CONTESTANTS BATTLED IT OUT IN FOUR CATEGORIES;
• UK’s Freshest Fade • Artistic Barber of the Year• Beard and Moustache Champion• Afro Barber of the Year
Judged by Mike Taylor, Captain Fawcett, Baldy and MK, the winners were certainly going to have to impress these industry monarchs.
AFTER A HARD BATTLE, THE WINNERS WERE ANNOUNCED;
Artistic Barber of the Year - Kimberley Fletcher
Fade of the Year - Connor McLeod
Afro Barber of the Year - Graham Grimshaw
Beard and Moustache Champion - Mathew Maxwell
We caught up with three of the winners to see how it felt to compete and win at ExCeL London..
WHAT MADE YOU ALL ENTER THE COMPETITION?
-I’ve been in four competitions all together as a finalist, three of which were for Afro Barber of the Year. This time for me was quite chilled, at least I managed to channel my nerves. It blew my mind to be a finalist again though. I doubted myself in lockdown, so this challenge was good for me to prove myself, to myself.
Kim -Artistic Barber seemed to be a great category for me to showcase my colouring, cutting and styling skills. I have seen people competing before but never entered anything like this, it was nerve-wracking! It was actually my first time at Salon International -as I walked through the doors I thought, ’what exactly am I playing at’.
Connor -I’ve been in the industry a little over 14 years and I thought it was time that I tested the waters and competed. I decided to enter the awards to challenge myself in new aspects of the industry. This was the first time I’ve entered any competitions, so it was a completely new experience for me. It’s challenges like this that keeps your career feeling fresh and exciting.
WHAT DID IT FEEL LIKE BEING IN THE COMPETITION AREA?
Graham -I said hello to everyone and introduced myself to the judges. I tried to be super calm though and channel my thoughts to all of the work I was going to do on my client’s hair, and thought about how to start and how I could show off all of my techniques to grab the attention of the judges.
Kim -I vaguely familiarised myself with the layout of the place and as I was the last one through the gate, things got underway really quickly. My hands were shaking really badly, but that eased off after about 10 minutes and I started to relax. I don’t remember making eye contact with the judges as they came round, I could just feel them standing behind me; I’ve got no idea what I said. It was the fastest 40 minutes in Greenwich Mean Time!
Connor -As we got to the competition area we were a bag full of nerves! I methodically laid out my tools so I knew exactly where everything was — time is a precious commodity in these situations! We were told the rules and guidelines for the competition; we had to complete the cut in 45 minutes. As we set upon our clients you could feel massive tension in the room as it filled up with an audience. I decided to focus and not look up until I finished my client.
WHAT WAS THE EMOTION WHEN WAITING FOR RESULTS?
-This one was mad really, I felt like I had been beaten. The barber to the left of me (Black Gold) produced a beautiful fade and I couldn’t stop looking at it. Because I have been beaten before and I had won before, I was happy for anyone to win, because it is an amazing competition and just being there at the time was enough.
Kim -The second the competition had finished, I felt such a buzz. It didn’t matter the outcome because I had just competed in a live final. I was extremely pleased with myself for doing something I never thought that I was capable of doing, that in itself was a win for me.
Connor -There was quite a wait between finishing the competition and the winners being revealed. We waited for the results, all sat next to each other on the stage benches, you could cut the tension with a knife. I was so anxious while I was waiting. As each category got announced, the nerves got worse.
HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU WERE ANNOUNCED AS THE WINNER OF YOUR CATEGORY?
-I was overwhelmed, suddenly a cloud of happiness had spawned above me, my friend Richard Bland had recorded it and zoomed in to me whilst they announced it and my face says it all. I wouldn’t say I smashed the other competitors as there were some unbelievable barbers, and any one of them could have taken this title.
Kim -There was some stiff competition in my category and it was a real pleasure to meet fellow competitors after the announcement was made. I received some amazing compliments and that will stay with me. The feeling of hearing my name announced as the winner, I was completely taken back. The shock of the whole thing was amazing, I had a fantastic day from the start and it ended on a huge high.
“EVERYONE WANTS TO BE A WINNER, BUT FAILURE IS THE BEST TEACHER”
Connor -We waited patiently as they explained how close the competition was and finally I was announced as the 2021 Winner! It felt incredible to win the competition for the first year, especially as it was my first competition and the talent was fierce. Entering the awards was a challenge to myself and how far I’ve come in my career, so to win solidified the fact that I was moving in the right direction and was among the best in the UK.
WHY WOULD YOU SAY IT’S IMPORTANT TO ENTER COMPETITIONS?
-It’s important because it helps you to be relevant and keeps you in the mix of other barbers. You’ll be remembered for winning and nothing can take that away, it helps grow confidence, but also boost your ego slightly! I can honestly say that when I started barbering I didn’t think I could have won awards, but you should all try it once just to get that adrenaline feeling.
Kim -An award like this was important to me because it made me realise that I was, in fact, capable of holding my nerve, working well under pressure, showcasing my work and facing a panel of judges such as they were and achieving a win. I highly recommend anyone to do the same because you never know until you know!
Connor -I would say entering awards is a fantastic way to challenge yourself to new aspects of your career and build self confidence. Getting comfortable is a dangerous trait and can leave you standing in the dust. It really is the taking part that counts; everyone wants to be a winner, but failure is the best teacher, so regardless of how well you do, building self confidence and learning from your actions is the greatest way to strengthen your foundations and push your career in a positive direction.