Barber Industry Interview – Guest Judge Conner Wickens

We had inspiring barbershop owner and former London School of Barbering student Conner Wickens join us as an expert guest judge for our fade competition that took place on Friday 2nd March here at London’s leading barbering academy. Conner has established an impressive barber career in a short space of time, since he graduated with us back in 2016.

He owns Bells Street Barbers, where he dishes out sharp and cool hairstyles, along with every day hairstyles for the men in Surrey. Some of his clients even travel to Bell Street Barbers beyond the Surrey area. His ethos is to provide a top class customer service, as well as a supreme haircut, which is proving why he is a successful barbershop owner. He was honoured to come back and inspire our newly qualified barbers, by sharing industry advice and his own experience of launching his barber career with the opening of Bell Street Barbers.

Conner was amazed with the quality and speed of how our NVQ 2 students executed their haircuts during the one hour fade competition, especially with the pressure of guest judges watching over them – let’s face it, it is added pressure! He also noticed how driven and passionate our new set of barbers were by talking to them and watching how they cut. The atmosphere was fantastic and even as Conner said himself, it is so amazing to see how far our students have come after not being able to hold a pair of scissors only nine weeks ago, at the beginning of their course. Conner speaks about client care, barbering salary, building a client base and the secret to longevity as a barber, among other things. Read his exclusive interview below:

LSB: What is your name and where do you work?
CW: Hi I’m Connor Wickens. I work at Bell Street Barbers. I’ve been barbering now for nearly 5 years.

LSB: Why did you become a barber?
CW: I became a barber because I was really into my style and really into my trends, And I saw barbering as two new full-time courses in college. So I just jumped on that and never looked back.

LSB: What did LSB give to you?
CW: I did my NVQ with LSB back in 2016. It gave me a lot of things. It taught me square layering on top and round layering, working the scissor cuts and the way they do their fading techniques.

LSB: What do you love about being a barber?
CW: Being a barber like… it’s so good, the way the industry’s going, everyone wants to become a barber. It’s the biggest growing trade at the moment and being there at the beginning before it got big, it’s even better and just helping other people progress in the barbering industry is quite satisfying.

LSB: How much money can a barber expect to earn?
CW: It’s depends on what shop you go into and how passionate you are? but as a barber you are! If you’re not passionate about what you do, you’re not going to earn that amount of money. If you think it’s all about the money, it’s not about the money, passion before profit 100 percent. You can earn a lot of money through barbering, as long as you get that clientele up, keep the clientele and the money comes next.

LSB: Would you recommend being salaried or self-employed?
CW: Being salary or self-employed, they’ve both got their pros and cons. If you go to a shop and you’re 50/50 and it’s quiet,it can end quite bad. You’d be going away with like thirty quid a day, but by being on that set salary, busy or slow day, you’re always guaranteed that money by the end of the week.

LSB: What are the ups and downs of being a barber?
CW: The ups and downs…. I think the downs, you could always get an annoying client that you don’t like doing, but yet, they are still coming back and people always come in complaining about a haircut, and they don’t know nothing about the haircut. They just want to come back and give you some grief because they just want to give you grief to get their money back. The ups is giving them a good cracking    haircut, they’re walking out with a massive smile on their face and making that client come back into your chair.

LSB: What is the secret to longevity as a barber?
CW: The attitude that you need to give within the industry, especially the barbering industry is to be passionate about what you do, just progress, always willing to learn, go on other courses, like learn next to some people that are quite high-end barber’s and just always progress – 100 percent.

LSB: When recruiting, what do you look for in a new employee?
CW: When I recruit staff, I look for energy. If they’re lacking energy and they’re always sitting down on their phone, not really willing to get up or willing to learn, then I won’t employ them.

LSB: Can you tell us why client care is so important as a barber?
CW: Client care is just as important as the haircut. If you can give a good cracking haircut by not caring or making them feel welcome, they’re not going to come back.

LSB: How do you recommend barbers go about building a client base?
CW: The ordinary client base starting from scratch, well I started from scratch myself, it is tough, you just need to win people in. Obviously the help of social media has been massive. Do a haircut, take a  photo, put it on social media. Other people see that haircut and they want to come in. So social media has a massive impact if you want to progress with that.

LSB: What was it like being a judge at LSB today?
CW: Being a judge today at LSB, just even to be asked to come to LSB to be a judge is amazing. Like the work what people like come out with today with is just unreal. People doing a 9 week course, starting from not even picking up pair of scissors to coming out now with cracking haircuts. They could walk into a barber shop whenever they like.

LSB: What did you think about the quality of the cuts at LSB?
CW: The quality of the cuts were like second to none. Like what I said, from going from not cutting hair to like 9 weeks and from that it’s incredible.

LSB: What are your impressions of LSB as a training ground for barbers?
CW: If you want to train at LSB, it’s 100 percent recommended by anyone who’s been on the course. It’s absolutely incredible. From people from zero experience that jump on this course, within 9 weeks they’re doing over 250 haircuts, going over a vary of different styles and haircuts, yeah just jump on it!

LSB: What do you think of the educators at LSB?
CW: Educators are 100 percent passionate with what they do, they’re willing to push all the students to their boundaries and it’s just good to see it – like the passion they have there.

LSB: How is the future looking for the barbering industry?
CW: The industry is huge, like there are so many shows like Salon International, Pro Hair Live, Barber Expo. There’s so many big barber shows out there, it’s just on the up, every year it’s getting bigger and bigger and bigger. The future looking for barbering is huge, the way the industry has gone within the last five years, it’s just shot off like a rocket.

LSB: What do London’s people and culture bring to the barbering industry?
CW: A lot of diverse style, everyone’s going into that hipster sort of look, where it’s very diverse from the longer to the shorter. Everyone’s different, no one’s got the same haircut in London – it’s very different.

LSB: Why is barbering and diverse hair fashions so popular right now?
CW: I think the fashion side has come into the barbering scene, it’s just with all the styles and trends and the inspiration you get from like the 1920s and the skin fades going over to the buzz cuts, the crew cuts, it’s just got massive.

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