“Barbering is an art”

Barbering is a culture, tradition and an art. A barber shop that focuses on men and carries forward the tradition of grooming a gentleman’s manner differs vastly from a commercial hair salon. Local barbershop 2Legit partners Luís Lourenço (a.k.a. Rocklee), investor and cousin Fernando Lourenço, and barber Sara Kei talk to Business Daily about reviving the craft of cutting hair What’s so special about a barbershop? Rocklee: The word barber comes from the Latin meaning ‘beard’. In ancient times, those that were allowed to cut people’s hair were the high priests. It was a ritual for releasing negative energy. Hairdressing and salons are a modern [phenomenon] that primarily focus on women. They follow the trend. A barber is one who cuts the customer’s hair uniformly and with consistency. So in that case our craft has to be practiced over and over again, giving the same haircut but better each time, by knowing their skull, their head shape and giving them the best cut to suit their character. Hairdressers don’t shave. They don’t use razors. Mainly, barbers do classic men’s haircuts, and uniform haircuts. That’s the difference. My mentor told me we both cut hair but it’s a different world. What’s your role in this partnership? Fernando: They are the spirit, the skills arm. I’m a shareholder and I provide strategic direction for them. I guide them and suggest them how to think big. Instead of just providing service, this company will also diversify the service and product portfolio. For example, at the moment, apart form cutting hair, we also sell hair products. At the same time, I think towards the end of the year we will have our own hair products. The manufacturers will be producing a number of hair products for us and then we also have accessories and equipment and a clothing line. Some other merchandising, as well, which I can’t reveal yet. We want to not just have a local company. We want it to be a global company so we will have products out there selling. Why is the name 2 Legit? Rocklee: When I was young, we listened to MC Hammer who had a song called 2 Legit 2 Quit. And I was inspired by that. It sounds legit to me. It’s an easy name and a catchy name. Why did you choose Rua de S Miguel to open your barbershop? Fernando: We were looking for a location and one of our cousins who is engaged in the real estate business told us that if you want to build something big and build up a brand, maybe you should choose a location that really suits what you are doing and then he said “Why don’t you open a shop in the arts and creative district because it really matches your company, because what you do is a craft and something new”. And then we started to look around here and found this spot that’s perfect for us. A barbershop is also community-based. Once, there was this guy who came in looking sad and de-motivated. And here’s a place for him to chill and relax and talk. We listened to him and tried to inspire and motivate him. We motivated him so much that now he wants to be a barber. How did this barbershop happen in the first place? Rocklee: It’s a story that cannot be repeated. It won’t happen again in my life. As a b-boy, I was invited to perform and compete in the U.S. around 2006. I saw those American b-boys had really nice fades; it’s like a haircut but has a transition. I thought that’s amazing . . . and how did they do that! So, after I came home, I bought a clipper and started cutting my own hair. In 2011, I went to Chicago. The first night I was there I went to a party called ‘chicken and porn’, so literally when you went inside the club you have porn playing and free chicken to eat. It was crazy. And I met a girl, her street name was Missy. She was the only girl that spoke Cantonese there. She knew everybody. She took me out the next day and showed me around Chicago. I had a messy haircut. And I saw a TV show: there was a guy and I pointed to him saying “I want that haircut!”And she said, “I know a guy. I can take you there”. And she took me to South Chicago. There’s this barber shop called Rockstar Fades 2 and she took me to my mentor. His name is Ruel Rodriguez. I felt like I was going into a Mexican gangster barbershop. But it was beautiful. Lots of graffiti, warm. All the guys looking sharp and nice. Even the most famous b-boys were there, hanging out, chilling. I sat there and said I wanted some graphics. And I sat there and watched him and felt like “I want to do this. I want to do what he can do”. That’s how I started. By 2012, I started cutting my friends’ hair for free, just for fun. Reaction is their most honest feedback. And Fernando saw that and said to me your cuts are really good and you can really charge people for money. At the same time, the classic cut trend was coming back. So I set up my Facebook page. A lot of people didn’t take me seriously in the beginning. I started charging but not much. But whenever I cut a client’s hair, when they gave me their time and hair, I felt like they were already paying me. That’s my value. I felt like I enjoy doing this. Later, I had 80 per cent new customers referred by previous clients. I feel that word of mouth is the most powerful and convincing advertising. After I made some money, I was thinking what should I do. Party? No. I bought a chair, a barber chair. I felt that this is growing and I should have better facilities for my clients. I really feel like that’s a good investment. That moment, it also changed my life, the way I see money, and things, whether it’s a seed or trash. If it’s a seed, it will grow. The business taught me how to spend money wisely. And then I understood the book my mom bought me ‘poor dad, rich dad’. I never understood the book until now. Fernando: He had a manager’s job that a lot of people would die for. But here is much better because this is where his passion lies. In February, he was getting very eager “Now is the time; we have to do this”. Because a lot of people were talking about it and he was like “We have to do it now; if we don’t, somebody will”. And I had to hold him down and tell him “Wait. Let’s look at the figures first. Do we have enough customers; is that enough to cover the rent; and if you give up your job do you have enough to pay for your monthly expenses” and all that. And then we did the research and talked to real estate agents and this and that. In the beginning, it was difficult. But since July, it’s been getting better and better. Sara: My story is simple. In Portugal, when I finished school, I didn’t know what to do. And my parents asked me what did I like to do and I liked to cut hair. So they found a school for me so that I could learn. I went to this CEPAB hair salon school for two years and a half. They have two sides – the ladies and men. I learned the hairdressing skills. But when they started doing colouring and all that, I wasn’t really motivated. But after I went to the barbering side, which was downstairs, I felt like this is it. This is what I want to do. It’s a completely different vibe. Hairstyling is more competitive. But in barbering, everybody helps each other and is very friendly. I started learning and the passion started from there. I came here to Macau in search of a job because in Europe it’s difficult now. And I was introduced to a hair salon in the beginning. I went to try but I didn’t like it. I was there for a year. It was a long time. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. My boss didn’t let me do my style of cutting. I had enough and quit. I was really sad. My passion was so low. Because they were very discouraging saying “You’re not good at what you’re doing”. Later, I was freelancing. And one of my clients told me there was another barber, he was a DJ and b-boy too. And then we met. He met me when I was really at a low point in my life. And he had a cut from me. And we became friends. He lit my passion up again. And it started from there. He made me realise that it’s not that I’m not good, it’s just my ex-boss was on a completely different page. Hairstyling and barbering are different. What’s the difference now that you have your own shop? Rocklee: I worked at so many places but I’m lazy. I never like to work. I don’t work hard but I work smart. But this business makes me different. I spend 10 hours a day here but I never feel tired or bored. I never even look at the clock. And I even started to save a lot of money because I stopped spending a lot; whatever doesn’t grow, I wouldn’t spend money on it. I feel good. Before we had the shop, I seized every opportunity for exposure. We went to a hit-hop event in Guangzhou and set up a booth. First we were just standing there like idiots but once the first client sat down and we gave him a cut, everyone started to line up. I have a huge passion, a huge drive. But without him and her, I wouldn’t make it. She taught me a lot of techniques, and he’s the most rational one. I’m not good with numbers, but he taught me. You need to have a good team. You won’t succeed by yourself. Everybody has his or her talents and you need to bring them together to make things work. I’m very proud, not just about my brand, but also my team. Talent is the best investment. Every day I work now. I don’t feel like I’m working. I’m living the life I want. What’s your vision of 2Legit? Rocklee: My ideal vision is to have a barbershop in Macau. Barbering teaches you how to respect another fellow man. As we were growing up, not a lot of father figures really taught their kids how to be a man, how to talk to a man, how to carry yourself as a gentleman. Barbering really carries that tradition, also that manner. Barbering is a dying craft and people don’t notice it. Some people don’t know about it until we promote it. It’s like showing them a whole different world. It’s a very positive energy in a barbershop. In history, in a neighbourhood, a barber could cut three generation of the family. That kind of bond is unique. There are only three professions that really have that kind of bond. What we say is that there are only three kinds of men that can touch a man: barber, tailor and doctor. We feel proud of that. People come here, we don’t care where you cut before or where you want to cut next, as soon as you sit on our chair, we want to make you feel part of us. We hope you come back. We hope you leave as a friend, someone we know. We try to remember everybody’s name. We have conversations. But, of course, I cannot cut all men in Macau. I only have two hands. But through a barber school, we can revive the craft of barbering. Sara, what do you feel about being the only girl in this partnership and also as a female barber? Sara: I feel like he’s my brother. He helps me so much. They protect me. It’s nice to be the girl. If I need something, if something goes wrong, I’m sure I can talk to him, count on them. The customers sometimes say, “I’ve never had a cut from a girl”. And I ask them, is that a good thing or a bad thing. They say I don’t know, let’s see. And after they have a good cut, they tell me, “I trust you now”. Barbering is all about trust. That’s how you get your clients. What’s your vision? Sara: I’m just following their leads. I’m grateful and happy to have met them. We’re going far. I can see that.