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Barber Arod: Shares His Story, In a One 2 One Interview, At Elegance Studio, Melrose, Hollywood – As You Have Never Seen Him Before

It’s always exciting to get a top barber in the interview chair, but never more so than with somebody who has reached the heights of Arod, Elite Studio’s million-dollar barber. From reaching a million followers on Instagram – that’s a record among the barbering community – to charging $100-$300 for a cut, this is a barber who’s made some serious waves. Don’t forget to follow him yourself, and then sit back to read his incredible story.  

 

Barbering with military precision 

The scene is set 14 years ago in Puerto Rico, where Arod found himself fascinated by the rhythm and style of the barbershops that he visited. 

“There’s something about it that just grabs my attention for a very long period of time. If you don’t grab my attention in the first three seconds, you’re going to lose it. This was one thing where always my attention was fully into it.”  

It also played into the desire to look good and feel fresh, a big part of Puerto Rican culture. But although Arod had already started to show an interest in barbering, he didn’t immediately turn to it as a career. Instead, he began feeling the pull of the military: “My friend said it’s an option, a steady paycheque, a stable career. So, I said you know what I’ll go with you, and I took the test with him. He didn’t pass and I did – I felt bad!”  

As money became tight, the idea of a military career began to look more and more appealing… 

“Then in 2010 I joined. That first day you just walk in to a completely different environment. Whoever you are right now is going to be torn to pieces and rebuilt from scratch, the way they want you to be moulded. You enter a different life: it marks you forever.  

“But in life you’ve just got to learn from the things that you go through. Your life depends on it, and the whole nation’s too. So it’s very important. When it comes down to that one moment, you can’t make a mistake.” 

This background means that Arod is now able to operate with military precision and discipline. I ask him to share a little about how the army set him up for his barbering career. 

“Well, discipline is one of the main things that they focus on as soon as you get there. They teach you how to walk; they teach you how to look; they teach you how to communicate. The job is just non-stop, you know? 

“Normally right now I go to work, I come home, I sleep for four hours. I don’t wake up the next day fully charged, but I know that I’ve got to get stuff done. And my body knows, it wakes up and I can’t get back to sleep.” 

 

Getting back to basics 

After leaving the military, Arod had to start building a new life for himself – and that meant a return to barbering. 

“I already had clients from the military, so I had a steady beginning. I took everything slowly – you’ve got to pace yourself. I’ve learned that it’s something you get addicted to, you can’t stop.  

“I was in Texas at this point. I went to this barber contest, everybody’s hyped up, I’d never done anything like it. Everybody was waiting on this person that was competing: the battle didn’t start if he wasn’t there. His name is Marcus, my partner. Everything started there. We hooked up and started going to events together” 

Arod and Marcus began travelling to hair shows across America, and met up with another champion barber: Jay. It was a fortuitous meeting, as Jay already had the Elegance brand up and running and he was keen to get Arod and Marcus involved. Originally, this meant a sponsorship deal – but as it was clear the men’s dreams aligned, they decided to come together to create the Elegance Studio: 

“When you start it, it’s just an idea. It comes from sharing those thoughts that one night. And our visions linked together, our souls became one, and we saw that we were going after something bigger than us. Three months later we’re in LA. Elegant Studio opens its doors, and the rest is history.” 

 

Style, decorum and class: The Elegance Studio 

In a word, Elegance studio is stunning. With gorgeous interiors and a VIP space dedicated to luxury experience, it’s the barbershop that every other barber dreams of running. So how did it come to be this way? 

It evolved. It was all part of the process, you know? I’m a firm believer in the journey and the process. You just have to keep things moving: We started in a downtown loft and built from there. 

“We started trying to get clients from different states. It was hard, I’m not going to lie to you. You had to go out there, you had to go get clients, you had to prove that your service was worth the amount of money you’re asking for it. Then one day I was locking up the shop and going home and saw this space that I fell in love with.” 

After managing to secure the space that they wanted, Elegance Studio went from strength to strength. There are stunning mirrors and chairs, as well as a wall decorated with a full street art mural – enough to satisfy customers who are paying $80 minimum for a haircut, often $100. For all the barbers out there wondering how these rates could be possible, I had to try and get Arod to spill his secrets. 

I started at $3. As you get experience and get better at what you do, you charger higher amounts. You get to know your value. You want to get paid and work normal hours. Us barbers, we don’t have someone who can give us a raise. We are our own bosses: you have to increase the price. You can also add things that increase your value as a whole. Services, learning, education, product lines… You’ve got to pay attention to those things. Because if you want to charge 100 dollars, that client is going to come and check you out and if he doesn’t like you or feel your work is worth the value then he might want his money back. Or he might just never come back.” 

Of course, there’s also the Elegance Studio VIP experience. At a cost of $300this is easily one of the most luxurious cuts I’ve ever heard of. So how can an ordinary barber who’s watching this today raise his standards to that sort of level? 

Make a note of this! When you open the door, the first thing you need is communication with your clients. ‘Welcome to Elegance Studio’ should be the first thing the client hears when they come in the door, so they can get comfortable with their environment. You tell them: ‘we offer drinks here. We offer water, tea, coffee, lemonade, all kinds of drink – it’s included in the service’. As soon as they walk in, I make sure they feel comfortable. 

We also have a long line of products that make my job easier and upscale my service. I put the cape on, start talking to the client trying to find a conversation… where are you from, what do you do? Find a way to relate to them. Then I start with the services: I try to be smooth with the clippers, be smooth with my hands. Give the client that smoothness. We have gels, pomades, hair serums, razor blades, aftershave lotions. We have a lot of things that can upscale your service – and they do. 

“After the haircut is complete, we have a steamer, a facial scrub and a shampoo that we can use as part of the service. We style. We make sure you can leave the chair and you are ready to meet the love of your life, to walk onto a TV set, to land a job. They’re the things that you came here to get service for. So I charge $300 but it includes drinks, a shampoo, a haircut, facial hair, it includes a steam, a black mask, facial scrub, deep cleansing, hair styling with whatever product you like… gel, pomade, wax, serum. We do treatments that can justify the price of the service. 

 

An Insta-star is born 

Another side to Arod’s success has been reaching 1 million followers on Instagram: I don’t believe that this has been matched by other barbers. From everything Arod has told me so far, though, it doesn’t seem surprising that he would reach this goal. 

The big key to Arod’s success has been appealing to people outside of the barbering industry, as well as barbers themselves. He has also chosen to work with influencers, people who share his energy and can help to spread his name. 

Arod has achieved all this by making videos that combine barbering and comedy. These videos are appealing to everyone from kids to older people. By studying the analytics of his videos, he can also work to replicate that success, and review what could be improved upon. As he tells me, “The world is changing. We have to adapt to it. 

Since hitting the million mark, he’s had plenty of people in touch to try and do business with him, seeing him as an influencer in his own right. Now people want to come to his barbershop just to associate with him: “I have a lot of celebrities that have found me on Instagram. It’s something that other people use it and they don’t understand what they are doing. They are not assimilating. It’s not there for people to talk negatively about others, it’s there for you to promote your own work.” 

Of course, as with any success, people have inevitably been accusing him of not getting there legitimately. But Arod has little time for the doubters who claim he bought his followers: “They’ve always been saying it since the beginning, it’s nothing new. If you see something that is not normal then you are going to think that it’s not real.”  

Upscale your service with the elegance range 

One of the big things that I’ve hinted at throughout this post is the great Elegance product range, so now it’s time to find out more about these products. I wanted to know which products Arod finds particularly exciting… 

The hair gel. I’ve seen the extra strong and the triple action gel actually change someone’s life. That product right there is exciting. We have the pomade, that’s exciting. We have the gel with colour, that’s exciting. Someone with greys can use that and immediately get rid of the greys. That’s called Elegance Hair Gel with Colour.” 

And what about the game changing products? “The shaving gel. This is a product that landed in the market, I’ve never seen it before. Ad the facility that it gives is just a game changer. It’s better than anything. There’s videos where you see them just slice a grown man’s beard and he feels like he’s 9 years old.” 

One of my favourite products is the Elegance black mask, a face mask that could be a real game changer for a lot of barbers. Arod suggests a couple of reasons to have one in your barbershop: “One reason is that it’s something else that you can offer, and you can profit out of it. So there’s no reason that you should be sitting between a haircut doing nothing when you can apply the black mask and charge $30 more.  

“Second of all, it just gives you a whole new glow. It just cleans all your pores and takes all the impurities out. It makes you feel fresh: after a haircut you already feel fresh, but when you take that mask off it’s different. It’s like the cherry on top.” 

These products can also give a barber a huge return on investment. Taking the black mask as an example, one big bottle can do around 50 applications. But if you buy a bottle for $20 and charge $30 per treatment, you’ve made your money back after the first application. The rest is pure profit! 

 

Paying it forward 

We’ve talked a lot about Arod’s personal success, but I also love his commitment to helping others and supporting his own team:  

Well, they play a big part in my success. I couldn’t be here doing this interview if I didn’t look right, with someone from the shop to give me the freshest beard that is out there right now – that’s Taylor Cutz, make sure you follow him!” 

Not just anyone can join Arod’s barbering team – it’s something that has to be earned. However, anybody is welcome to reach out to him: he tries to read all of his emails personally and is always happy to meet people in the shop. He’s also got upcoming shows all over the world: If you want to keep up to date with these then Instagram is the place to be. Head there right now using this link, to make sure you’re the first to know what he’s got plannedYou can also follow him on YouTube here 

Arod is going to be hitting YouTube hard this year in an effort to bring in his next million 1 million YouTube subscribes. Make sure you’re there to enjoy the content he’s putting out and help him reach another milestone!  

While you’re at it, take a moment to follow @LarrytheBarberMan on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook – you’ll be the first to see interviews with huge barbering stars like Arod! Now let’s hear some closing words of wisdom from the man himself:  

 “My advice to all the young people out there is to believe in yourself, believe in your service, and make sure you evolve as the whole industry evolves. Because we’re moving as a group. Just because I’ve got a million followers and I’m a little bit ahead because of the way I work – that doesn’t man that there’s no room for anybody else.  

No, I’m just paving a way for other people. Because there are thousands of lanes in the barbering industry. So upscale your services, educate yourself, share with the barbers around you, don’t let nobody put you down – and the only person who can actually stop you is yourself. 

http://www.instagram.com/larrythebarberman.com

https://www.instagram.com/arod23pr

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Interview With Barber Jack Robinson Pullen Of MBA (Mobile Barbering Academy)

I am always looking for new talent to bring to you in my interviews, and Jack Anderson Pullen was an easy choice. At 25 years old, he’s already a 12-year professional and he’s been running the popular Mobile Barbering Academy since he was just 19.

A veteran competitor, he’s a Wahl British Barber of the Year, two-time BBA Master Barber finalist, winner of the 2014 NHF and has many more accolades. He’s also found time to open his own salon in Thirsk in North Yorkshire and has another ready to go in Catterick.

Oh, he is also brand ambassador for SCISSORHANDS, the high-quality professional scissors well-loved among the best barbers.

Other than that, not much happening, right, Jack?

“It can become difficult to manage the schedule,” he agreed when he squeezed in a few moments in the Takara Belmont chair for an interview with me at Barber Connect. “My girlfriend will tell you I am very much a flitter. When I do something, I will do it passionately, but it may be 6 or 7 things at one time. “

Jack has been running full throttle since he was just 13. “I started in a salon in Milton Keynes called One Salon with Graham Horne, a fantastic hairdresser. Over the years I‘ve been fortunate to work with a lot of people you have interviewed,” he told me. “Tony Roberts, Craig McCarlane and a few others. I eventually moved up north to open my first barbershop with my girlfriend in North Yorkshire, called King and Captain.”

Starts Mobile Barbering Academy while still a teen

Jack started the Mobile Barbering Academy at just 19 years old (“with my mom” he says with a laugh) because of his keen appreciation for education and the fact high costs made it out of reach for so many.

“I felt courses were expensive,” he said “ I didn’t have the money at 19 myself, so I wanted to come up with something I could offer people booking these courses to bring them more knowledge, and make additional education accessible to them.”

Working with just his mum, “we’d go to salons and we give out educational materials – a pack of 50 pages. We would do demos and work with individuals on their weaknesses and adding new skills.”

This kind of ambition is bound to grow, and today Jack has a team of 12 at Mobile Barbering, delivering courses in salon shops and colleges all over the country.

His success has given him a possible dilemma many barbers would love to have. “My long-time dream is to be a member of the Wahl artistic team,” he says. “But it would be a conflict of interest right now, and a big decision about whether to pass the Academy onto someone else in order to join the Wahl team, if that were to happen. But right now, I am happy doing what I am doing.”

Not that Jack is hurting for brand deals. He’s been with Scissorhands for three years, an adventure that started oddly: his car was broken into.

“I lost a lot of equipment in the theft, and after I’d saved up to buy a pair of scissors, I started by going to AUK and met Linda from Scissorhands. I bought a set, used them to enter competitions and sent the pictures back to Ashley Howard and Linda to show them what I’d done. They offered me Salon International and a one hour slot, which turned into a day slot, which turned into a weekend slot which turned into becoming an educator for them. It’s all about helping people.”

Why Jack prefers his 50+ Scissorhands scissors to most clippers

As a competitor and platform barber, Jack has made his name with textured, feathered, what he calls ‘soft” cuts. “I love my patterns and skintight work but what separates me is that I started as a hairdresser and moved into barbering. Everything is a lot softer (in hairdressing).

“The strong, sharp square shapes that a lot of people are producing – their work is fantastic. But for me, I like a lot softer, so I like using my scissors more than my clippers.”

I’ve never seen Jack without a belt at his waist holding as many as 50 scissors. Here was my chance to ask about that. He covers the Scissorhands basics.

“There’s the straight blade which can vary in length from 5.5 to 7 inches, and our trademark scissor – called the EVO – which is a texturing, layering scissors with 15 teeth. This makes life easier because you don’t have to go back to do three different jobs by cutting your baseline, point cutting, texturizing. You can do everything in one hit.”

“We talk about a kit, a traditional barber kit, which for us is one short blade which you work inside the knuckle and by point cutting, if you ever need to point cut – with the EVO you don’t really need to do that. “

“The long blade is your scissor-over-comb and your bulk removal and your soft cut, better for softening blend lines.”

“You can work through the whole back and sides of a gent’s haircut using the soft cut: your traditional thinning scissors, your EVO – which is your layering – and your all-in-one, which I call the Swiss army knife of scissors.”

As for the dozens of scissors on his belt, Jack says Scissorhands believes every scissor has a unique job and a unique talent using it, so there custom Scissorhands designs feature many variations, colors and different types of steels.

The Wahl team keeps coming up, and when he talks of the future, Jack says the Wahl dream is still there/ “When I reached the final of the Wahl competition and got up on their stage in front of hundreds of people at Salon International I achieved one of my dreams. It is still burning inside of me to win competitions I’ve got one more dream – to get on the Wahl artist team eventually.

“If you’re passionate, you don’t always come across as you should”

Jack’s intensity earned him an early reputation as a rambunctious sort, which he doesn’t shy away from. “If you are passionate, you don’t always come across the way you should,” he says. “I write for BarberEVO and I spoke to them recently about a piece that was designed to come across hotheaded in order to separate view and make people think about views.”

Luke Dolan wrote article about egos in the industry, and I think he was saying it’s more of a case that people are passionate about things and they don’t believe in each other’s views and sometimes it conflicts.”

That’s true as far as it goes, Jack believes, but he’s also recommending the value of listening and appreciating mentors. “People above you in terms of age and experience, such as Chris Foster, have given me yeas of advice and guidance, even though we are in competition now since he has an academy, too. Mike Taylor is another. I still go to them and look up to them because they have been at it a long time.

It’s clear to me Jack’s passion about making people think is connected to his determination to never stop learning and growing, something that he offers as his top piece of advice for barbers coming up.

“Have an open mind,” He says. “I’ve worked with people who have been cutting hair for forty years and are still open to learning. I know people who have worked for five years for only one person and have closed off their minds.”

“Gary Machin, Eric Lander at the BBA, there are so many great ambassadors with great views and passion so always look to everybody – younger or older – to take experience and knowledge from.

“The most important thing is to be open to learning and never disregard a technique or product or tool. Don’t ever limit yourself.”

To see my entire video interview with Jack, stop by my YouTube channel @larrythebarberman.

Until next time, Happy Barbering!

 

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Nick Arrojo: Our Coffee Break Chat, Sure To Perk Up, Your Hair Styling And Bottom Line…

 

Welcome to this Larry the Barber Man interview with Nick Arrojo! For those of you who aren’t familiar with my work, my name is Larry Campbell and I tour the globe speaking to the best hair stylists from across the industry and from all walks of life, asking them to share their knowledge so that other hair professionals can benefit from the knowledge of more experienced hairdressers and barbers.

While a lot of the work I’ve done has surrounded barbering, I’m really interested in helping people from across the industry better themselves and learn new skills, so I’ll never miss the opportunity to pick the brain of an incredible hairdresser like Nick.

I’m sure the majority of you will already be familiar with Nick’s work, but to fill you in on the key facts this man owns the Arrojo Studio, with several separate salons, and educational school and a product range; he’s also cut hair for A-List celebrity clients including Bryan Adams, Minnie Driver and Victoria Wood and appeared as the resident stylist on What Not to Wear for seven years. Suffice to say, there’s a lot to learn from such a well-accomplished and multi-faceted man.

The Path to Success

Every interview I run has one thing in common, and that’s the origin story: I’m personally fascinated by how hairdressers and barbers get into the industry, and I think that looking at the beginning of a journey can help us learn from it. From starting at the age of 16, Nick’s career quickly took off:

“I started working when I was 16 in Manchester, I worked with Vidal Sassoon. I had a very successful tenure with them and then I moved to London, I worked for Wella and that was where I got to start experiencing a lot of international events and international hairdressers. Then my dream was always to move to New York City, and my dream came true in 1994 when I came to work for Bumble & Bumble, and they sponsored me and brought me to America”.

Not everything has come easy for Nick though, and at one point in his career he found himself homeless. This came in the aftermath of the terrible 9/11 attacks in America: “I lived a block away from the twin towers in 2001 when 9/11 happened. I was renting a couple of chairs inside a school in Soho, I was working for one week and then downtown became a no-go area and I was homeless. I was sleeping on couches at friend’s houses.”

What really struck me, though, is how he managed to turn this around, growing the business he has today:

“I started my salon in 2001 and had a staff of four – two assistants, a receptionist and me. I slowly built it, step by step I was building my brand. Today I have three salons, one in Soho, one in Tribeca and one in Brooklyn. And they’re big salons, so I have a staff of 150 people. I also developed a cosmetology school because I really think that education is the key to success.

In America, you have to get licensed – so you don’t do an apprenticeship, you have to go and get your license before you can even work in a salon. I really wanted to get into that business and affect hairdressing at a grassroots level. And then the final pillar was for me to do products, I’ve helped companies develop products and at a certain point it was time for me to develop my own.”

The Philosophy Behind Big Hairdressing Business

One of the things that made me so keen to bring you an interview with Nick is the fact that he has a lot of great insight into the business behind being a successful salon owner and hairdresser. In my experience, many hairdressers, stylists and barbers that are great at what they do want to open up salons, but many don’t have the business knowledge to take it further. With that in mind, here are Nick’s thoughts on the importance of specialisation:

“When I talk about specialisation I really mean what is your USP – your Unique Selling Point, or your Unique Styling Perspective, and that’s what it should be. Your USP has to change, it shouldn’t stay the same because you’re always in a state of reinvention. I started hairdressing as a specialist in hair cutting when I worked with Vidal Sassoon, the art and craft of cutting hair with a scissor. When I left Vidal Sassoon I decided to change my technique, I evolved and started to cut hair with a razor, so I cut hair with a switchblade and that gives me a different texture and a different feel. Now we have American Wave; we’ve reinvented the perm.

I’m also really focusing on business education – because a lot of salon owners don’t necessarily understand how to make their business a success. Usually the path of a hairdresser is to become busy: one you become a success behind the chair it’s time for you to move onto the next step of the journey. I share my unique perspective, because I started my business in New York from very little, and I’ve grown it into a multimillion dollar business with a lot of employees. I share my trials and tribulations – what I’ve learned.

I’m a firm believer that there’s enough room for everybody to be successful in our industry, but in order to be successful you have to learn from people who have been on the path before you. I’m just trying to accelerate that to everybody so they can learn from it.”

Education is clearly not only a huge part of Nick’s work, but also of his belief system. When I briefly heard him speaking at IBS 2017, the information I heard was important enough to completely transform a hairdresser’s business, and I asked for a little more insight into the philosophy behind it:

“I think that what we’re doing is trying to systemise everything. Once you systemise something you have a path, you have a game plan – and if people follow the game plan they will succeed. The key to being successful is through education, so you have to have education at the front of your mind.

I built my company because I never had any money, and I built my brand on a key catchphrase, which was ‘give unconditionally’. If you can try to help somebody by doing something to help them without getting anything back in return, you actually get a lot back in return. But all my business philosophy is really based on practical knowledge. I always say the best hairdresser starts off as being the best sweeper, the best mirror cleaner, the best shampooer, the best comber – and these basic fundamentals have helped me on my path”.

The Shape of the Industry

Before our brief time was up, I wanted to get some opinions on the key trends of 2017 from somebody at the pinnacle of hairdressing, as well as some ideas about the challenges that hairdressers face right now:

“Texture’s coming back – at the show a few years ago, everyone had feathers in their hair. A few years before that, everyone was buying hair extensions. A few years before that, everyone was making their hair smooth. What’s coming back now is permanent wave, we’re putting curl back into hair and I’m pioneering that. I know it’s working because last year my American Wave service grew by 100%, and this year it has already grown by 50% on last year. And at this show we have had countless hairdressers sign up to get certified in it. We skipped a generation with the perm, and now it’s time not to bring back the perm but to bring back waving, and we call it American Wave.”

“The biggest challenge that all hairdressing salons have is that there used to be a thing called professional product. Professional product doesn’t exist anymore because of the internet and because of the retailer stores that carry supposedly professional lines. I think salon owners have to rethink where the money comes from. The profit in a salon does not come from service, it really comes from retail. And until we start to focus on that properly, we will still have a low profit business.

When you think about a restaurant, the money is not in the food, it’s in the bar. That’s where restaurants make their living. We need to think of the retail area as the bar, and get hairdressers to understand that if they recommend professional products and engage with their customers then they can raise their revenue and profitability.

The truth of the matter is nobody gets into hairdressing to sell shampoo but if you’re not selling shampoo you’re not gonna have a successful salon.” Nick has even introduced a retail course at his academy so that hairdressers can learn how to sell well.

 

There’s a lot of food for thought in Nick’s words, so I’ll leave you to chew them over and think about how you can apply them in your own work. If you’ve found this insightful then it would be great to see you over on YouTube at my Barber.TV channel, or on my Instagram and Facebook pages where you’ll find me as LarrytheBarberMan. I regularly put up new interviews with leading industry professionals like Nick Arrojo, so there are lots of other stories to help you build your own career.

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Celebrity Barber: Popular Nobody (John Mosley) Tells His Barberlife Story…

Best known by his barbering identity Popular Nobody, John Mosley is not just an extremely talented barber, but also a world class educator, brand ambassador, and creator of his own brand. As a barber, his skills have allowed him to pick up some exceptional celebrity clients, while as an educator he has become one of the most sought-after names in North America. He has a number of barbering and lifestyle products available under his brand Popular Nobody, while as an ambassador he represents companies including Andis, Paul Mitchell and Hanzo Shears.

What barber wouldn’t want to learn from such a successful and varied career? From speaking to John, I can see that his drive and determination is an inspiration for everybody who wants to push their own career to the next stage, so let’s delve into his barbering journey and see what he has to teach us!

 

Barbering by Accident

What really strikes me about John’s journey into barbering is that it happened almost by accident – in his words, his barbering education started as a ‘joke’. Having been a college football player, he found that he needed a career to turn to:

“College just isn’t for everybody, and I was just one of the guys that college just wasn’t for. I would go just for the sports, and then I realised as an athlete that they really don’t care that much about you unless you play sports – and that’s not what I wanted my educational journey to be. I went home and said Mum, put me through barbering school, and I was just joking. I was just trying to buy some time so she would get off my back!

Two days later I was going to barbering school, and since that I have thanked my Mum every day because it has changed my life”

From that unlikely starting point 16 years ago, John has gone from strength to strength. Watching him as an educator, it’s clear that he has won over his audience, and become something of a celebrity. So how did he become such a talented educator?

“It began when I was in barber college. I was having fun as I started to find my niche. And my Mum was an educator, so she would put on hair shows, and she’d have me on stage. So that’s how it all got started”.

John quickly identified a niche for his educational material, in cosmetology schools where they would often have little education on cutting men’s hair. Offering up a men’s cutting class at these schools allowed him to practice and grow:

“Now when I’m up on stage I’m comfortable there. I want people to be engaged, I want them to learn. I want people to talk to me and I’ll talk to them so that at the end of the day they feel like if nobody else was worth watching, at least I was”.

 

The Jetsetter’s Lifestyle

John’s work has also taken him all over the world: just this year he’s racked up almost 50,000 air miles and taken an impressive 53 flights. Of course, we’d love to see him come to the UK and share his work with British barbers – so when does John plan to start thinking about travelling to the UK?

“Right now! This is the start of my journey to come to the UK, I’ve reached out to some people on Instagram and I’m hoping this interview is the start of changing the thought process on bringing this Popular Nobody out over the pond and letting him have some fun. Because that’s something I want to do, I want to bring my knowledge to the world.”

For anybody who is considering bringing John over to Britain, it’s worth noting just how many brands he’s educated for: as well as Hanzo Shears and Andis, he had a big part in writing Paul Mitchell’s educational programme. Personally, I’d love to see British barbers benefitting from such a talented teacher!

John also has his own educational team to champion, with barbers from across America coming together to create great education under his guidance and mentorship.

 

The Popular Nobody

Underpinning all of this great work is John’s brand: Popular Nobody. He’s certainly popular – among celebrity clients as well as other barbers. The famous names he’s worked with include Kendrick Lamar and Idris Elba as well as the Washington National baseball team. He has also worked with some MBA and NFL players, and was even taken on the Eminem tour with Rihanna to provide his barbering services.

So, with all this in mind, where does the Popular Nobody name come from?

“Me and my client were sitting in the chair, and you all know the barber to client relationship, we were just laughing and joking. He was going down the list of celebrities I’ve worked with and things he’s seen me do and he just said man, your work is everywhere but nobody knows it’s you. You’re like a popular nobody.

There’s now a barbering case that I have out, because I’m on the go. I was having problems with my kit, blades chipped – so I found the solution and created this case that carries five clippers in individual Velcro straps. It holds all my shears, my razors and my combs. I also have a proper set of combs coming out next week.

We’ve got socks, the hat, lapel pins; I feel like my brand is not just a hair brand. My theory behind it is that everybody is a popular nobody. It’s a lifestyle: you love what you do, don’t talk about it do it, there’s no point bragging about it.”

 

Standing Against Fakery

Something I ask most of the barbers I speak to is what they’d like to see change in the industry, and John doesn’t have to think twice about his answer: Microfibres and photoshop.

“I feel like, as men get older they start to lose their testosterone, we begin to have baldness and things happen – but I feel like the more and more you falsify and give clients false hope with microfibres and that sort of thing… it’s just wrong. My question is this: are you hiding your work because your work isn’t good? Are you trying to this guy’s confidence back up? A lot of guys I see these days are using microfibres as a crutch.

That’s not what it’s all about; it’s not about making guys look so ‘perfect’. You shouldn’t look perfect – you should look nice and decent but still be manly. It’s the same with Photoshop: we shouldn’t be fixing up photos just to get likes on Instagram.”

Of course, there are also things about barbering that John loves, including the brands that he works with. I ask him why he chose to be ambassador for Andis, Hanzo Shears and Feather Razors in particular:

“First of all, barbers have got to consider this: when you watch Nascar and you see the cars go around the track, they have a lot of different sponsors. In barbering, we’re the cars, we run the rack – so there are ways of getting sponsorship. You’ve just got to find the problem and be the solution.

So why I use those three tools. Andis just feel right for me, they fit what I like, they fit my hand, the motors are great. It’s a great company, US made – and I don’t have issues with my tools.

With Hanzo shears, it’s having the right shears for each situation. These shears cut great and leave the hair really nice and polished. I can cut wet or dry, and they’re nice and balanced with a good weight.

Then with Feather razors, when you’re working with the straight razor not every guy has the same skin type as the next guy. So being able to bounce between different blade selections gives me the opportunity to take on any challenge that sits in my chair”.

A Chance to Reflect

For the final part of the interview, I ask John to reflect back on his career so far and think about what his proudest moment has been, as well as what advice he has for other barbers looking to build their careers as he has:

“Most people don’t get to share their career with their family, it’s separate, so the fact that my Mum is my mentor and I can share my stage with her is a great feeling.

For the barber striving to be great – respect your journey. Invest. Put back into you, what someone else put into you. If you were at class for three hours then you should practice at home for four hours. Be a solution not a problem. The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.”

 

Wise words from a very wise man who has given us a lot of food for thought! You can follow John’s work on Instagram, as @popular_nobody, showcasing his striking work. While you’re there, don’t forget to follow my profile, @larrythebarberman, for more interviews with exceptional barbers like John – you can also see all my interviews at the Barber.TV YouTube channel – see you there.

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Barber: Tyler Trotter of Clean Clean Cut Grooming rose from Prison to Platform Barber

It’s no secret our industry is booming!  Every day, more talented people are building successful barbering careers, and I love bringing you their stories.

I never thought a barbering story would start in jail in the southern United States, with a drug-addicted, homeless young man, serving a one-year term for robbing a druggist.

But many stories start at rock bottom, and that jail cell was rock bottom just a few years ago for Knoxville, Tennessee-based Tyler Trotter, whose brilliant recovery was capped off when the young man with the fierce red beard appeared onstage at Premier Orlando.

“I don’t think that has soaked in yet,” he told me when we sat down for an interview. “That I am here at Orlando Premier and I am a platform barber – it’s amazing!”

It was a coincidence that I’d met up with Tyler at the Premiere. We hadn’t planned an interview. But he graciously agreed to spend some time with me so I could share with you.

I was eager to hear more of his one-of-a-kind story. “I was penniless and homeless,” the recently certified Master Barber told me of his jail time.  “I’d lost my children to Protective Services; I served a year locked up 23 hours a day, going through withdrawal.”

“And it was all because of my choices, my drug addiction,” he continued. “I lost everything that was important to me. Most importantly, I lost respect for myself.  I had no idea who I was.”

“Pain is a really good teacher and motivator,” he added with a smile.

If you are one of his more than 6,000 YouTube subscribers, you know Tyler brings it with unsparing honesty, a trait winning him more barbering fans on social media every day.

“I couldn’t stop using drugs,” he said bluntly. “When I got arrested and was locked up … desperation took over. I decided I can’t do this. I didn’t know how to get a job, I didn’t know how to keep a job, I didn’t know how to pay bills, I didn’t know how to do anything, and I was ready to give up.”

He said a last-minute call to a local addiction help center introduced him to the 12-step recovery program and to a spiritual side he had long neglected.

“I started to find out who I was and started to believe in myself,” he told me. “I found out I was extremely ambitious. I had a desire to be successful in life;  to be a great husband and a great father, so I started trying different things.”

He recovered his sobriety and worked as a counselor at an addiction treatment center (“It was fantastic!” he recalls).  He reconciled with his wife; his two children were back in his life.  His family was soon expecting a third child.

 

“Our financial situation meant I couldn’t continue working as a counselor,” he smiles. “We agreed I’d become a stay-at-home Dad.’

And that’s how it started: former inmate and stay-at-home Dad giving haircuts to his kids.

“Giving haircuts was special to me, it was a moment of nurturing,” he says. “One day, my son says, ‘Can I have a fauxhawk?’  I didn’t know how to do it, and a little voice inside – my conscience, and I believe God speaks to me through my conscience  –  said, ‘I wish I could cut it the way he wanted it.’ So I went on YouTube to look at different haircut videos.”

And he never looked back.

“After the fauxhawk video, I wanted to watch the bald fade video, and after that, I wanted to watch the other haircut videos, and I thought, ‘Yeah, this looks fun!”

“I watched student barber YouTube journeys.  I got excited, and this passion and ambition started snowballing inside me.”

After stitching together funding, Tyler was soon studying at the Knoxville Institute of Hair Design and You Tubing every step.

“I had watched other barber students document their journey, and I found value in it, so I said ‘I am going to start right now.’  My first video is me before I even owned any clippers, saying, ‘I am going to be a barber. Watch this!’”

“I documented and blogged my entire experience through barber school. I did reviews on all the clippers and all the tools that I saw,” he told me. “And I continue today.”

“If a barber wants to know how to be successful,” he said, switching to his current YouTube offerings, “I do my best to document my victories as well as my failures.  I document the process of what it takes. I document the hard work.  I document the time away from my wife and kids. I document the grunt work and the labor, scrubbing the rust off the chairs that are going into my shop.”

“A lot of people share the glory,” he concludes, “but they don’t share the story.”

Besides his strength, determination, ambition and love for the industry (“I want to breathe everything barber and pursue it”), Tyler’s belief in relationships shines through. One of his most important bonds is with fellow American and Barber Society Administrator Christopher Burke.

I recently interviewed Christopher for my channel, where he went out of his way to mention Tyler as a top mentee.

Tyler told me he met Chris through sheer doggedness, peppering Burke with questions via social media while a student.

“Christopher not only answered me, he showed me how to hold a pair of clippers in a comment thread by taking pictures,” Tyler recalls with amazement.  “Him being a busy man and me just a student – there were 9,000 members in the Barber Society – for him to take the time to show me these things, I didn’t want it to go to waste.”

Tyler realized his path to success was simple. Not easy, of course, but not complicated.

“When Chris gave me advice,” he says enthusiastically, “even if I didn’t like it or didn’t want to do it, I did it anyway.”

“To be successful, I have to listen to the people who have already attained success.  I need to do the things they are telling me to do or the things they are sharing with me, and Chris, man, he has never stopped helping me.”

Tyler’s ambition and drive have already taken him far. He developed his own beard oil while he was a student, giving it away to class mates and almost immediately becoming overwhelmed by demand.

“It is all essential oils so your beard absorbs it,” Tyler said.  “Plus it takes care of the most important part of your beard, which is the skin and the follicle the hair grows out of.”

“I can’t give you a wholesale price on 50 bottles a month right now because I don’t have time to make it, I can’t meet the demand,” Tyler said. “I still make it myself in my kitchen.  I still mix it in my blender. There is just no time to make it that way much longer, and I am looking at mass manufacturing that will preserve the integrity of the ingredients.”

Not a bad problem to have for someone who just got a license two years ago!

From a man who has seen so much hardship and then so much success I wanted to know how Tyler views the industry, and what thoughts he might share with other barbers.

“If you want to become a barber, find barbers,” he said firmly. “Go to shops, look at what they do, look at YouTube videos, make sure it is what you want to do.  If you continue to aspire, ask somebody to show you how, and when they show you how, do what they show you to do.”

“You don’t just wake up one day and know how to be a barber,” he continued. “You have to do something you have not done before. If you want to see something you have never seen, you have to go places you have never been.”

“So get a mentor, develop relationships, and if the first person, the second person, the third person you reach out to don’t reach back, keep going because if you don’t continue to reach out, you guarantee you are never going to find that relationship.”

“I suggest you focus on people and focus on yourself.  Character first, then business.”

That last line is as good a slogan for barbering as I’ve ever heard.  Words of wisdom from Tyler Trotter and words of thanks from me, Larry the Barberman.  It was a great interview and a privilege to meet such an inspiring figure.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Tyler as much as I enjoyed talking with him.  Be sure to check out our entire interview on my YouTube @LarrytheBarberman.

Until next time, happy barbering!

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