How do you feel when you’re getting a haircut? More importantly, how do you feel after a haircut or after some careful hairstyling?
Across so many different cultures, a hairstyle can be a powerful external expression of personality, and the process of hairstyling is itself a time-honored tradition.
For some, a barber or stylist is a friend, a confidante who they return to month after month, year after year.
Recently, Artvoice had the unique pleasure of speaking with one of the world’s top stylists, Luca De Vincenzo.
Originally from Italy, De Vincenzo isn’t one of those people who struggled to find their calling in life. As a child, he knew that he wanted to become a barber, and since the age of fifteen, he’s been sharing his talents with clients, students, and celebrities around the world.
“When I was a kid, my grandfather used to take me with him to the barbershop, and I was fascinated by the fragrance of the aftershaves, wax, and shaving cream. When I started this job, I always wanted to give my clients the best service using the best products. I always wanted to work at the highest level, with important clients.”
De Vincenzo has realized this dream with flying colors, having already worked with a number of highly regarded barbers and industry professionals, including Joth Davies, Josh Lamonaca, Boudewijn Jurriaans, Richard Finney, and James and Sam Donnelly.
De Vincenzo’s celebrity clientele features names like Eros Ramazzotti, Guè Pequeno, Fred De Palma, Charlie Charles, Guy Lalibertè, and film producer Alberto Grimaldi.
At the age of twenty-two, De Vincenzo was asked to serve as the art director at one of Rome’s top salons.
De Vincenzo is also currently an ambassador for the brand Original Toiletries, a Rome-based brand of toiletries and grooming products.
What we’d like to do here today is to share some of De Vincenzo’s takes on the industry and maybe even expand our readers’ perception of what it means to be a barber. By the end, we think you’ll agree that it’s not only a profession but an art form with its very own set of conventions, innovators, and experts.
Learning the ropes
For the average person, there might be an impression that becoming a barber or hairstylist is simple and straightforward. How hard is it to cut and style hair?
This is a misconception, especially when you consider the high level that De Vincenzo is working at.
Barbers need to be extremely versatile, handling tons of different styles and mastering every aspect of grooming.
On top of the technical aspects is the social side of things: working with customers, communicating with them, and maybe even having long conversations and getting to know them on a personal level.
De Vincenzo himself studied for years and with multiple institutions before fully launching his career, and as we’ll talk about later, he still makes an effort to learn even more about his craft, despite his expert status.
But of all De Vincenzo’s educational experiences, he says that one of the most crucial was some of the hands-on work he did with one of the most well-known barbers in the world.
“I attended many private courses and academies with the best barbers, but the most important lessons I learned were in Sheffield, England with the legendary barber Joth Davies, one of the most important barbers in the world. He taught me amazing, innovative techniques that brought my skills to another level, which has allowed me to compete around the world.”
On that note, let’s talk about some of De Vincenzo’s competition work.
A competitive side
Just about every profession has some form of official competition or awards ceremony to acknowledge the best in the business.
The film industry has the Oscars and any number of international film festivals. The video game industry has the Game Awards and many different, more specialized game jams and festivals.
Likewise, the barbering industry has many high-level competitions and events that attract big-name players from all over the world.
Making a name for yourself at one of these competitions isn’t just about doing the work as per usual; it’s really about demonstrating outstanding skill and style within the guidelines and within the rules of any given category.
The results are pretty stunning, even to an outsider, but these competitions are about much more than, well, the competitive side.
De Vincenzo explains here that barbering and hairstyling competitions actually serve many different functions for the community at large. Competitions are social events, too, similar to an industry conference. They can also give professionals opportunities to network.
“I’ve judged and competed in many barber events, like the Italian Barber Championship of Beards and Mustaches. These events are very important for the barber community because they’re places where the best hairstylists in the field can gather. There’s a lot of respect for each other in the community, and it also gives us the opportunity to get exposed to different styles and techniques. Sometimes competitions can even lead to new partnerships and collaborations.”
Don’t get us wrong: the competitive spirit is alive and well at these events, but they also just give professionals the chance to talk about and share their craft.
De Vincenzo’s status in the industry has earned him a lot of attention from famous barbers, clients, and even brands.
Of all the offers he’s been presented with, De Vincenzo chose to work with a company called Original Toiletries as an ambassador.
Though Original Toiletries has a strong emphasis on shaving and male grooming products, they’ve also expanded into natural and organic product lines, both in Italy and globally.
This isn’t a casual collaboration for De Vincenzo, and as he tells it, the relationship started out when he discovered that Original Toiletries simply had a better selection of what he was looking for than other companies.
“Everything started when I was looking for a special pomade in New York. Original Toiletries was the only distributor that had it. At the time, I was the director of an important barbershop in Rome, and Original Toiletries asked me to be a part of a new project where I would represent them in different events like the Cosmoprof Worldwide Beauty Show and Milan Fashion Week.”
What this looked like in action was De Vincenzo traveling to these different events and demonstrating the value and use of various Original Toiletries products, training barbershop and beauty shop professionals and suppliers in the specifics.
Given De Vincenzo’s professional experience and expertise, he was a clear choice for the job, and it’s something that he’s enjoyed quite a bit.
“We attend many events, collaborating with brands like Captain Fawcett, Pomp and Co., Proraso, Gillette, JS Loane NYC, and the best barbers in the world.”
A craftsman is only as good as their tools, after all, and De Vincenzo is certainly very careful about his endorsements and the products he uses. It’s actually a much bigger part of the job than many people realize.
Educating the next wave
But of course, everyone has to start somewhere, and hairstyling instruction is a big business of its own.
De Vincenzo studied extensively to get where he is today, and he’s already working to make sure that young, aspiring barbers have the resources and education they need to become just as successful.
As we mentioned earlier, De Vincenzo was already the art director of a major salon in Rome by his early twenties, and part of that role involved training young barbers, assuring that they could make the cut, so to speak.
When working at this level, it’s not enough to just know the basics. These barbers need to be taught advanced techniques and how to handle all kinds of situations.
That requires hands-on experience and mentorship, which is exactly what De Vincenzo provides.
Many of De Vincenzo’s former students and mentees have gone on to start highly successful careers as well.
“I’ve trained many barbers who are now very successful, like Emanuele Gullace, owner of Gullace Salon, located in Rome. I regularly receive requests and offers to share my style, values, and experience with aspiring barbers, and I love having these opportunities. In fact, one of my dreams is to open hairstylist and barber schools in multiple countries.”
It’s definitely admirable to share all this knowledge and expertise with the next generation of hairstylists, and it helps that De Vincenzo doesn’t take a high-horse approach, which leads us to how he views his career so far.
Not a profession but a lifestyle
We asked De Vincenzo what it felt like to be one of the top barbers in the world. It’s clear that he’s proud of his accomplishments, but he also seems to recognize the responsibility and challenge that comes with that status.
“It’s a great feeling to be where I am now, and it’s also hard work because I never feel that I’ve completely arrived. I’m always trying to improve myself, experimenting with new things, new products, and new styles. To stay at the top, I can never stop learning.”
Thankfully, De Vincenzo stays motivated to put in all this work because he clearly just loves the art of styling and grooming.
“For me, being a barber isn’t a job, it’s a passion. It’s a lifestyle. I really love what I do and I really don’t mind working long hours because I feel good when I cut hair and talk with clients. I love to make people happy by giving them a new look.”
It’s a special line of work and not one that gets much attention in the public sphere, but we’d like to offer a big thanks to De Vincenzo for showing us another side of the art of barbering.