I have only been barbering for 3½ years but during that time, I have endeavoured to attend courses on a fairly regular basis to get my skill set ‘up there’. Training and continuous professional development are important to me, both as a barber and as a business owner. Regardless of the fact that I have come from a completely different background, whatever you do in life, there is always room for improvement. And so it is that I booked myself onto the Savills 3 day ‘Master Barber’ course.
Savills are known for their classic styles. The course overview on their website refers to pomps, ducktails and more detailed technical looks. So, it comes as no surprise that the vast majority of their clientele want a look that makes the most of their long hair on top whilst seemlessly blending them into something (usually much) shorter on the back and sides. Many barbers are inundated with requests for #2 on the back and sides and a trim on top. Savills generally tends to attract a different clientele who require more technical expertise, the sort of cuts which may make many barbers’ hearts sink when requested. This was for me. I wanted to relish the opportunity to do something more creative with confidence, rather than ‘winging’ my way through something which I had not previously attempted.
For anyone who has not been to Savills before, I recommend visiting their website to get a feel for what they are all about as words will not do it justice. However, to be brief, it is a large old school barbershop, mixing elements of art deco chic, rockabilly edge and modern convenience. I had been previously for a haircut and a first hand nosey and what they are all about. This time I was here to train for 3 days and how excited was I?
Much of the course was a bit of a blur in that once you get cutting and get in your zone, the time flies by. The official course times are 11:00 – 17:00. I stayed at the Premier Inn, about a 10 minute walk away and found I had enough time for the gym followed by a leisurely shower, large breakfast, a read of my book, a slow walk to Savills and I still had time to spare. Personally for me, this was a little disappointing as I wanted to cram as much as I could each day. I am sure there is a good reason for it though…perhaps it is not so easy to get models (who are mostly students) out of bed before this time.
On the first day, we were greeted by Pete Illingworth, the shop’s manager and trainer. Pete is a jovial, approachable kind of fella who will happily share his knowledge and experience. Savills only train 4 barbers at a time to ensure everyone gets maximum supervision and the haircuts flow without too much interruption. Once all 4 of us had arrived, Pete (along with Joth Davies, the owner) sat with us and went through introductions and an explanation of what to expect. The format for the next 3 days was a demonstration by Pete in the morning followed by each of us cutting the hair of our models, who have already booked a free academy haircut. We then broke for lunch, trained on two more models each and Pete did a final demonstration at the end of each day.
As you may imagine, the course content is hard to set in stone as each model is different. However, as I found, if you specify that you would like to do a particular type of haircut, Pete will try to match models to trainees as best he could so you feel you are getting maximum value out of the course. You can reasonably expect to be able to fade/blend using Savills’ set method a range of traditional/classic styles and different types of Asian hair. The only notable type of hair which wasn’t covered was afro hair which probably requires a course of it’s own due to the variety of textures and techniques required to cut and style it.
I have already mentioned Savills own method of fading/blending. It is a simple method in which the baseline of the desired shape is first put in, followed by a #2, two finger widths above. This is then blended down, half a guard length at a time. With practice, it does produce a very nice finish. I now find that I alternate between the techniques I previously used (primarily anything over #1 was blended with an Andis clipper comb) and Savills technique. I do find theirs very good but more time consuming but I guess practice will iron that small issue out.
I was very pleased to have done a nice pompadour, a pomp with a part (scum bag boogie?) and executive contour as well as having tried a new technique for texturing the hair of a client from Malaysia\ Great stuff….we have a client from Malaysia who I can’t wait to use this technique on!
My biggest faux pas of the course was racing ahead of the steps. Each stage of each haircut is discussed with Pete from the start, beginning with the consultation. He then agrees the next step with you, and possibly the next few steps. I made the mistake of not waiting once I had completed the first step and went on to make minor mistakes (small enough to recover from). Once I had got into the rhythm of completing a step and waiting for it to be checked before proceeding, the rest went well. This can however cause minor frustration if another student requires Pete’s attention for 5 minutes or so, but that just goes to highlight the importance of keeping the group small. Thankfully, the models were all very understanding when there were gaps in the cutting while we waited for the nod of approval to proceed.
Other benefits of the course were the use of different equipment and products. I have had a very useful introduction to the benefits of YS Park combs, especially the very flexible one with the skinny end which was great for blending out dark spots around the bumps in the head behind the ears. I would also never have imagined how useful an afro comb and LOTS of pomade would be in perfecting a pompadour. The little hint and tips thrown in along the way are invaluable to someone like me who does not have someone more senior/experienced to count on for such advice. There is also a lot of emphasis on using a horse shoe section (with grips) to ensure a much neater finish.
I think that regardless of how experienced you are, Pete will have something for everyone to take away and apply to their own work. The course is excellent value for money and should be on everyone’s CPD plan.