Today we’ll be discussing our interview with October’s barber of the month — Errol Baker. Errol — also known as "The Fox" — was kind enough to answer some of the questions we had for him, including how he got started in the barbering industry, his current thoughts on the barbering industry, and how he set up his Empire Bay-base d barbershop "Fox & Blade".
How did Fox & Blade start?
“We’ve been here two years today! Two years today we got the keys to the shop”.
Errol took a break from running his own barbering business, between 2004–2017, when he realised that he was missing out on spending precious time with his children — working on weekends had taken over his family life. The final straw was missing out on a Saturday sporting event where his daughter was successful. Which is when he vowed never to miss out on the activities his kids were partaking in ever again. After several years from being directly involved in running his own shop, Errol was hungry to give it a go again, and Fox & Blade was born!
How long have you been in the industry?
In total, Errol has been involved in barbering on & off for over 40 years! Errol landed his first job in a shop "building fishing rods and repairing fishing rods" in 1978, aged just 13. The shop also had a barber station, where the owner would use all the traditional barbering methods — this is what inspired Errol to explore the art of barbering.
After leaving school in 1981 and travelling around Australia for nine months, Errol arrived back in his hometown and needed a job. He was offered a position at a recently taken-over barbershop in Ettalong, NSW.
Here, he worked as an apprentice to a master of the barbering craft — Garry Brands. In 1984, Garry announced he was closing the shop, leaving Errol in a tricky position. "Luckily, I was cutting the local bank manager's hair at the time" who decided to raise funds, enabling Errol to buy the business.
Renaming the shop "Errol's", the business was run successfully from 1984–2004. In 2004, Errol decided to take a step away from the barbering industry, although he still taught barbering skills on occasion.
When did traditional barbering pick up again?
"That probably picked up three years ago..". When we asked Errol what he thought the reason for this was, he simply responded "Hipsters".
He went on to suggest that the resurgence in beards as a fashion trend played a massive role in revitalising the barbering industry. "Hairdressers don't have the time or know-how to do it so what was left of the barbering industry then started taking off again."
What’s the difference between a hairdresser & a barber?
“It’s the art of razor — it’s the art of hot towels.”
Talking about the barbering industry as a whole, Errol suggested: "we have to evolve". Stating barbers must know their way around a pair of scissors, as well as a razor.
“There’s always gonna be short hair...but we need to be, probably, taking a leaf out of the American barbershop book and become more adapted to longer hair”.
Another interesting point that Errol touched on was that barbers have a considerable role to play in mental health. "We've got a big part to play in men's health. People will come in here and dump what's on their shoulders onto a barber".
Do you have any concerns about the industry?
"The biggest problem we've got now is were heading the same way as we did in the mid-'90s.."
Errol pointed out that there's a huge number of talented barbers with excellent clippers skills. However, if tasked with using scissors to tackle a longer haircut, they could be in trouble.
He went on to say that "there's a lot of good guys out there who are great with clippers, but if we start going back to longer hair...we're gonna be in the same situation again unless barbering in the next 2–3 years starts to evolve with longer hair again".
What advice would you give someone starting out as a barber?
Don't get caught up in thinking that the lifestyle is something it's not". He went to suggest "If you're gonna get caught up in the lifestyle, look for longevity”.
He expanded on his point by saying that barbers should develop their skills to ensure longevity in the industry — stating that all barbers should learn how to use scissors and cut long hair.
Errol also suggested that new barbers should take a look at what other industry professionals are doing — especially barbers in the Netherlands — to see how they’re evolving the industry.
“The way to look for longevity it to be able to cut everyone’s hair”.
If you were to recommend a product to a customer which one would it be?
Errol suggested a few products that he likes, including the Morgan's range of hair styling products. However Errol made it clear he loves giving everything a go and experimenting, and displays many brands in his shop.
Have you cut the hair of any famous people?
“The lady out of ‘Prisoner’ — the prison guard...I can’t remember her name...Maggie Kirkpatrick!”. “I did Russell Crowe’s hair..before it got shaved off for ‘Romper Stomper’”.
Errol’s wife, Eileen, also pointed out that Errol has cut a lot of celebrities father’s hair, as well as professional footballers & rugby league players.
Finally, do you have any amusing stories to tell BarberCo?
"...I actually cut someone with a comb". He explained, "I had a very elderly gentleman come in straight out of hospital, and he'd been laying on his ear for about 4–5 weeks — so the skin was soft — and I kinda just brushed it with a comb...I could have cried".
Thank you Errol & Eileen for talking with BarberCo!