From traditionalists to hipster blow-ins: Bobby Kerr surveys Ireland's booming barber trade

The Down to Business presenter got hands-on for this one...

From traditionalists to hipster blow-ins: Bobby Kerr surveys Ireland's booming barber trade

Twitter / Bobby Kerr

It seems that barber shops are popping up on every street corner as a new generation of men turn back to classic controlled-hairstyles. These looks are not a million miles away from those supported across Ireland one hundred years ago in 1916 - according to the panel of barbers who joined Bobby Kerr to discuss the booming industry.

Fourth generation barber, Sam Donnelly gave Bobby a quick touch-up before the red light went on - a 2 on the back and sides and a trim on top in case you're wondering.

Once the panel got Down to Business, Sam began by stressing that "barbering, in general, is very competitive."

Every shop needs to find a niche and to develop a following, the panel lamented the spread of 'hipster barbers' popping up across the country "like coffee shops."

Sam adds that there are people "getting away with murder" operating in the market as it is largely unregulated. He claims that it is common for barbers with limited experience to try their hand at opening their own stores, with mixed results at best.

Noel McHugh owns The Cutthroat Club Barber Services in Wexford - he stresses the importance of the club element:

"The social element got lost for a while," he says, emphasising the importance of local barbers in towns and villages.


His shop specialises in classic fades and crops - he cites the looks in the TV show Peaky Blinders set in post-WW1 Birmingham as a good example of the look that his customers are asking for. He adds that many show him images of Cillian Murphy is his starring role. He concedes that he's "not a wizard," but he does his best to replicate the leading man's look.

As men become more conscious of their grooming routines, Sam Donnelly says that product sales can account for up to 30% of stores' turnover, as barbers steer customers towards the oils, gels, and waxes that will work best with their barnet.

Hugh McAlistair who is Co-Owner of Grafton Barbers, which has 28 locations in Ireland, was keen to highlight the importance of quality control:

"It's difficult, all the lads will tell you. You can have the nicest looking store, with the nicest shopfront on it - but your product is your staff," he told Bobby, adding that it is a "daily battle" to ensure that customers are getting the best service.

His company has started its own school of excellence in Dublin's city center to make sure that standards never dip.

Listen back to the likely exchange below: