The History of a Master Barber, Mahesh Hayward

—Josh Lawson

Carlos is today's host for Keep on Growing, with special guest, Mahesh "Master Barber" Hayward from Gentleman & Rogues Club. For those of you who haven't seen the previous episodes, they are basically gonna have a conversation and you are gonna learn more about Mahesh and his background.

The Beginning

Mahesh is the eldest of six children. His family was very tight. They are from a large family, his dad has a ton of brother and his mom has a bunch of siblings as well. It was hard for him to stand out at home. They were all doing the most, and being full on characters. Mahesh is even considered the quiet one of his family. As the oldest, he set a president of what is gonna happen with the kids. He was seen as the uptight babysitter.

They lived on a council estate in a roughish area, so he had to be a little streetwise. As kids, he and his siblings had to figure out how to make their own money because his mom and dad had enough money to pay for things other than a roof over their heads and food on the table. If they wanted anything special, they had to figure out how to get it themselves. At 14, Mahesh did the paper route and worked in a kitchen. There were times he would just hustle people to get a little bit of money. He always had that desire to look his best and do the things the rest of his family was never able to do.

His parents met in the same place they grew up and never left, so he stayed as well. He always wanted to go on holiday and do other things, but never had the chance. The first time he went abroad wasn't until he was much older. Our parents are always the goal when you're growing up. You want to reach the same potential, but they always want you to go a step higher. That's what Mahesh was always trying to achieve. Even as a parent now, he want more for his kid than what he had growing up. That can be opportunities, freedom, or even finances.

At a young age, Mahesh wanted to be an artist. He wanted to work in radio. But, his mother told him he needed to get a job where he could make money and contribute toward the house. Going to three years of art school, or four years of drama school won't guarantee you a job. He compromised and found something that included art where he could start making money straight away. He got an apprenticeship with a hairdresser combined art, communicating with people, and was a platform to keep learning. His first boss told him that no matter what is going on in your life, whenever you step foot on the salon floor, you are on a stage.

Mahesh "The Hairdresser" Hayward

At 18 he started he first real job as an apprentice in a salon. When he started it was 25 years ago, and the industry has completely changed. Barbershops used to be a cheap haircut, without all the banter. A guy with a cigarette would sit you down and haphazardly cut your hair and try not to get ash in your hair. His mom would give him money, and he would march him and his brother down to the barbershop. They would give them all a clipper cut all the way back, and they've leave looking the same as each other. They maybe had two haircuts a year. Looking back on old photos, he either looks like The Beatles or Shawshank Redemption.

In a lot of ways, because of that, the first thing he did when he began to earn his own money was get weekly haircuts because he enjoyed the fact he paid for it himself. He was glad his parent didn't have to pay for it. And it was a small bit of independence since he was looking how he wanted to look at 14 years old.

Hairdressing is an art form, and barbering is a craft. There is much more range in what you can do in a salon; types of styles, length of hair, texture of hair, and so many more variables than in barbering. Barbering deals with a similar type of haircut, a similar type of shape, just varying different levels of how short or long you want to do it.

It comes down to, a craft is something you hone and a skill you repeat over and over again (similar to building a boat). When you are a barber, you create that shape for someone or that outline and they style it how they want. Then you move on to the next one and the next one. Whereas with a hairdresser, they spend up to three hours with a person building a haircut or try to fit them as an individual.

Before joining Gentleman & Rogues Club, Mahesh had his own studio. After he left his apprenticeship, he rented space above another shop on a high street, and opened his first independent salon at the age of 22. He had a really small space, only two mirrors, two waiting chairs, and he worked by himself seven days a week. He was by himself all day, he worked alone, and even took all his own appointments. He did that for about a year, and saved enough money to rent a shop on the street level of a slightly different area.

By the age of 25 he was a dad, had a mortgage, had his own business, six staff members, and paid back his business loan. From a financial point of view, he was more off at the age of 25 than he his now at 42. He was really busy hairdressing, writing articles, doing photography, and was even working with the British Fellowship of Hairdressing. But that was all at the expense of his family since he wasn't there. Since he came from a family where money was tight, that was his main goal, and he lost focus of the reason he was trying to making all this money. You can't get that time back, so make sure to pay attention and evaluate why you are working.

Moving Forward

He's begun a teaching course because he wants to become a well-rounded individual, not because he wants to leave barbering. The analogy he uses constantly is that when you are on a plane and the pressure drops you're always told to help yourself before helping others. If you pass out you're no good to anyone. Once you help yourself then you can help other people.

A few years ago, he decided it was time to transition from hairdressing to barbering. Menswork has always been his passion, and he wanted to take that next time. Barbering had always been something he saw as a little bit scary from a hairdresser point of view. In a salon you don't use a straight razor or go straight in with no guard and blend it out. Hairdressing is a lot softer and rounded. At 40, he gave himself an ultimatum; either leave hairdressing or find a new focus to spur his energy.

After that he really enjoyed the new drive he felt from cutting men's hair. He's always felt barbering was seen as the lesser cousin of hairdressing. They have to work so much harder just to earn a living wage, but there is a lot more comradery to it. Nowadays people are wanting more for their money. They don't just want a cheap haircut any more, they want an experience. Barbering can help with other avenues of industry. Mahesh sees so many guys come into the shop feeling down, and when they leave they feel confident enough to go out later. When they have a laugh or a joke, while they're there, they not only feel good externally with their trim but also internally.