Written by Rob Marlowe

G’day Barber friends!

Hope you are all keeping well at this busy time of year and taking full advantage of the festive season, after a unique and challenging 2020!

On a positive note, we can look at data from the last 5-years and see the growth of an industry, as revenue continues to increase at an annual rate. Population growth has helped by providing barbers with a greater customer base and the industry is generating more money per head, as more specialised services are on offer and the average cost of a haircut has gone up.

Looking forward to the next five years, I don’t foresee any downturn or dimming of the lights anytime soon. The barber is an important place to go in the community, above and beyond somewhere to just get your hair styled. Studies have shown how important it can be for men’s mental health to have a safe place to talk – men’s business. I believe men face a lot of the same or similar issues and by identifying that we are not alone in these feelings, we can feel less isolated and that these problems are not unique to an individual. At least for a couple of weeks until the next cut!

My point is this; I have said before and I will say again that “on almost every Australian high street you can be sure to find at least one cafe and one barber shop, if not several of each”.  Surely this shows the importance and significance these businesses have on the community.

Looking back at a year just gone, The Cutthroat Journal team can safely say it’s been a bit like running on a treadmill, going nowhere fast. Hard to keep positive when so many industry colleagues are battling to stay afloat. I hope the government grants and landlords have been supportive for you all. Especially you Melburnians!

We started the year on a high from the Barber Expo, which we produced and ran alongside the Barber Brands (BB) Barber of the Year Competition in 2019, at the Smoked Garage in Briz-Vegas. Abbey, our ‘Creative Art Shining Light Director’ went full steam ahead with the production of The Cutthroat Journal (CTJ) Issue 18.

In the meantime, I organised our Barber Expo and heats for BB Barber of the Year in NZ at the Meatstock Festival in Feb. Although this was CTJ’s 2nd time around, it was personally my first opportunity to say Kia ora to Auckland (land of the long white cloud) to meet the bros, and I can safely say a highlight to my year! It was ‘Sweet as Aye’! I loved the hospitality and rocked out to Katchafire with their first time in a while performing back on home soil. As a keen fan of mussels, I feasted on the best green-lipped mussels, chips and Belgium beer that I have ever had the pleasure to experience, which has left me craving to go back for more. We can easily say we found the barbering industry and community to be strong and as passionate as their Aussie cuz-es.

And then it happened, we returned to Australia to Covid-19 and shortly after, lockdown. We are so proud of the CTJ magazine and in a digital age were proud that we still had the upper hand in a sexy, hard copy publication format that was appreciated by the industry, whereby Barbers could read and enjoy as an industry tool and could also be left around for their clients to read while waiting for their cuts and shaves. Alas, since then the idea of dozens of folk sharing and leafing through the same magazine gave a whole new meaning to the ‘dirty magazine’. In the same sentence we became somewhat defunct almost overnight.

Not to be beaten, Abbey and the CTJ team produced Issue 18 as a digital copy, with one of my favourite and confronting front covers, featuring Leigh Winsor (winner of BB Barber of the Year Competition 2019) wearing a surgical mask, while remaining uber cool and evocative. However, some of the impact and traction was lost, being in digital format only.

All expos were cancelled due to the pandemic, as well as our longed-for repeat performance of the Barber Expo at the Smoked Garage, Brisbane, which we were then to culminate in Sydney for the last Barber Expo and finals of the BB Barber Wars. We still managed to produce CTJ Issue 19, in a digital format with very little funding, additionally we have kept our communication going through our partners, weekly EDM’s and website.

In between the unknown, we decided to put our best foot forward and run an online barbering competition. Although prizes were on offer, it was a challenge for barbers to enter during their lockdown. We had a fantastic response, it was great fun going through the process of judging the winners and it was such joy to have a clear unanimous winner in Stacey Cox from Ryan Co. in Brisbane. Well-done Stacey, such a worthy winner for the year!

Determined to continue into 2021 in this men’s barber space (please let me clarify when I say ‘men’s barber space’, I don’t discount all the amazing women who are a vital and equally skilful part of the industry. I just mean to say the majority of clientele are men). We have huge plans to help contribute, grow and give the industry somewhere to hang their Snapback Capz, with publishing and exciting events.

I wish to thank my MD Sean Edwards, for keeping the team together through his commitment and passion for the industry. I also wish to thank our loyal partners Barber Brands, Osaka Scissors, Shortcuts, Area Academy, Royal Enfield and the Australian Hairdressing Council, for their support. Finally and most importantly to you, the barbering community, for showing great resilience and fight in keeping your businesses alive and for continuing to follow and support us in this most challenging of years.