Craig the Barber is a renowned grooming expert and barber as well as the creator of TheMensRoom.com, which is a grooming blog for men.
In this interview, Craig shares the story of how he became a barber and grooming expert, insights into his experiences as a barber, the biggest mistakes guys make when it comes to grooming, grooming tips, and even his own grooming routines.
Can you give us an overview of what you do and what your current endeavors are?
Craig the Barber: Sure, absolutely. Well, I go by "Craig the Barber" - that’s my trade name.
Been cutting hair since I was 14 years old, and basically, my goal as a barber is to enlighten all of my clients - as well as many consumers as possible - to the skillset of a barber and how it goes beyond just cutting hair and shaving.
And I decided to do that with TheMensRoom.com. Basically, it's a website designated for all things grooming from a barber's perspective.
And I felt that if men decided - and started to realize how important it is - to take care of themselves beyond just a quick haircut and a shave, I felt there was a great opportunity to enlighten them into other things as far as skincare, how to properly shave, body care, and everything related to looking good.
And so, I've been able to do that since 2009 when I started TheMensRoom.com, and from there, it's morphed into me being a person of expertise when it came to magazines inquiring about more things about men's grooming, more things about men, what's changing, so I've been involved with Men's Health, GQ, Details, Ebony, Essence – tons of magazines asking me for advice.
Over the course of the years, I've also done quite a bit of consulting with men's grooming companies about being a spokesperson as well as how to improve their products.
Now, it's basically grown into being a source of all things men's grooming, also being a source to help men's grooming continue to grow in the direction it's growing as far as products and things of that nature.
And my latest endeavor is more in a virtual space [in which] I am looking to build on what I've been doing for several years now – this face shape reporting service. Men... across the world have always asked me what's the best look for beard styles and hairstyles, and you know, a lot of it is based on how your face is shaped. And how that haircut can accommodate them.
And so, through the course of the years, I've helped many men do that - and I decided to create a virtual service [in which] I produce a report from 8-10 pages of all the haircuts that work best for you, what to avoid, all the beard styles that work best for you and what to avoid as it relates specific to your face shape.
So at the end of the day, what happens is you will always have haircuts that compliment your face and your facial features and beard styles that complement your facial features. And whenever a new trend comes, you can easily cancel it out or adopt it to how it would work best for you. And so, I think a very helpful tool to a lot of men considering they're unaware of how important it is to have a look to accompany the hair style.
That's the newest endeavor on top of the fact that I'm still – I'm a barber, and I still take care of my clients, and I have new clients every month. And so I'm staying in the business so I can be very familiar with how the trends are coming and going, and I'm also still dabbling in consulting spaces as well.
So I've got multiple jobs, which is a lot of fun.
How did you get into cutting hair when you were 14?
Craig the Barber: Great question! Well, you know, 14 years-old, you're basically between 13-14 - you're still in high school. And you know, for most men, it's all about looking good, looking good for the ladies, so I wanted to get a haircut as often as possible so I could continue to look good.
I did have a nice growth spurt from eighth grade 'til ninth. And so I had a head start to feel a lot more confident in myself, and I wanted the haircut to also endorse that look. And so, I wanted a haircut every week. As often as I could.
But my parents didn't feel that that was that important, especially since they had to pay for it. So my dad... bought a pair of clippers for me, gave it to me, and said "Well, pair of clippers – just figure out how to cut your hair, and you can cut your hair as often as you want!"
And so, through the course of a couple of weeks I went ahead and I visited a barbershop, watched them how they cut hair - and after a couple of weeks of confidence, gave it a shot and messed up terribly. Terribly. And I had to rush to the barbershop to get it fixed, and the barber showed me what I did wrong.
And as the weeks progressed, I got better and better. And then from there, I started cutting my friends' hair. I played football, so I cut my... football teammates' hair. I ran track so I did the same thing. And so it just morphed from there.
And I went on to college and did the same thing to make extra money. And after I graduated college, I got into the corporate world, shying away from barbering to try out the corporate setting for quite some time, and always cut hair on the side.
And then one day I decided to leave it all.
What's the most interesting thing about being a barber to you?
Craig the Barber: I think the most interesting thing for me... is the conversation.
I love to talk, and I love to give advice - especially if I know what I'm talking about. And a lot of my clients also like to talk, like to get advice - and it seems to be that every day that I cut one of my customer's hair, I seem to get smarter.
In some way, shape, or form, they seem to know me more - and it becomes more of a friendship as opposed to just being a client-barber relationship.
And so that's what gets me up in the morning is that conversation. The haircut, and the shave are the end result of that amazing conversation, but... that what keeps me – keeps refreshing me, always having great dialogue.
It doesn't really matter what it is. Could be politics, could be sports, could be girls – could be whatever a customer wants to talk about. For that period of time, it's he and I, and we're having a fully-engaged, awesome conversation.
What are the questions you get most often from your customers?
Craig the Barber: Oh, oh boy! Most of the time, because they know of my background, most of the time it does relate to all the things that I've shared on the website and shared with everything.
So it's basically 'what's the best haircut for me, and do you think we should change it?' 'You think we should go with this?' 'What about a new trend, you think that will work on my face?'
The beard thing is big now – 'do you think a beard will work for me? How do I maintain it?' It's all those types of questions.
I would say the most common are... 1) 'what's the best haircut for me?' 2) 'how do I get this shave to last longer than a day?'
Those are two biggest questions for me. Both answers can be very broad or very specific, depending on the customer.
In your opinion, what are the top 2 or 3 biggest mistakes that guys make when it comes to grooming?
Craig the Barber: Biggest mistake, number one, trying to wear a hairstyle that doesn't fit you.
Everyone wants to look like the hottest actor out there - and choosing the hairstyle that does not look best on them.
And so, unfortunately, most barbers still - at this stage - are not comfortable enough with their clients to say 'I don't think that's gonna work for you.' So, you know, they're cutting their hair and just giving them a haircut. And it ends up being everyone looking the exact same way. That's the biggest mistake – trying to adopt a haircut that does not fit your facial features.
Second mistake, when it comes to barbering, when it comes to a customer's perspective, the second biggest mistake would probably be in the shaving category. We rush - we're men - we like to do everything fast for the most part. We rush through everything, and their biggest mistake is not realizing how sensitive their skin is when it comes to shaving.
I tell guys all the time, "Hey, you're running a sharp blade across your face. Think about that for a moment."
And realizing then, most men, when it comes to a beard, it's about 50% of their face. So if you do bad on that 50% of your face, you have to act with just your nose and up. So if you destroyed the bottom half from the neck up to your nose, that doesn't look attractive.
And then you're having to deal with repair and whatever that looks like – it could be scarring, it could be bumps, it could be everything. Ingrown hairs – all up and down; razor rash. And a lot of these things cause a big issue on the face, and it takes quite a bit of time to repair. And so the biggest mistake is not taking time to truly shave properly to keep your entire face looking consistently sharp. So those are the two biggest – top of the head to the bottom of the face...
If there was a third one, the third mistake that most men... have is they don't give themselves enough time. And this is completely outside the grooming space, just basically has to do with the barber-customer relationship.
We are men, we do things very differently, and the other world - as far as the hairstyle's concerned - you would have a woman book an appointment and know a month from now, she needs this service. Men, they'll look in the mirror and say 'I need a haircut – can you get me in today?'
And so, what happens is, it ends up being a rushed situation, and sometimes you're not maximizing the talents of the barber because he's rushing you in and rushing you out, and so it doesn't necessarily give you the opportunity to have that conversation about "Is this a good haircut for me? Iis this a good beard style for me?"
If you could just give one grooming tip for guys, what would it be?
Craig the Barber: Slow down. That's everything. That's with grooming, that's with truly taking your time to choose the right haircut that best fits you.
I can just throw this little caveat here – we live in a world of instant recognition of if you look good or if you look bad. We have a lot of dating sites. Match.com, Tinder, whatever it may be. You have a nanosecond to look good to that young lady. Or whoever it is. Right?
And so, if you do it right, you may get a date. If you do it wrong, you're "out" Saturday night.
And so it's so important to take the time and say 'Okay, what best fits me overall? If I slow down and learn what best haircuts fit me and work best, if I could slow down I could figure out how to shave and make my face look overall healthy.'
With grooming products, what specifically do you look for in them?
Craig the Barber: The most important thing I look for when it comes to shaving is lather-based shaving creams. I'm not a big fan of lotion-based shaving creams, primarily because most lotion-based shaving creams just do not have the capability of keeping the face moist throughout the entire shave.
And so if you're sticking with lather-based shaving creams, I'm looking heavy moisture. Ingredients - glycerin is a solid product in there and sometimes non-fragrance. I look for... healthy ingredients such as almond seed oil, chamomile, things that are going to calm the skin, things that are going to promote healthy skin repair.
Those are products that essentially work the best with lather-based shaving creams while the shaving cream is keeping the skin moist, the ingredients are also healing the skin in the process. So that's the type of shaving cream that I look for.
I never shave any customer or myself without a pre-shave oil. So typically that pre-shave oil also has repair capabilities as well. That's in the shaving category.
When it comes to hair... I stay away from alcohol in all products. I'm a big fan of multi-faceted hair products. So basically hair products that can do more than just one thing.
I know guys typically don't like to have their bathroom filled with 4-5 different hair products. So a product that can have multiple uses, that can style your hair for the business setting, and can also style your hair for the party scene.
It's a really good way to reduce the number of products that you need to purchase and stick with versatile products that you can do multiple hairstyles with and [you] don't have to worry about stacking up the closet full of products that essentially you only use once when you're wearing that style.
What does your daily grooming routine look like?
Craig the Barber: Good question. My daily grooming routine is actually, well, it's simple to me cause I've done it for so long. But typically, I do have a day-time regimen and an evening regiment.
So the daytime regimen... just washing my face – I always use a face wash (outside of a body wash). And then I always use a skincare product – a moisturizer, face moisturizer outside of a body moisturizer. So I stay away from body lotions on my face. Anything from the neck down, I use a body lotion. From the neck up, I use a face lotion.
I'm getting a little older in age, so I wrote a little article about eye creams and do they work, and my biggest response to "do they work?" is it's kind of like stretching. You don't know you needed to stretch until you can't move and you can't bend down.
As far as eye cream is concerned for me, I don't know if it works but I'm going to use it because I want to keep that area of my face as healthy-looking as possible without as many lines as possible. So I always have an eye cream and a moisturizer in the day-time.
Evening time, I typically like to exfoliate my skin at least 3 times a week. If I'm not exfoliating my skin with an exfoliate, I am using the products of a company called Lab Series that makes a really good product called Multi-Action Face Wash. And basically, it has really, really fine granules that you can literally exfoliate your skin on a daily basis.
And so I use that product day and night, a lot of times to wash my face - and I also follow with a moisturizer in the evening, typically especially when I'm getting ready to do an event and things of that nature, I prep a month before, and I always use a very specific night-time moisturizer that actually is heavy in Retinol-A, and it helps to really promote the skin's health and suppleness. The most repair that's going on in your body is when you're sleeping.
And that's overall. Whether you're working out or whether you're just taking care of your skin, and so typically I go with products that promote the healing process. And so I stay with a night-time cream and also an eye cream as well. And keep doing it the next morning!
How can people learn more about you and find out what you're up to?
Craig the Barber: Sure. You can find me at CraigTheBarber.com. I have a really good resume on that website, [and] you can look and see the Face Shape Reporting as well as consulting opportunities that are there.
And from there, you'll be led to TheMensRoom.com or you could just go directly to TheMensRoom.com for all the advice I've given in today's interview and then some.
Step Up Your Grooming Game
Thanks to Craig for sharing his story - and, of course, for all of the great grooming advice. If you'd like to learn more about him and get some more grooming tips from him, make sure you check out both of his sites.
And if you're interested in learning more from Craig and other grooming experts, check out the "Grooming Blogs Toolkit" - which is a list of 17 blogs that can help you get started with better grooming.
Or you can get a free download of the "Grooming Blogs Toolkit" by clicking on the image below: