MB can’t get enough of Danny May’s honesty. So much so that we had to put ‘I just cut hair, mate’ as our coverline. It’s refreshing when people go back to basics. No ego. No BS. Just honesty. His journey to barbering has been paved with cute Italian barbershops and less than perfect skin fades, MB finds out more…
Danny was dealt a tough mental health card at a young age (“I went to hell and back,” he recalls), but credits barbering with helping him heal and escape a difficult time. When Danny was 14 his parents separated, he dropped out of school and went to live with his mum. Danny says “at that point I was suffering deep depression and panic attacks. I refused to leave my mum’s side. I was convinced if I did, something terrible would happen. My friends were all moving on and I was with my mum –I even went to work with her!”
For two years Danny was on anti-depressants, in counselling and his next challenge was to stay at home – on his own. “it was 2012 and Instagram was on the rise. I started following barbers like Paul Hewitt, Cutthroat Pete and the Nomad Barber and I was so inspired.” Couple that with an exgirlfriend who was training to be a hairdresser and Danny started considering a career in hair. “I thought: barbers seem cool and they’re a crowd who were into the same scene as me – guitars, bands, skating. I made a plan to squeeze myself into the industry.”
So he headed to a local barbershop run by an Italian family and after several trial sessions, and some hair sweeping, they hired him. “I used to meet an old boy called Tino [he was a third generation Italian barber] at 7am in the shop. We’d have a coffee and he gave me a one-on-one tutorial on his clients.” Three years later, with a strong client base, Danny started getting itchy feet. However, the new job he bagged with a friend’s dad wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. “I saw the other side of the industry… the barbers who just don’t care. They were charging £13 and doing four haircuts an hour. I wanted to spend time with clients and to get to know them. It’s about a nice haircut and a nice experience.” It was after six months in that job that he knew he needed to change. “I needed to find a shop that cared about hair. An old client told me that MR Barbers were looking for someone. I’d seen MR in industry mags and I knew of Jak Finch, Slimfadey... I bit the bullet and messaged Phil Brooks, the manager of the Chelmsford branch at the time.”
“PEOPLE TAKE THEMSELVES TOO SERIOUSLY. I CUT HAIR AND I CHAT SH*T. YOUR HAIR IS ALWAYS A BIT SHORTER WHEN YOU’VE SEEN ME!”
THE MR CHAPTER
After an intense trade test at MR Barbers (“I had to do a skin fade in front of the whole shop!”) and another day of training (“I was so nervous that I left a whole head of hair on the floor and in the sink”) Phil took Danny under his wing. From fourth chair to second chair, Phil began dragging Danny out of his shell: “phil has made me the confident barber I am today. He would like me to say he’s my mentor, so I’ll say it! He’s an amazing presence in the barbershop and he is who is.” High praise indeed.
Gaining both barbering and social skills has been a huge part of Danny’s journey. “I start talking to theperson in the chair and building trust and a bond,” he states. “I have a lot of clients who come in every two weeks to see me. I have one guy who comes in every Friday at 4.30pm for a skin fade. He recently had a baby and he was offloading his worries and his fears before the birth. He liked that he could offload onto me, rather than his pregnant girlfriend!” Danny loves the fact that barbers become part of people’s lives and wants his barber chair to be a safe space. “i’m a massive softie having gone through mental health struggles myself. After all the services I received –I really know what to do in a crisis!” he adds.
When MB asks Danny why Rusty Barber is his Instagram handle he says he was being self-deprecating. “when I created it I didn’t have formal training and didn’t (and still don’t) do the best skin fade in the world! I always say, honesty is the best policy. Also, my grandad was called Rusty so it’s fitting in that respect too! People take themselves too seriously. I cut hair and I chat sh*t. Your hair is always a bit shorter after you’ve seen me. As long as I’m fully booked, that’s enough for me.” Noted. You don’t have to have a million followers, or do the sickest fades or perform on big stages – it’s good to remind ourselves that barbers come in all shapes and sizes. Too cheesy? Well, MB loves a bit of vintage cheddar sometimes…