Behind the scenes of the barber industry in NYC

by Curvel Baptiste  |  Jun 19, 2018

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It’s a sunny but cool day in June and the best keep secret in New York City is going down in Queens, right outside the heartbeat of Manhattan. When you enter the parking lot of this convention, you wouldn’t be the first person to wonder “what’s going on here?” The Bentleys, BMW-M series, and other luxury cars are all carefully parked to create an image of exclusivity, but you also can’t help but notice the countless Lyft and Uber drivers dropping off people who are arriving in droves.  WELCOME TO BARBERCON.
Stepping forward toward the convention and you instantly feel the presence of the on-site security, a clear and precise voice asks, “can I help you?” Responding, you say “I’m here for the convention.” Doing their job, security retorts “do you have a ticket?” Without missing a beat, you say “No… but I have a VIP pass.” Suddenly everything shifts as the security guard points you in the direction of the door. Entering the large, brick, venue, you immediately notice it’s raw feel–the high ceilings with open beams shows off its bones and masculinity. Large windows allow for sunlight to stream in, forming puddles of light on the beautifully polished concrete floors.
Its load, Its buzzing, full of people from all walks of life. Trinidad James’ smash hit, All Gold Everything, comes to mind: “Dark skinned, light skinned, Asian and White women; Hypebeasts we know aboutchea’; don’t buy shoes unless they popular.” The talk is loud and an abundance of connections are being made. And the music… the music is on point. A quick glimpse around the venue and you see product displays, mascots, a fully stocked bar serving specialty mixers, and fashion. You notice the street wear influences crossed with designer brands–and streetwise attitude meets classic, with casual clothes like Anti-Social Social Club hoodies, Supreme tees, and dope ass kicks mixed in with the likes of Gucci, Balenciaga and Prada. Everyone is tatted and fashionable, wearing their artistic visions on their body and their heads. Just like your girl drags you to the Museum of Ice Cream for instagram-able pics, this convention is all you need to blow up your social media.
The DJ stops the music at the perfect moment, hyperaware of the beat, to allow the MC the freedom to do his thing. With a crowd with full energy, his voice cuts through and demands attention: “Are you ready?!”  All eyes turn to the celebrity barber demonstrating a live haircut on stage. You can hear the noise of his Andis wireless clippers working as he explains his techniques. Sharp lines cut into the side of a smooth fade and it is clear this an artist, a pioneer of craft. Scanning the venue, it is also apparent that there is a new movement within the industry: women are among the ranks, breaking boundaries when men have dominated the barbering space for generations. Regardless of gender though, what is without question is the resurgence of the grooming industry. These barbers are making bank… like, straight up six figure salaries. They travel the world on private jets, meeting their clients wherever their skills are required.
It’s a new wave within an untapped industry full of cultural entrepreneurs. These barbers are sponsored like professional athletes, using specific products that align with their brand, to tell their story. They are influencers, boasting huge social media followings, changing the dynamics of an industry once looked down upon as the job of our grandfathers. But don’t be mistaken. They’ve always been here, quietly shaping the cultural fabric of their communities one cut, or one shave, at a time. From your local pastor to some of the most influential artist, athletes, and major public figures–everyone needs a haircut now and then. WELCOME TO THE BARBER INDUSTRY.

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