Life of a Stylist – Being an In-demand Afro Barber with Slidercuts
The Hairdressing industry is so varied that it can be hard to know what path to follow.
For the Life of a Stylist Series we have exclusively tracked down hair professionals from a variety of industry positions from tour stylists to A-list Afro barbers so that you can gain insight into the breadth of the industry. This week we spoke to Mark Maciver aka Slidercuts, a stylist with two decades experience in the barbering industry.
What was your route into hair?
I first picked up the clippers when I was 14 years old. My Mum and my older brothers used to cut my hair as we couldn’t afford to go to the barbers. So, when all my school friends had the hot, new cuts and the sharp skin fades, there I was with a plain number 2 – all around – which almost made me look like I hadn’t had a haircut. And as a young guy growing up in London, I wanted one of those slick cuts. So, I took matters into my hands, quite literally.
For hours, I would sit in the barbershop, watch how they’d cut hair, look at the tools they’d use and just ask questions. I took what I saw and learnt, and then practiced on my family and friends, until my craft was perfected. Within a couple of years, I had a pretty robust client list, to the point where if people couldn’t make it to the barber shop, guys would say “go and see Slider.” At 18, once the foundation was there, I started my professional career. I got an internship in the shop that I now co-run.
How did you build your reputation?
Essentially, it was through giving good haircuts – cut by cut, person by person. One customer would tell a friend, and then that friend would tell their friend and then pretty quickly, my customer-base grew. Word of mouth was key in the early days, but when the internet developed and social media came along, it boosted my platform in a way that allowed my reputation to spread faster and wider. Now, I have customers from all over London, and in fact, from all over the world. And they come to get their hair cut because of the reputation I have built both online and offline. To complement the reputation of my craft, giving a good, professional and consistent service – alongside efficiency, reliability and trustworthiness – has been key to maintaining my reputation.
There can be a lack of professionalism in the Black barbering industry (which gives Black barbering a bad name), and more often than not, this assumption is a reality. So, people appreciate that I uphold a high standard of service, which has helped me to reach the level that I have. Nevertheless, if I wasn’t known for giving good haircuts then I wouldn’t have built the reputation that I have now.
What is the world of Afro barbering like?
The barbershop and the world of Afro barbering is an integral part of the Black British experience. As barbers, we’re at the heart of our community – we foster a place of family, lively debate and comedy, plus authentic friendships. The dynamics at play in the world of Afro barbering – where you genuinely invest into the lives of your clients – are unlike any I’ve seen amongst our counterparts. And it’s this sense of community that I love. On the flipside, however, the Black barbering industry in the UK is lagging behind its counterparts in the European barbering world.
When it comes to developing products and building barbering franchises, as a collective, we are yet to reach the heights of some of our peers. Historically, we haven’t had the same advantages and opportunities afforded to us, and, in fact, through bad teaching – or not being taught at all – we haven’t been incorporated the business-side of barbering into our craft. Having said that, with myself and the new generation of barbers that are coming to fore, we are definitely beginning to change that.
What are your top tips for future talent that want to get into Afro barbering?
These days, barbering has become a staunchly competitive business. There are waves of young guys coming up saying they want to be a barber. They are aspiring to get into the business from a young age, so they’re serious about it. With the barbering world becoming smaller because of social media, we’re not just competing with the people in our boroughs, or cities, or even countries; the standards we’re competing with and against are at an international level. So my advice to anyone wanting to get into this field would be not to focus on chasing money, but focus on perfecting your craft – make this your main concern. By focusing on a good product, you are almost guaranteed to make money. Everyone wants a good haircut, and ultimately, that’s the pinnacle we have to strive for.
What’s your barbering philosophy?
Focusing on your craft. Most important to focus on that and everything else will follow from and branch off from it. I believe you’re always in an interview and every interaction is such. You can’t pick and choose the times when you want to be good because you can never know which interaction is going to be the one to give you your break.
Punctuality is important matched with the hard work element of don’t look at someone\s success but skipping the progress, but you can’t skip the progress. You want to emulate the success but skip the process to get there. I believe in really hardworking. I live by putting the work in and working hard – living by the idea that no-one owes you anything – you have to go out and get it. People often feel entitled and feel like they are owed something, but you’re not and that’s why you have to work hard to be good at your craft. Just trying things – whether it’s going to be successful or now. Just try it.
Favourite account to follow on Instagram?
I like @pmacfitness, because he’s entertaining and he’s consistent. I really respect people with pages that are dedicated to their craft. Everything he posts is focused around his craft in one way or another, whether he’s telling a joke or training a client. I like pages where there’s a human element to it. @pmacfitness brings that human element where it’s entertaining you, so you’re learning while being entertained.
Do you have a signature look you like to create?
A skin fade – flat and dark on the top, with a sharp shape-up on the sides. With the hair dark on top, the shape-up can stand out. This is what has been perfected with Reggie’s cut. The levels might be different on different people – depending on the texture or thickness of someone’s hair – but what I love is being able to create almost an illusion: a look that is dark, and flat at the same time.
What are your most reached for products in your kitbag?
Products are really important to maintain upkeep. Right now, the most popular grooming product in the Afro hair market is the Kurl King. The Kurl King is a sponge that naturally twists your hair to give a salon-ready finish, whilst being low maintenance. A couple of months ago, Kurl King and I collaborated to produce a limited edition of SliderCuts x Kurl King sponges, which have become so popular that we’ve had orders from all over Europe. Nevertheless, in the men’s afro hair community, there are a lack of products that are tailored for particular styles and particular hair types. At the moment, I’m actually in the process of making a range of products made predominantly for afro hair and to cater for this need.
Where do you see your career going next?
It’s an exciting time for the business. Having just ran my first Masterclass workshop at the Red Rooster in Shoreditch, things are developing and moving forward. With developers, I’m in the final stages of building a booking-system and app predominantly for the use of barbers. I’ve used a lot of systems in the past and none of them have been quite up to the level that I require. So, with the experience that I’ve gained over the years, I think I have developed something very intuitive, which functions effectively as a planner, a booking system and a diary – all in one. And, I’m pleased to say that it will be launching very soon!
Along with this and the line of haircare products I’m developing, I also have plans to extend my line of merchandise – creating more ‘SliderCuts’ branded T-shirts, combs, hair brushes, do-rags and much more. In the long run, I am also planning to open up my own SliderCuts barbershop and, along side that, create a SliderCuts academy. With this, I want to try and get young people from my borough and in other areas of London off the streets and occupy their time with something worthwhile; teaching them skills, business and life-lessons at the same time.
[Image Credit – Courtesy of Mark Maciver and via Instagram @slidercuts]