Barbering is Booming

This article was written for the April 2018 edition of the Images magazine.

The Barbering Industry is on the Rise. Paul Bartolo at Bespoke Barbers

Barbering in New Zealand is booming!

Firstly, I would like to thank Images Magazine for approaching me to start writing a regular column. It is not only a compliment to my career but also, a nod to barbers and our collective successes.

Many years ago their used to be a clear line between barbers and hairdressers. Now, that line is blurring.

Barbershops have moved from the dark ages of white walls, fluorescent lights and talk back radio to the handsome boutique stores embracing their traditional roots and incorporating their own creative flair.

My Beginnings

My journey started in ladies hairdressing at the upmarket, London hair salon, Molton Brown. With four floors, servicing everything including hair trichology, cutting and colouring, beauty, a level for education and a huge range of their own beauty products. The entire Molton Brown business machine took 45+ people to operate.

After working in various salons around London, I decided to move to New Zealand and realised that I wanted to open a barber shop. A huge turn around from my hairdressing focus but I felt that I liked the traditional aspect of barbering more. I also felt, globally, there was the beginning of an evolutionary shift in the barbering industry. Moving towards a more professional business frontier and lifting barber shops up to the hair salon level of business practice.

In those days, barbers were for the ‘old geezers and young lads’. I opened my first barber shop attempting to attract a new client base: men frequenting hair salons. They were drawn in by the price and would ask what they’d get for their $15 hair cut. I’d tell them they’d get a great haircut within 20 minutes but they weren’t impressed with missing out on a shampoo and coffee! Instead, they’d walk across the road to the hair salon which charged $25. An hour or so later, I’d watch them walk back out with their new haircut.

The Turning Point

After 6 months of wondering how I could improve my business and get this new client base through the door, American Crew launched in New Zealand. I hadn’t seen free promotional material for men’s products, that was cool, until now. This was a big turning point in men’s grooming internationally. The range of men’s grooming products, free promo stuff and uber-cool posters provided a clear vision which helped me to recognise I was on track.

After opening several shops in Auckland, I decided to test the water in Melbourne. 5 years later I ended up with four shops in Melbourne’s CBD! I was a little bit busy.

Paul Bartolo Barbering New ZealandBespoke Barbers

I was inevitably pulled back to Auckland and wanted to change up barbering in New Zealand. The plan was to move away from the large volume shops and create more of a boutique experience. Bespoke Barbers was born. We are now an award winning shop servicing over 1000 clients every month. Our team is outstanding. Our barbers are very talented and from all sorts of backgrounds (including former hairdressers).

I guess, one of the most fulfilling and biggest shifts I’ve noticed in barbering is the increasing number of people wanting to be involved in the industry. With the massive growth, and our ability to charge more for a men’s haircut, we are attracting a new breed of barber. Many are looking for a lifestyle change. Some are moving away from the office, ditching the tie or heels and moving into a more creative space. Others are flipping from hairdressing to barbering. Hairdressers make the perfect barber candidate with their product knowledge, technical skills and rapport building skills.

As the shop has been evolving and people have been taking increasing interest in barbering, we’ve been asked more and more questions about what we do: “where do I start?”, “what is the pay like?”, “what is the future of barbering?”, “what’s the difference between shops?”, “how do I change from hairdresser to barber?” and so on. Hence, the idea of our barbering workshops was recognised.


Bartolo AcademyBarber School Bartolo Academy

With two initial workshop offerings, we have our one-day Introductory Workshop for absolute beginners and our advanced Workshops; Clipper & blade and Face Shave. These advanced Workshops are specifically designed for hairdressers and barbers to hone their skills and learn new techniques. Later this year, we will be introducing a Full Time Barber Course too.

Ultimately, I want to pass on all of my skills and successes to barbers and help the evolution of barbering progress in New Zealand.

If you have any barbering related questions we would love to answer them.

Contact us here!


Paul Bartolo