Tariq Howes, Babyliss Pro Ambassador and owner at Avenue Male Grooming, Cardiff, chats to MB about his start in the barbering industry industry and what keeps him motivated.
What led you to a job in the barbering industry?
I got into barbering when I was 16 when I finished school. I spent the first two or three months doing nothing until my Mum had had enough. She woke me up one morning and threatened me to hurry up and get a job. I went to the local job centre, and I saw a barbering apprenticeship at a salon on the job board. It stood out to me so I applied – I didn’t think I would get the job, but my Auntie’s best friend was the niece of the guy who owned the salon, so she pretty much made sure I got the job. Then I stuck with it because I’m scared of my auntie!
What inspired you along the way and sparked your passion?
At first, I thought working in the barbering industry looked easy – like most people think it is but (obviously) it’s very hard. You’re working very long hours on your feet doing technically hard work, but I instantly fell in love with it and fell in love with the trade and the creativity of it. It was the best kind of mistake I made falling into it. One day they booked me onto a L’Oréal cutting course at the salon and I really enjoyed it. I was only there because the salon made me go, I didn’t do ladies hair, but this course gave me a passion for the craft behind it and I felt like I could do that style of cutting more. I can’t remember the name of the guy who was teaching me but about a year later he won Hairdresser of the Year and I remember watching on TV and seeing him win. He’d been really kind to me and told me I had a natural talent and should think about going into ladies’ hair – which I never did but it drove me to push myself in other ways.
Were you aware of what else was going on in the industry at that point?
The guys who I worked for in the salon had won world championships back in the seventies and eighties. They didn’t do live cutting events when I was there, and I had no idea else was out there, so it wasn’t until the boom of Instagram, not even social media, Instagram specifically that the barbering industry grew, and we started seeing what other people were doing from other parts of the world and across the country. You could see events like Salon International, which had been going for years but I was in my little barber shop in Cardiff, I wouldn’t have known about it without Instagram.
Do you use social media a lot in your work?
For my salon it helps me find new clients and gives a wider reach through different neighbouring towns and cities and even connecting with people across Britain. The more people you meet the bigger your reach, the more opportunities you get.
How did you go from the barber shop to working on photoshoots and fashion shows?
I was going to shows and messaging people asking if they needed assistance, and I just kept knocking at the door. I got in touch with Jodie Taylor, who’s become a mentor and a good friend, and he said I could assist on a GQ shoot. Being able to see how the whole day worked just blew me away and I knew from that first day that I wanted to do more of it.
How did you learn to make your voice heard on shoots?
Shadowing Jodie and seeing how he behaved on set was a great lesson. He taught me that I should always be concentrating, checking the hair isn’t moving in a certain direction for example and that I shouldn’t be scared to jump in and fix the model or artist’s hair.
How do you balance your time?
That’s probably the hardest part for me. It excites me when I’ve got a photoshoot and I’m travelling to London or going abroad but I genuinely miss my shop when I’m away for long periods of time. I love the environment and I love cutting hair. On the other hand, when you travel you get to see different styles and fashion.
Are you interested in educating and sharing what you have learnt so far in your career?
Definitely, it’s just a case of waiting for the right time. I’m enjoying what I’m doing with my career, and I want to keep doing bigger and better things. When I’m ready I want to be able to dedicate the time to set up a course and do it properly. I want to create a programme that covers all aspects of hair such as session and editorial work, backstage work at fashion shows as well as TV and film. I’d love to be able to coach people in the industry and take it even further with business advice, career paths and how to navigate those.
You can check out our previous 10 Minute Chat with the Founders of STMNT here.