Barber Industry Interview – Guest Judge Harry From HJ Gentlemen

We were lucky to have accomplished barber Harry, who owns HJ Gentlemen barbershop join us as a guest judge for our exciting fade competition that took place on Friday 2nd March, here at London School of Barbering. Harry who is a barber whizz judged our new barbers in the fade competition on their speed, creativity and technical cutting ability, in order to crown three students first, second and third place. Spanning eight years of industry experience, he is extremely knowledgeable and well plugged in on matters of the barbering industry.

He didn’t start his barbering training at a school or academy, but instead he took a rather traditional approach. He stood behind a chair in a barbershop and watched other barbers really closely to learn the skills. Our students were engaged by listening to how Harry got into the barbering trade and how successful he has become over his eight year barber career.

Our new barber recruits worked hard over the nine weeks of their NVQ 2 Diploma beginner course to develop strong cutting skills and Harry noticed how skilled and professional our students were during the fade competition. He was amazed at what our students had been taught in only nine weeks and admits that he was a little bit skeptical at the start. He wasn’t quite convinced that our students could learn the trade in such a short time window, but after seeing how the students performed in the fade competition, he was visibly impressed. Harry approved of our strong structure in how our barbering courses are run, which could be seen in the quality of cuts that our students produced. Harry spoke about how much a barber can earn, what he looks for in an employee when recruiting, the role social media plays in attracting clientele, impressions of LSB as a training ground, among other things. Read his exclusive interview below:

LSB: What is your name and where do you work?
H: My name’s Harry and I work at HJ Gentlemen at East Grinstead. so I’ve been barbering for 8 years this year.

LSB: How did you become a barber?
H: I went down kind of an old-school route of standing behind a chair. Watching other people do it and picking something up different from every single barber in that shop.

LSB: What do you love about being a barber?
H: Socialising with people. It’s a job that when people ask, I just say I stand around and talk all day.

LSB: How much money can a barber expect to earn?
H: That all depends on where you’re from really, what area of the country you’re working in. Haircuts vary from, you’ll find a barber shop that charges five pound for a haircut, you’ll find one that charges fifty pounds plus. The potential of earning a good living is good. It’s definitely a survivable wage. I’ve got four, five people working for me now. All earn a living from barbering.

LSB: Would you recommend being a salaried or self-employed?
H: I personally have always worked as self-employed and my staff are all self-employed also. So I’ve not got any experience with salaries.

LSB: What are the ups and downs of being a barber?
H: Ups and downs. If you’re having a down day, then you shouldn’t be a barber. It’s always… as long as you’ve got good people in the shop, customers coming in through the door and good haircuts, every day is an up day. The public are always varied. Em and they will bounce off you, so if you’re having a good day, they’ll get that vibe, if you’re not, you’ll end up with some miserable people.

LSB: What is the secret to longevity as a barber?
H: So the longevity, like I said there’s a career in it, if you enjoy doing it, you can do it for the rest of your life. If you’re willing to put in the work and you’ve got the people coming in, then the harder you work, the bigger the reward.

LSB: What makes a good barber?
H: Personality makes a good barber. Determination. Techniques and skill are definitely up there. I would say they almost come second to the personality.

LSB: When recruiting, what do you look for in a new employee?
H: So when I recruit staff, I always do a trade test with them. I’ll see exactly what they can do and watch over that haircut. I may ask them back in to do another haircut again, just so I can see different things, different styles and then I will interview them and see if I like them. We’ve got to work together full-time, so you’ve got to enjoy the people you work with. No matter what barber shop you go into, you’re always going to be able to learn something more from the other barbers that are in there. So if somebody isn’t 100% up to scratch, that wouldn’t necessarily make me not take them on if I see they have potential and the willingness to do it.

LSB: Can you tell us why client care is so important as a barber?
H: Client care is so important because that’s at the end of the day is what’s going to bring the customer back to you. We now are in a time where there are ten barber shops in every town and if you can give the best customer service, as well as the best haircut, that’s what’s going to win them back.

LSB: How do you recommend barbers go about building a client base?
H: To build a client base you just need to be who you are and get to know people, get to know that customer, they’ll get to know you. Give them a story because if they’re coming back to find out the next part the story, that’s really key.

LSB: What role does social media play in attracting clientele?
H: Social media, building a client base is important, if you can be updating it at least once a day to show people what you can do, what you’ve done? what’s happening in the shop? even if you’re having a quiet day, put something up, put an old photo up because it’s vital that you keep at the top of everybody’s newsfeed, so that you’re not forgotten.

LSB: What was it like being a judge at LSB today?
H: It was a real honour to be a judge today LSB really enjoyed my time here. It was my first experience actually being here. I have taken on a guy that previously did the course, which is what made me look them up and find out a bit more about them and then that is where I ended up becoming a judge.

LSB: What did you think about the quality of the cuts at LSB?
H: The quality of the cuts. At first I was skeptical about you know what could be achieved in 9 weeks and like I say from taking on somebody that did exactly that. Went from being a builder to being a barber. It’s possible, as long as you’re going to put in the work.

LSB: What are your impressions of LSB as a training ground for barbers?
H: I think LSB is great. Like I said from zero to full barber that you’d be able to go and get a job. I think you could stand a trade test and you would be successful and finding a job.

LSB: What do you think of the educators at LSB?
H: Em, I think yeah the educators are definitely there to push you and I’m sure that if you’re showing the willingness and want to be pushed more, they’ll push you more. If you’re not going to put in the effort, then you will get something from it, definitely and you’ll be able to cut hair, but you’re not going to be winning the fade competition at the end.

LSB: How is the future looking for the barbering industry?
H: This is an interesting one. So the future of barbering, erm, I think it can go two ways. It’s growing at such a pace at the moment and like as we see with fashions and styles going in and out. It’s happened before, where barbering has dropped to the wayside and we’re seeing a huge build in it back now and there’s always a potential that it could happen again. Not everybody’s going to want a skin fade in three year’s time. The fashion could be different. Hopefully we’ve developed our skills enough to be able to keep people coming back and offering them exactly what they want, rather than just a basic haircut.

LSB: What do London’s people and culture bring to the barbering industry?
H: London is the hub of fashion, so the styles that the Londoners bring to barbering is huge. There are so many different styles now. People are asking for different things, you can do a day where you don’t do two of the same haircuts, so it’s great the diversity.

LSB: Why is barbering and diverse hair fashions so popular right now?
H: With fashion anything goes now and like you say, the fashionable loops that happen that we see come and go are getting tighter and as long as you’ve got the confidence to carry a style it’s going to be fashionable.

If you are looking to learn the barbering trade as a complete beginner or your current barbering skills are in need of polishing up, look at our barbering courses page to select the right course for you.

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