Andrew Carruthers, education director for Sam Villa, interviews Mikey Denton, owner of Brick and Mortar Grooming and Supply barbershop in Portland, Oregon, who dishes about social media, continuing education and current hair trends.
What’s happening in the men’s market right now?
From 2011 to 2012 there was a real old school vibe...an “Inglourious Basterds” high and tight look; then it went to a “Mad Men”-inspired polished style; and now we’re seeing a mix of looks, a lot of them longer styles. And guys are paying more, expecting more and even blow-drying their own hair. Men still like close cuts, but many don’t want the clipper shelf effect. Those who were requesting fades now want textured, longer elements that they can tuck behind their ears. They’re asking for more external length—some to the shoulder, with movement and body—but still masculine-looking.
How has the men’s market benefited from social media?
Guests are more specific [about what they want] due to social media. Clients follow me to see my work and to see me explain how to achieve the looks. They can find exactly what style they’re looking for on social and request 1⁄2 guard on sides, razor- or point-cutting the top...they actually understand and ask for it!
Do you feel that there’s a crossover of barbers inspiring stylists to get creative with clippers, and for barbers to be more proficient with shears?
It used to be that if you worked at a salon you weren’t allowed to use clippers, and on the flip side, barbers only used clippers and guards. I was trained on both, so when I went from working in a salon to a barbershop, my coworkers made fun of me for my point-cutting and razor work, but I let it roll off because I was doing more dynamic work because of it. But last year there was a big push for both stylists and barbers to get more educated on different tools. Now, a lot of barbers are attending workshops on sectioning and shear work because there’s been a shift toward precision-cutting with shears among barbers, and they’re having to work with more clean, thin sections, and advanced shear techniques like slide-cutting.
Is there an ideal shear for barbers?
There are so many options! Like finding the right shoe size, it’s a personal thing—you just have to find your best fit. Many would say a 7-inch shear, but that can be too long for the top of the head. I usually suggest an all-around 6 or 61⁄2-inch shear that can be used on wet or dry hair, so it’s good for scissor-over-comb and the top of the head.
How do you suggest barbers stay educated?
It’s easy to find online educational platforms: Sam Villa’s education platform is great. And you can find anything on YouTube— monthly subscriptions for haircuts and even live education; there’s no reason not to watch and learn!
When I first started working at a barbershop, I took a class from Sam Villa on braiding. I have no idea why I signed up, but I did. When the class broke for lunch, I stayed to practice. Sam came over and noticed that I was struggling with the braiding technique. He asked where I was from, and when I responded “a barbershop,” he asked why I was in his class. At that point I realized that I was there to learn something new—anything new. I was such a fan of his that I wanted to learn from him. Curiosity and the willingness to challenge yourself is what makes you better.
Do you find that men are interested in the overall salon experience?
It’s all about the experience! You have to be prepared for anything nowadays because most clients don’t just care about the end result; they want a professional guiding the way.
I have a pretty regimented consultation process and booking strategy, but I always take the time to explain what I’m doing and which products I’m using. It’s a soft pitch, and at checkout, before you can even suggest retail to clients, they’re asking you again about what you did and they’re putting it on the counter. Don’t ask your guests about what products they use. You paid a lot of money for a license, so you should make the call on what they need!
A client once said, “Mikey, I love what you do in the beginning and end; it makes the service worth it—the haircut is just the bonus!” It really is all about the experience...and that’s something Amazon and online platforms can’t take away.
[Image: Courtesy of Mickey Denton]
This story first appeared in the Winter issue of MAN magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.