HOW TO: 100 PERCENT DISINFECT AND LUBRICATE DURING CUSTOMER CONSULTATION TIME
In a busy shop, it may be tempting to let correct disinfecting of your barbing tools slip just a bit, and that’s a dangerous position for you and your client. You do not want to risk infection or fungal disease AT ALL. In fact, we want to avoid that LIKE THE PLAGUE!
Here are some tips on how to use your client consultation time to get your hair clippers disinfected properly and quickly, while lubricating and cooling at the same time.
I notice when I visit barbershops that barbers use Clippercide spray as an instant disinfectant. This is a mistake, since Clippercide states it take as long as ten minutes to kick in correctly, that is, protect you and your client at 99.9% against infection and fungal diseases.
Saloncide disinfectant is effective against viruses, fungi and bacteria after two minutes.
The Wahl Hygienic Spray also needs just two minutes to reach the same level of effectiveness.
When you are busy, it is impossible to keep people waiting for ten minutes to properly disinfect your clipper. NO client wants to wait that long, and NO client wants you to use improperly disinfected tools!
The way around this is to work with Saloncide or Wahl.
Use a toothbrush to brush way excess hair, brushing away from the clipper.
Turn the clipper on, and give each side of the blade 3 or four sprays with Saloncide or Wahl disinfectant product.
Turn it off, and allow to dry naturally or wipe dry with a clean towel or tissue.
Dispose of the tissues.
These fast two-minute products mean you will have a few extra seconds to OIL YOUR CLIPPER, which you should be doing after every cut!
Apply one drop of oil on each end and the center of the blade (total of 3 drops)
Turn the clipper on and roll it around to spread evenly
Turn it off and wipe off the excess with a tissue, and dispose of the tissue.
If you use this time to consult with your client about his cut, you will clean, lubricate and disinfect your clipper seamlessly, without interrupting the service flow!
Make this your habit and you will always have clean, safe clippers and customers that will see how responsible you are about hygiene.
So, when is a good time to turn to Clippercide? It is a brilliant coolant, so whenever your clipper runs hot, give it a going over with Clippercide, let it rest a bit and you are good. If you are in a slack time or a not-so-busy shop, a ten-minute disinfection period might be reasonable and Clippercide is an effective choice. Finally, slow shop or not, Clippercide can be used after your last cut of the day both as a disinfectant and an anti-rusting agent.
To sum up, the best way to quickly and totally disinfect your trimmer and keep it running throughout the day is to use a fast acting disinfectant such as Saloncide or Wahl, and three drops of oil after every cut. Use this brief but important interlude as your client consultation time, and you will be golden!
Saloncide is now available at my online store at larrythebarbeman.com.
I hope you found today’s HOW TO tips useful. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel @larrythebarberman to enjoy videos of my HOW TO tips, as well as fantastic interviews I’ve done with successful and well-known barbers all over the world!
Barbers frequently ask me to make videos about maintenance and repair issues, which I am happy to do! I believe it is just as important that I share tips on how to avoid damaging your tools so that your equipment gives you the long, faithful service you expect.
Today, we will talk about your bread and butter: clippers and trimmers. If these are not performing well your work flow will be scuppered, customers may be irritated, and money will not be made!
First, it is important to have an array of screw driving tools, not just one screwdriver that you try to use on everything. Using a too-small screwdriver will destroy the pattern atop a screw, making it almost impossible to remove quickly.
One Screwdriver Size does NOT fit all
Imagine a busy Saturday when you need to zero gap your clipper, and you go with a too-small screwdriver, damaging the screw top and being unable to loosen it at all. It’s just that easy to spoil the tools that make your money, kill your workflow and kill the income going into your pocket. This will mess up your big money-making day.
On the other hand, if you try to zero gap a trimmer, which takes a smaller screw, that same screwdriver is too big. You will damage the trimmer screws and lose the delicate touch you need to loosen the screws only lightly, so the tightness of the blade keeps them in position. It’s like trying to use your phone while wearing work gloves!
Even when you have the zero gap, you need to gently retighten the screws, first one side, then the other; back and forth; left then right; left then right. If the screwdriver is too big, you have to put too much downward pressure on it, causing the blade to move. Very frustrating, and another reason you need the right tools.
I urge you invest in quality tools, not just any tools. I’ve found excellent ‘Tool Hub’ tools on E-bay, such as a set of screwdrivers with a broad array of Phillips and flatheads. You need a larger flathead screwdriver for the power screw on the side of the clipper, which you adjust to get the arm closer to the motor. You need a quality flathead screwdriver to do the job.
The ‘Tool Hub’ set also has an array of Phillips heads so you can find the correct one that makes snug contact with the screw head.
You also want to ensure your screwdrivers have a good gripping handle because when it comes to zero gapping, you need a good grip as well as a snug fit with the screw head.
This set also features an array of medium screwdrivers perfect for adjusting hair clippers – a Master or Fademaster or the Senior or Wahl Super Taper. Check it out at this link: (LARRY: INSERT LINK HERE)
For making adjustments on a trimmer’s smaller, finer screws, I’ve found another perfect precision kit with interchangeable flathead and Philips attachments and a telescopic handle, which helps with a host of jobs. It even comes with a magnifying glass, so when you position for a zero gap, you can look along the blade without killing your eyes. I strongly suggest you get this kit. (LARRY: INSERT LINK HERE)
Insider Hack: How to Remove Damaged Screws From Your Clipper and Trimmer
Back in the old days, barbers had to sharpen their cut throat razors using a whetstone and oil and a strop. We have it much easier with today’s excellent electric trimmers and clippers. All we need to know is how to tune these things with a screw driver; no heavy manual labor. It’s a relatively easy job, but it demands that you use the right tools.
Now, here’s today’s Larry the Barberman Insider Hack: If you used the wrong screwdriver and hollowed out the tops of the screws, ordering a new one from the manufacturer is a long and expensive process, perhaps as much as £10 just for delivery – and just for one screw!
But temporarily, all you need is a rubber band. Here’s how it works: Place the rubber band over the screw head you have destroyed and push it down into the screw with a screwdriver, using lots of pressure. Under pressure, the rubber band will mold itself to the contours of the damaged screw in a kind of super grip, like when you can’t open a stubborn bottle with your hand and improve the grip by putting a tea towel over it. It works!
That’s it for today’s How-To blog. Once again, based on what I’ve seen in barbershops all over the world, I strongly recommend you get the right tool for every screw in every clipper- and keep your work flow going!
Welcome to another Larry the Barberman How-To Tutorial! Today, I’ll show you how to replace the blade on the Andis SlimLine Pro Cordless Trimmer with the blade of the corded T Outliner.
You may want to do this to give you a wider cutting area, and it’s also great for boarding out, requiring fewer strokes due to the wider tooth.
This is not a difficult job but it requires a bit more precision and a few more tools than most of my how-to’s.
Head for the Toolshed!
You will need:
A drill with a 3.5 drill bit
A small and a medium Phillips screwdriver
A Stanley knife (or box cutter, as it’s called in America)
My old friend, a corrugated rubber mat to hold loose screws and parts so they don’t get lost.
Remember, for clarification, you can see a step by step demo of this process on my YouTube @larrythebarberman.
Let’s get down to it!
First, unscrew the two screws at the base of the blade, remove the blade and set the screws aside.
Turn your attention to the blade itself. Remove the two screws you see on the blade assembly, and you have divided it into two. One piece is the SlimLine blade, which you can put aside as no longer needed.
Turn your attention to the remaining piece.
You will see the clamped cutting blade on the spring. Pull the spring out and you will find yourself holding not only the spring but the attached guide plate, which is black and T-shaped. It has two square holes along the bar of the T and two smaller metal holes along the tail of the T. You need to separate the guide plate and the spring by pulling them apart, and setting them aside.
Turn your attention back to the blade. You will see a black molding attached to it. You have to remove this, which you do by simply twisting it off.
Now the fun begins! It’s time to modify the SlimLine Pro Lite parts to accommodate the T Outliner blade.
Turn your attention to the black molding you just removed from the SlimLine blade. You will see two pegs or studs sticking out. These match holes on the SlimLine cutting blade, but now we can’t use them; the T Outliner blade does not have holes to accommodate them. So, off with their little heads!
Use the Stanley knife or box cutter for this job, but BE CAREFUL! Place the molding on a surface and cut AWAY from yourself. Cut it as closely to the base as possible, and then use sandpaper to smooth the leftover ridge to make it even with the surface of the molding.
Time for the Heavy Artillery!
Now, pick up the guide plate (That’s the black T-shaped thing with the square holes and the round holes). We need to elongate the two metallic holes that are in the tail of the T, and you need to elongate them in the direction of the bottom of the T, away from the bar of the T (where the square holes are)
To do this, it’s time for the drill with the 3.5 drill bit.
Grasp the guide by the bar of the T (where the square holes are) with thumb and finger. Place the drill bit into the bottom hole (furthest from the bar of the T) and turn it on, putting pressure on the bottom of the hole, moving the drill back and forth to wear away the metal, elongating the hole. This takes 15 or 20 seconds of drill time.
Now the other hole, nearest the T bar. You want to elongate it all the way down to the raised metallic line that separates the holes. This may take an extra ten seconds or so.
Stanley Knife, Act 2
Now that you have prepared the holes, turn your attention to the black plastic border around the tail of the T. You will notice that the inside of the plastic border intrudes ever so slightly over the edge of your holes. You need to shave this plastic down with the Stanley knife so that when the screws are back in pace, they will not be resting on the plastic edges. You want a nice, snug fit.
Now, pick up the molding (the small black plastic piece whose nubs we cut off) and rest it against the cutting blade, which is the rounded part.
Next, pick up the guide plate (the T-shaped piece you used the drill on) and place it under the cutting blade, resting it underneath the ledge of the cutting blade. Hold all of this in your left hand (if you are right handed) while you pick up the spring.
You will notice a hairpin shape in the spring. Place that hairpin over the tail of the T so that the ends of the spring rest on the grooves on each side of the black molding. Then give the spring a push forward into the grooves of the molding, and you have secured the molding against cutting blade.
Now you are in the same position you normally are with the T Outliner blade when you are ready to screw them together. You will notice as you do this that all the screws are visible. If you had not drilled and elongated the holes and shaved the lip, you would not be able to get the screws in there!
Now just put them down flat into the zero gap position, and re insert the screws from the SlimLine Pro Line blade and screw them together. You want to get this tight, but leave a little looseness so you can tighten slowly, first one screw, then the other, back and forth, so you keep the position of the zero gap.
You did it!
All you do now is secure the blade onto the SlimLine body and you are set! You’ve zero-gapped the SlimLine Pro Lite, which has been replaced with the T Outliner blade.
I hope you find this useful to you as you continue to sharpen our barbering skills. You can also see this entire How-To Tutorial step-by-step on video on my YouTube @larrythebarberman.
I’m aiming to get a new ‘How-To’ video and blog up every week, so be sure to check back! Until then, happy barbering!
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.
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.