I sat down with the internationally acclaimed barbering extraordinaire David Digg and talked about beginnings, cuts, the UK, and the future.
David Diggs cuts a suave figure sat comfortably in one of his barber chairs. There’s nothing surprising about his well-cut waistcoat, shirt and tie; all in cool black, but his red trousers hint at the unique style that’s pushed him to the height of his profession.
He’s the author of the must read social media page-turner ‘How to Build Your Business: Social Media Strategies For Barbers And Stylists’ and draws together his fantastic talent, experience in the field, and expertise of well-trained team he has crafted the inspirational video ‘The Barbershop Diaries’. “That was the goal of the barber shop diaries. As barbers we listen to all of our client’s problems and goings on’s and family issues.
“So this gives our barbers a chance to tell the world our story and what we’ve got going on.”
David is no secret to a story and is a rags-to-riches professional who’s climbed to the top himself; he says “I’m smiling a little bit because that’s the first time I’ve heard it described in that way. But my story as a barber is a long, tough one. A lot of people in my area know my story and even people at the places I travel to. But I’ve had to face a lot of life hurdles, like everybody else.
“Through my life hurdles there came a point that’s widely known; I became incarcerated. I was incarcerated in the California State Penitentiary for five years and upon my release…I used barbering to build my life and put my life back together.”
It is a humble start, and to have come such a long way is a testament to the determination of David. “I started with zero, I started with nothing. I’d catch public transportation to San Francisco Barber College” he says, “and I would have my fingers crossed that I would make enough in tips to catch the transportation back home and maybe buy lunch if I was lucky.”
There’s really no arguing with the owner of The Barbers Inc Barbershop when he says “it’s been a lot of hard work”. In less than five years he has established his own brand in the San Francisco Bay Area in a capacity which has seen him rocket to celebrity barber status.
“I’m proof that it’s possible” he tells me, as we sit amongst the thirteen chairs of his family-feeling shop. Now accomplished in his own right, David has turned his attention to the educational side of barbering. It was clear he has achieved a lot and I asked about his motivation for teaching. “I became a barber just to pay my bills” he tells me, “but the more I got involved with the industry, the more opportunity I saw.”
“I’m an ambitious guy” he says, and there’s no doubting that fact as we talk sitting inside his business, “I felt I had a special thing for motivating and inspiring and articulating technique.” Appealing to me directly he asks “that’s what a great teacher is right? You’re a teacher?”
“Motivates and inspires, able to sort of teach you how to do things. So I found a line I was able to make mine” he concludes. In fact, he’s so good at what he does he has only recently returned from a trip to the London School of Barbering where he had a guest spot, as well as a little bit of touring to show off his talents.
Unlike the UK, a further year of studying is needed stateside in order to get a state license to practice the trade. I asked how this might affect or even hinder British barbers in comparison to their American cousins.
“There are things that barbers just need to learn, especially with sanitation and the proper handling of tools, clients, and just being able to identify problems.”
“I think it’s very necessary to have some type of structure… I think it helps and legitimises the business and holds people to a higher standard.” Education is clearly a passion for David and explains so much about his motivation to do what he is doing.
I was fortunate enough to watch one of his instructional videos and was impressed by the clarity and detail of what he was creating. I was interested in whether he intended this to be the case, and to take all of the complexity out of his product. “Stepping into the educational world I am a real rookie”, he tells me, “Being an educator there’s an influx of people who call themselves educators but really don’t know how to educate.”
“I just wanted to learn from the best, and all of the DVDs I bought were excellent. Most all of them started out at an intermediate level; you had to already be good to execute the cuts they were showing,” he adds “so I said, let me back it up and create something for someone in barber school, who might be a new barber or someone who isn’t aware of the new techniques available”.
What sums up the uniquely accomplished nature of his instructional videos? He told himself “let me start at the beginning and fill a gap, fill a hole, that barber videos now have left. Now it’s just a bunch of haircuts.
“Nobody would include a theory section. ‘What clipper is that?’, ‘Is that clipper better or different from that clipper?’ ‘How do you even hold it?’” His success lies in his confidence to go back to the basics; to tell people what tools are available and how to use them.
Social Media and Education
As an ongoing theme, I like to understand how different professionals in the barbering industry feel about a tool that’s being utilised by barbers the world over. “I don’t think the goal of an educator is just to get followers”, he explains “it takes time to become an educator and I think some guys think it’s just a cool title”.
He offers advice to any aspiring teacher saying “before you proclaim you’re an educator, make sure you’ve fine-tuned your craft. There is a craft to education, you don’t want to get up there and just cut hair. You have to be able to talk and articulate every single step.”
There’s no doubting the success of the business he has built working alongside his team to create something special. “Downtown San Jose isn’t the only group of people paying attention to social media,” he explains how that collectively his team hammered social media in a bid to simply increase their own clientele.
“Little did we comprehend that the world was watching. Social media has been the key to my success and it’s put me on the world stage.” David has in fact become a member of the International Education and Style team for Andis Clipper Company.
With this book, he teaches apprising barbers how to literally build their business as the title suggests, and uses his own life experiences to tell that how it can be done. “Social media has definitely changed my life, and I’ve put everything I know about social media in this book.” If that’s not an excuse to order one right away, then I don’t know what is!
His world experience has been brought together in his documentary “The Barbershop Diaries”, and I wanted to know if he intended to inspire other would-be barbers who were down on their luck to get motivated and stay focussed.
“Somebody asked me once ‘aren’t you happy you found your passion?’ and I thought ‘Wow, I’ve found my passion and I didn’t even know what it was’… Is barbering my passion I had to ask myself?
“Barbering is my avenue; my passion is helping people, my passion is improving other people’s lives. So the goal with Barber Shop Diaries is to help people.”
There’s something about David that tells me he’s not finished yet so I asked him what the future holds. “[For] 2015 my goal was all about creating products; creating the instructional DVD series, writing my book, being in a documentary; at the end of the year I’ve got an app in development and I’m probably going to release it in December.”
“It was all about creation of material,” he explains, “2016? I want to spend my focus on getting that material out there and making sure everyone it can help gets it.” It’s clear that he has a real passion for teaching what he knows and genuinely wants to help young barbers get started.
Give us one clue about what the app’s about? He laughs, hesitates, and then says “The app fills in gaps. There are some amazing apps out there… I have had a chance to sit back and work out room for improvement.” He’s playing his cards very close to his chest. Perhaps in this one instance, he’s not read to teach as all just what he can do.
‘How to Build Your Business: Social Media Strategies For Barbers And Stylists’ and ‘#Faded Barbering Instructional Videos’, the inspiring instructional videos helping young barbers everywhere, are available at www.TheBarbersInc.com/store in USA or shop.larrythebarberman.com/education in Europe We’re told to anticipate a further two more videos by the end of the year. Keep an eye out for that App and check out the Barber Shop Diaries (www.TheBarbershopDiaries.com or www.larrybarberber.com/shop. Follow Dave on Instagram @DaveDiggsTheBarber or me @larrythebarberman , on Twitter and Periscope @DiggsTheBarber and check out his YouTube channel YouTube.com/DiggsTheBarber. To book Dave email him at DiggsTheBarber@gmail.com