This month, Ian Harrold ponders the cult of personality and the Instagram barber


‘Those who shout the loudest often have the least so say.’ It’s an old adage but a good one, and more relevant than ever in the style-over-substance, likes-over-engagement Instagram era we find ourselves in.

Don’t get me wrong, Instagram is a great place to share our passions and opinions with the world. But in terms of running your own small business, that’s not really what matters. A few hundred likes from around the world don’t really mean much if they don’t translate to good old fashioned, bankable bums on barbershop chairs.

And that’s the problem: Instagram’s promise of ready-made stardom makes everything look a little too easy. Up-and-coming barbers find themselves taking shortcuts and sidestepping the real challenges of running a small business. Or else working for free in the interest of ‘exposure’. If they’re not careful, they find that all they’ve really done is bought themselves a job, and one that doesn’t pay all that well either, if you’re giving cuts away left, right and centre.

I guess what counts is the idea of engagement. It’s important that social media opens up a dialogue with your followers. And I mean real, organic, meaningful dialogue, not some half-arsed comment made up entirely of thumbs-up emojis or some soulless Insta-bot regurgitating ready-made comments over and over again. ‘Pleasing content, fellow human! Like for like?’

And in that respect, there’s something to be said for the old way of doing things. Commitment to the craft and building solid, technical foundations will ensure that a business will continue to be a business even if Instagram were to suddenly crash.

Going back 15 years, my first barber shop, Traditions, used to give out little matchbooks with a caption that read ‘something for the weekend’. The inside of the matchbox had another little message, a gentle reminder that ‘we protect your head’, and included a single condom.  Simple, effective and (depending on who you ask) pretty funny. It got chins wagging down the pub and proved to be an enduring little joke amongst the locals who would then come in and get a haircut. High-brow it ain’t, but it beats paying for likes.

The point is that the physical and the face-to-face will always endure over the abstract and over-filtered. Social media is a wonderful, powerful thing, but it has its limits and all that shouting and saying nothing gets bloody exhausting. And sometimes it seems like shouting is all Instagram is really good for.

That, and cat memes. It’s really good for cat memes. IH


Words by Iain Harrold
Image Credits by Unsplash