/10 – a shaver that you have to keep replacing is too costly for most barbers!

Champ gives it 7.5, but tells me that although his preference is for the Andis, he’ll never forget where he came from – staring out with the Wahl Super Shaper.

 

So the Andis comes out as a clear champion for these two barbers! As always, it was a pleasure to spend some time at Champ’s Barbers, Number 10 Riding House Street. It’s always a great place for a review, since they are an incredibly busy shop that really have to make sure their tools are up to the job. For more insightful reviews take a look at my YouTube, Instagram and Facebook pages, and if you’re interested in picking up either of these great shavers, you can contact me online; I’ll be interested to hear which one you choose.

 

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Cordless Hair Clipper Review: Wahl Magic Vs Andis US PRO Li

I head to Champ’s barbers to join up with Ian Hoyos (“Champ”) and Josh Lamonaca of MENSPIRE, and to hear their thoughts on two great clippers – the reasonably new Andis US PRO and the long popular Wahl Magic, both cordless clippers.

I love doing reviews here at Champ’s because the fast-paced environment means that they need to get the very best from their tools, and I’m delighted to be doing a real superstar review with two excellent barbers. So forget Josh and Ian, today I’m here with J-Lo and E-Diddy… it’s going to be a good one.

To help you compare these clippers, I’ve structured the reviews around the different features, sharing both barbers’ thoughts.

Andis US Pro Cordless:

Blade and Lever

Josh: “No pulling, no snagging, straight out the box the lever is quite tough but feels like could be a lot smoother after time.” He finds this efficient and fast, with a good light build.

Ian: “I had the Corded US Pro before, it was a lot heavier; I like the blade, just right for a c motion fading technique because of the curve. I also haven’t needed to zero gap it.” This means that it’s ready to go straight out the box, and Ian also prefers the slightly stiffer lever.

Feeding Hair

Josh: “So far so good.” His only issue is occasionally slowing it down for a number 2.

Ian: “Strong.”

Charger and Battery Life

Josh finds the battery life good, but hasn’t tried the charger yet. Ian tells me that he made it through 2 and a half days without needing to charge it, and it didn’t slow down at-all – very impressive.

Noise

Josh: “nice, quite a silent clipper.”

Ian: “This is alright, I’ve used louder.”

Power

Josh tells me that he finds it excellent for fair hair, although he hasn’t started trying it on thicker hair.

Ian’s take is that this is a “very good, very very strong clipper”.

Guards

Both find the guards to be a little flimsy, and Josh immediately started using the upgraded purple Andis guard with a magnetic grip, which he finds a lot more secure. Ian decided to give the guards that come in the box ago, but as well as being a little too sharp, he also found that they were bent completely out of shape while travelling!

If you are purchasing upgraded guards for this model, make sure you go for the purple nano guard with one, rather than two magnets – the two magnet model doesn’t fit this clipper as well.

And finally, a score out of 10:

Ian: “Get it – even my wife says I go on about it. 9/10.”

Josh: “8/10.”

Wahl Magic Cordless Clipper

Blade and Lever

Josh: “The first few times I found that the blade snagged and pulled, especially on beards. So I changed the blade for a Senior blade, and now find it a lot smoother.” He also finds the lever looser, probably from more frequent use.

Ian: Like the Andis, Ian tells me this clipper has a slight curve to the blade, giving more freedom. He also loves the crunch blade – as he puts it, “it eats hair”. He’s found the lever a little too loose, which has often meant switching it out with levers from other Wahl Magic Clippers.

Feeding Hair

Both agree that this is really good – especially thanks to that crunch blade.

Charger and Battery Life

Josh: “About three quarters of the way through the day, you start to get a dip in performance.”

Ian: “It does start to die away; you have to always keep two with you because when it starts to slow down you panic.”

Noise

A little bit of noise, but nothing that either barber complains about.

Power

Josh: “It does die out towards the end of a charge, which is sometimes annoying because you need to let the battery die out completely before charging. Sometimes I’ve had to finish with a corded clipper. When it’s fully charged it’s nice, powerful, efficient.”

Ian tells me that as a cordless clipper, this really changed how he was able to cut hair – letting him get out and about to cut hair in homes, hospitals and even hotel bathrooms!

Guards

Josh recommends the metal guards over the plastic ones, as finer points make for a smoother cut.

And finally, a score out of 10:

Ian: “these have improved, they’ve tackled issues, upgraded to metal casing. A very good machine, 8/10.”

Josh: “9/10.”

Not surprisingly, given the scores, when I ask them both to choose which clipper they’d have if it was to be their only cordless machine, Josh opts for the Wahl and Ian for the Andis. But with even scores and consistency throughout, I think it’s fair to say that each has received a glowing review! Find more Larry the Barber Man interviews and reviews over on YouTube, and follow me on Instagram and Facebook for all the latest barbering news. If you want to know more about what I do here at larrythebarberman.com, why not contact me online – it’s always great to talk to fellow clipper enthusiasts.

 

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Vick The Barber Talks U.S. hair clippers with Larry The Barber Man

 

One of my favourite things to do as “the Barberman” is to travel about and learn more about clippers. I took that opportunity to talk to Vick the barber from Timeless Barber shop in Morgan Hill, CA and got insight American hair clippers from an American!

His go to clipper is officially the Wahl Senior. Vick finds it a long-lasting, premium clipper that he has been using for quite some time. The Wahl Senior is his go-to clipper for daily use and has yet to let him down in the several years that he has had it; though, he does advise barbers just getting started out to use the Andis Masters.

For Vick’s go to arsenal, he listed:

  1. Oster Model 10
  2. Andis Masters with the taper blade
  3. Wahl Senior Five Star Edition (favorite of the bunch)
  4. Two pairs of Andis T Outliners
  5. GTX Blade for the Andis T

 

Vick stated that he likes to keep it simple when it comes to work: simple equipment, simple color palette to his shop in snazzy black and minimal hassle when it comes to his equipment. For tapers and fades, he referred to the Oster 76s and Andis T outliners, though he also went back and said that his clipper team for tapers and fades were the Andis Masters and the Wahl Senior.

I asked his opinion on fast feeds. With a humble smile, Vick responded that he thinks they give great cuts, were very nice to work with and generally enjoyed working with them – however, Vick revealed that the challenge he puts on his equipment had the fast feeds knocked out within four months of continuous, daily use. He stated that he really likes to get to know each clipper and challenges himself to learn them extensively. Even so, he sticks with what has proven to be reliable and of good quality. “I don’t want to borrow a clipper in the middle of a busy day,” he laughed. No one wants to be left unprepared!

Asked about his perspective on the differences between the Andis Master and the Wahl Senior, his two favorites, Vick shared his insight. The Wahl Senior, for him, offers a faster and more detailed cut than the Andis but the Andis, as stated earlier, is better for a beginner barber and more forgiving without a reduction in quality. He also recommended working with Fast Feeds and then working your way up to the Wahl Senior as you get more comfortable with clippers.

And what about the Oster Model 10 versus the BGR Plus? Vick admitted he only used the BGR once before. According to him, they worked just fine but weren’t for him as he’s not a fan of cordless clippers. As for the Oster Model 10, he feels that those are more preferable to him hands-down, even compared to the Classic 76s. He feels the Model 10 is smaller, more manageable and delivers a stronger performance overall.

Sometimes, keeping things simple is the winning strategy and Vick is certainly evidence of such. The insightful barber has his own Youtube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/user/VICKTHEBARBER , where he hosts tutorials, reviews and plenty of resources for barbers.

Mind you, he isn’t the only one who provides resources and videos for aspiring barbers out there, even when out in sunny California!

For those interested in learning more about American hair clippers, check out my site: larrythebarberman.com and stay tuned for more of my interviews and news!

 

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