Since we saw you last, the industry has welcomed plenty of changes and made the most of the comeback, different though it may be. And here at BarberEVO, there have been some changes, too.
Behind the keyboard at the moment is Jenna Robertson, your new Editor. I’m thrilled to join the team at BarberEVO – my incredible predecessor Amy has left some big shoes to fill, but has also left me with a very exciting role to take on. I’m so looking forward to getting to know our community of readers and contributors (who really are the rock stars of the barbering world), and continuing to bring you fresh, inspiring content.
And what a time to join! Our North American comeback issue is as exciting as they come. Our cover star is none other than Layrite legend Donnie Hawley, who shares some pearls of wisdom from his 25 years in the business and tells us the origin of the famous Layrite Deluxe Pomade.
We also take a look back at our incredible EVOLive series, sharing some of our favorite quotes and insights from barbers, brands and industry leaders, and we find out how other countries are coping post-lockdown, from the UK to the UAE.
We talk to Director of Education at Barbicide, Leslie Roste, on what the team have been doing during quarantine to support the industry, our columnist and SCurl Ambassador brings us a thought- provoking piece on the Black Lives Matter movement, and a host of leading barbers share their thoughts and advice on how to fix those pesky DIY home haircuts that I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of over the past few weeks!
Our columnist Kenny Duncan delivers a thought-provoking piece on the Black Lives Matter movement, and why it’s more important than ever for people across the globe to educate themselves on racial injustice.
We’re also looking out for you – while protecting yourselves and your clients is of the utmost importance, it is just as important to look after your own wellbeing, in both body and mind, so we’ve put together advice on how to prioritize your mental and physical wellbeing in these crazy times.
We also delve into retail – an important resource for barbershops keen to claw back some of that lost revenue. You’ll find invaluable advice from Elliott Chester, Sosa and Bona Fide Pomade, who continue to use retail to their advantage.
It feels great to be on Team EVO, cheering on an industry that is so dynamic and fighting so hard to push through these uncertain times. I hope you enjoy our comeback issue, but in the meantime, stay safe, stay positive, and look forward to brighter days ahead.
As shops across the United States have begun to reopen, we know you’ll have more to think about than ever before – including how to keep your clients, your staff and yourselves safe.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) can be a major investment and Gillette wants to do its part for the barber community by providing equipment that can help better protect those of you back at work, along with your valued clients.
To help keep the barber community safe as shops are reopening, BarberEVO have teamed up with Gillette to donate 20,000 protective face shields to barbers across the United States.
This is part of a larger relief effort to support workers, relief agencies and communities on the front lines of this pandemic. To date, Gillette has produced and donated more than 300,000 face shields for health care workers in response to the needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lots of barbers across the US have received their face shields already:
“Shoutout to @Gillette for sponsoring our sweet new face shields! Shaves and facials have never been safer!”
Prodigy Salon// @prodigysalon
The Gillette face shields are great…Our clients love them and it gives them peace of mind to come in the shop to get a haircut – thank you!”
Marcus Williams// Marc Republic, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“#Salute to BarberEVO & Gillette for donating these face shields to barbers!”
Sipp the Surgeon// The Art of Barbering, Grand Prairie, Texas.
“The face shields help me out so much by protecting my clients and I from spreading anything around. Knowing I’m protected allows me to be at peace when cutting, I’m not so worried about the virus and I can focus on the haircut and taking care of my clients.”
Josue Morales// Sway Styles, Detroit, Michigan.
“We love the new Gillette face shields! They’re super light and comfortable. Not only are they providing important extra protection for all the barbers, but our clients also appreciate them because it shows we’re taking their safety seriously as well.”
Erik Zaiatz// Bostonian Barbershop, Boston, Massachusetts.
Behind the veneered smiles of Los Angeles is a city that has a habit of chewing people up and spitting them straight back out again, but some thrive in the City Of Angels and build an empire. Court is now in session with Julius Caesar. ALL HAIL.
For the last five years, LA has provided the perfect milieu for Julius to grow his product. Combining San Francisco culture with LA swagger, he has incorporated his love of art, music and fashion into his craft. Julius is not a barber; he’s a brand, and is very much the epitome of the opportunities that the modern barbering industry can afford.
‘Barber’ was a title first bestowed on Julius by this mother. Although the San-Francisco native did not come from nothing, he admits he knows what it is like to have very little, and his hard-working mother was always looking for ways to save money. Haircuts were $12 each so she bought a $20 pair of hair clippers and let her artistic son cut the family. Julius, however, quickly developed a passion for cutting hair and became his high school’s de facto barber. Once graduated, he was faced with a decision that lead him to passing up on Art School and University.
Julius was still cutting hair at his home but was also working in retail. He was there to launch to launch the first iPhone and believes working in retail helped him build not only strong customer services skills but also understand the fundamentals of business. When the US recession hit, Julius decided it was time to transform passion into a profession and enrolled in Bayview Barber College. Going back to school in one of San Fran’s most impoverished neighbourhoods was quite the contrast to earning good money in a shirt and tie forty hours a week.
“When it was apparent that I actually knew how to cut I remember the locals would say I had a ‘temporary hood pass’ since I was cutting up everyone on the block! It’s been a crazy journey ever since, but the first moments cutting in my childhood kitchen to being a barber college student in the hood were all part of me falling in love this lifestyle we all know as barbering today. The game is totally different now and I’m glad to see it grow but those humble times when it wasn’t ‘cool’ yet… those are the times I’ll always cherish. What started off as a way to help my family became a hobby, then a career and now a life,” he reflects.
Having soaked up the culture of San Francisco and helped to grow the Fresh Cut brand in Daly City, Julius decided it was time to start the next chapter of his story: open his own barbershop take on a new city. The Big Apple was mooted as his next location but transferring his licences from California to New York made it logistically difficult. Instead, he was drawn towards the beautiful people of Los Angeles.
Like many before him, Julius landed in LA alone with little more than a few connections. He put out an Instagram – where he had already start to make a name for himself – post looking for the best barbershops in the heart of the city. The young barber was ready to hit the ground running. Capsule Barbershop on Hollywood’s iconic Melrose Avenue gave him a taste of celebrity life before he went on to form Grey Matter with shop owner Vince Garcia and Joey Nieves. The polished façade of LA, however, masks the grind, hustle and heartbreak of The City Of Angels.
“Los Angeles has been a roller coaster of ride,” he admits. “I’ve been blessed to have LA take me with open arms. I’ve just surpassed my five year mark in this beautiful place and I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. I’ve seen the overnight success and seen it turn back round and send people flying out the city worse than they came. LA is not for the weak hearted. You can’t be sensitive here, let alone naïve. The land of amazing opportunities is like a jungle. There’s beasts out there fighting for a spot in the kingdom; there’s lions and hyenas. LA has taught me that in the most chaotic of times, if you stick to what you believe in and what you stand for longevity will be awarded to you.”
The heavily-inked barbers stock has continued to rise as he builds his brand incorporating all of his life experiences and passions. Authenticity remains at the heart of Julius Caesar and he implores all barbers to take a similar approach. He feels too many brands and individuals adhere to what others expect rather than what they really are.
“The best advice I can give to some looking to build a brand is find your own story, and when I say that I don’t mean make one up. Too many brands these days make up a story but there’s no core to brands like that. Seek inspiration through life experiences, from the high and lows. Filter out the excess features and build upon the foundation of what truly represents what the brand stands for. It’s important to have a true message and to stick behind it even if nobody else believes in it. Most brands that are successful organically grew from the roots up and those are the brands that hold longevity.”
ALL HAIL: The Pillars Club is the nucleus of the Julius Caesar brand and the culmination of his career and life thus far. More akin to an art gallery, the monochromatic Downtown LA loft is curated to create an elevated male grooming experience. The carefully chosen soundscape pleases the ears while the candles and incense excite the nostrils as you take a seat in the custom Takara Belmont Chair. It is, quite simply, like little else in the industry. Julius explains that the service he provides his client is as bespoke as the setting.
“It’s a private appointment-only curated space built not out of convenience but out of necessity. I humbly don’t see myself catering to a clientele that want just a haircut but specifically come see me to help mould their image. My client base don’t just come to because I’m available; they come to me because I build a strong professional rapport of manufacturing a custom tailored haircut/style made just for them. If you have ever seen the movie American Gangster, what I’m trying to give them is that Blue Magic. Once you get a tick ALL HAIL: The Pillars Club you only find it where it is made available.”
Julius is often asked about the expansion of his empire and his answer, much like him, evolves over time. He has built an impressive foundation for himself and now wants to conquer the world in both hair and other disciplines. He said he wouldn’t open another establishment until he is settled but when the time comes his next move is undoubtedly going to be game changing, and barbering is not the only game he is looking to change
“I want to continue to be involved in other lifestyle aspects and immerse myself more in fashion and brand consultation and development. I’d love to also take my experience as a men’s grooming educator and work towards transitioning into motivational speaking on platforms outside barbering. The future can be tomorrow or it can be five years from now. I’m just thankful for every day I can open up my eyes and take a breath of air again. We literally don’t know what day will be our last, so I plan and manifest for better tomorrows but at the same time live for the now. If I was to go at any moment, my goal is whatever legacy I do leave behind it was made with my whole heart.”
For the last eight years, Sofie Pok has worked diligently to perfect her craft under her international ‘Stay Gold’ brand. She has battled rigorously to overcome the industry’s inequalities and now stakes her claim as one of its leading figures.
2017 was a breakthrough year for the LA-based barber however the hair industry almost lost one of its leading figures before she had the chance to make her mark. Sofie initially studied cosmetology but admits she struggled to muster any real excitement for the craft. Before quitting in search of another creative outlet she took the bold step of transition to barbering.
“I thought before I give it all up, because I was just trying different things to see what kind of creative outlet that I could find,” she says. “And I was like ‘let me try men’s hair and see how that works’. I jumped into a barbershop and it was probably one of the most uncomfortable, intimidating moves working by myself as a female in a shop of all guys with way more experience than I had.”
At the time, Sofie was a minority within a minority: a female working in a male-dominated industry that was remained in the shadow of cosmetology. The young barber, however, found the excitement she craved and was driven to preserve and use the odds against. As a woman, she felt she had to come twice as hard to gain recognition and build a reputation for herself. In 2017, her hard work came to fruition when she claimed AIA’s Barber Of The Year, Behindthechair.com’s Men’s Shot of the Year and Barbercon’s Female Barber Of The Year.
Although such awards have been necessary to draw attention to the vast wealth of barbering talent you do wonder if they will continue now female barbers are no longer a novelty. Does the term ‘female barber’ and awards based on gender give credence to the idea that gender affects ability? Either way, Sofie now sees female barbers being taken more seriously and was especially proud to edge out her male counterparts at the American Influencer Awards.
“Women aren’t afraid to come into this world and hold their own,” Sofie says proudly. “It’s starting to change where people aren’t just saying, “oh, you’re good for a girl.’ No, you’re good, period. That’s what it should be; it shouldn’t be segregated. But it’s those little things that have pushed me to where I am now. You’ve got to use those moment to drive you even further.”
Sofie has used her personal journey to inspire others via her Stay Gold brand. The moniker is emblazoned across her knuckles and is further testament, should it be needed, to her dedication to the industry. Scroll through her Instagram page (@staygold31) and you will see tangible progression from her cuts to photography and videography. Sofie explains that it is important that her 222k followers find her relatable.
“It’s very real; I don’t sugar coat anything. Anything that has happened I express over the web to remind people that we all started in the same place and have the same struggles. I felt like I was the voice for a lot of people. If they felt like they couldn’t do something they could come to my page and find inspiration. People want to feel like it’s real and attainable rather than thinking ‘oh, I could never do that’.”
Her dedicated following, flawless work and infectious charisma make Sofie a marketer’s dream. International brands such as Mizutani, Takara Belmont and BaByliss have recruited the LA-based barber but authenticity remains at the heart of her work. She does not promote products she does not like. Although now a serious contender in the clipper market, Sofie is the first to admit that joining the brand was a risk, mainly because nobody she knew had ventured outside the brands that previously monopolized the market.
The risk, she says, was “one of the best decisions she ever made”. Sofie is now part of a roster of barbers that demonstrate the extensive BaByliss range of clippers. Spurred on by her experiences in her formative years, she says young barbers need to be educated about the tools they are using.
“I know what it was like when I started to just be given a pair of clippers, not knowing the specs or what was out there. I break down tools and knowledge because I think it’s important to know why we’re using it so we can do it better. We just share what works for us and usually people can connect to that because we’re not salesman. We want stuff that works for us and we’re not going to share it,” she says honestly.
Stay Gold’s effusive approach to education is rooted not only in her personal struggles but also a desire to gain greater recognition for the industry itself. As we all know, barbering was previously regarded as a low-paid, menial job that gained little respect from the wider creative community. Not any more. Sofie says that a shift in men’s attitudes towards male grooming has facilitated industry growth and put it more on par with cosmetology.
“A little bit ago guys weren’t into their hair as much and I feel like that stigma has gone. If they want to get that extra pampering like facials done it’s more acceptable. It’s not like the old days where guys would only cut their hair when they feel like it. They want to look good. They want to feel better and it’s changing men’s grooming so it matches up with the women’s side now. Before you could say there was more money in women’s hair, but now men are getting their haircut three or four times before a woman comes back for a haircut.”
Naturally, as the industry becomes more lucrative it becomes more competitive. Not only is the money now closer to cosmetology but also the respect and interest within the industry itself. Barbering has birthed a subculture and is no longer seen as a career path for the less academically inclined. Sofie says barbers can now hold their heads high when asked what they do for a living.
“Barbering, at the beginning, was looked at as if you worked in McDonalds. ‘Oh, you’re just a barber,’ they would say. I used to remember feeling that way. I felt embarrassed. Now I can say I’m a barber and people think that’s pretty cool. There are so many levels now. People are understanding the art; there’s a lot to encompass.”
KNOWN FOR HER EDGY, EDITORIAL CREATIONS, WHITNEY VERMEER HAS BECOME A HIGHLY RECOGNISED BARBER, PHOTOGRAPHER AND ANDIS PLATFORM ARTIST. BARBEREVO TALKED TO WHITNEY RECENTLY TO FIND OUT WHERE IT ALL STARTED AND WHAT SHE HOPES TO ACHIEVE IN THE FUTURE
“I’ve been doing hair for 10 years now,” says Whitney, who started out in cosmetology, covering everything from hair coloring to spa services. After two years of cosmetology, Whitney made the move to Minneapolis and began working under a barber who trained her in traditional barber methods.
Despite never going to barber college, Whitney took an unique approach to her own education. “I didn’t get to finish my training, so what I started doing was taking pictures of my work and then critiquing it, training myself to get better at cutting,” she explains.
What started as a self-teaching method quickly developed into a passion, and photography is something that now plays a huge role in Whitney’s life. Known for her unique portfolio of photography, she says she would do a shoot a week if she could!
She certainly has her own style and anyone that follows her on Instagram or has seen her body of work, knows she loves to work in black and white. “I love those kinds of images. I’m always attracted to artwork in black and white too so it just felt right. When people want me to do a color shoot, I always think to myself ‘yeah that looks cool but it would look so much cooler in black and white’.”
At her studio in Minneapolis, Whitney splits her time between cutting clients and styling and shooting her editorial work. “My ultimate goal is to be focusing solely on visuals and spending less time behind the chair with clients,” says Whitney. For now, though, she still has a pretty long list of loyal clients. “I’ve been working with most of my clients for about three years now, but I only work behind the chair three days a week and I’ve gone down from around 300 clients to about 40-60.”
How then, did she go from a career in cosmetology to a client list of 300? “I guess what’s really funny is I still don’t really feel like a big success. I always put out what I want to put out when it comes to my work, I like to push boundaries. I always say my goal is not to be the best at something, it’s to change perceptions and that’s what’s most important to me.”
What certainly put Whitney on the map was her win at the North American Hairstyling Awards in 2017, where she was crowned Men’s Hairstylist of the Year. “Winning that award got me a lot of exposure, but I’m not going to enter that category again. My goal is to win Hairstylist of the year. Ideally, I’d like to try to win every category!”
Whitney specializes in cutting short hair, whether that’s on men, women or non-binary individuals. “When I first started cutting men’s hair, a lot of people asked me if I was just doing it because it was easy, but it’s not and I really wanted to show them that it was an artform. I feel a responsibility to help push the industry further that way.”
In her quest to push the industry into the spotlight, Whitney has involved herself more and more in education over the years, and last October she became a platform artist for leading clipper brand, Andis.
“I’ve always only used Andis, it’s always been my go-to. I am longtime lover of their products and when I started meeting people from the company, I saw how passionate they were about family and I just fell in love with the brand.”
“I’ve been using them ever since I got out of cosmetology school. My favorite one is the Super ZR, but anything from their cordless range really. When I first started cutting with cordless, it changed the way that I cut hair because I just wasn’t restricted anymore.”
As well as her role as a Platform Artist, her proficiency in styling and shooting editorial has opened up even more opportunities with the clipper brand, creating editorial work for both herself and Andis. “It’s more or less coming up with unique haircuts using the Andis range, while also creating some more dynamic shots of the products themselves,” explains Whitney.
The project will allow her to organize shoots with other artists, as well as putting together two photo- and video-based shoots a year for Andis, creating the concept and assigning different roles to other members of the Andis team. “It’s really awesome, I’m so excited about it!”
It’s safe to say Whitney likes herself busy, as on top of her editorial and educational work with Andis and her 40+ client list, she is currently developing her own product line, from hair care to even clothing and lifestyle, giving part of any proceeds to a yet to be decided anti-bullying foundation.
Outside of her professional goals, Whitney is also really passionate about supporting women in the barbering industry. “One of the things I’m really passionate about is taking gender away from everything, it’s not a men’s haircut, it’s a short haircut. I’m working on some new initiatives with Andis to support women in barbering culture and I’m really excited about that.”