Like the jazzy notes from Wynton Marsalis’ trumpet, the snips from the barber’s scissors and hum of his clippers are signs of an artist at work.
Back in the day, aside from the church, the barbershop was one of the few places Black people could get together and voice their opinions on issues that affect their communities. For more than 20 years, professional groomer and stylist Marvin Church has traveled the world creating polished images for his diverse clientele. I recently had the opportunity to speak with “Marv the Barb” about his journey in the men’s grooming industry.
Q. What inspired you to become a barber and what challenges did you face while developing your career?
A. As the youngest of 29 grandchildren, I was intrigued by my older cousins and tried to look like them. I started cutting hair at the age of nine. My dad took me to a barbershop and I started drawing out haircuts and using myself as a canvas.
Q. Stylists sometimes serve as therapists for their clients, listening to their stories while they’re in the chair. Do you have these relationships with your clientele?
A. It goes both ways. It’s sort of therapy for me, too.
Q. You’ve worked with a lot of notable clients, like musical legend Stevie Wonder, what was that like?
A. I worked with Stevie as a special request at the first annual BET Honors. He’s an artist that cannot see, but can feel. I’ve always wanted someone to really feel my work.
Though I’ve worked with prominent figures, all of my clients are VIP to me.
Q. Who haven’t you worked with that you would love to have in your chair?
A. President Obama. He’s right around to corner, he’s my neighbor.
Q. A lot of the images we see of black hair care are of women’s styling. Why is it important for men to be groomed?
A. We are seeing a return to the era of the gentleman. Men want to take better care of themselves. Now that men have the money to do so, they want the same feeling that women get.
Barbering is one of the oldest professions in the world. We started with shears, razors, and combs. We do not ever want to lose that. It’s a part of history that we shouldn’t lose.
Q. What advice do you have for young men aspiring to start their own businesses or brand?
A. Set the value of yourself most high. The doors are open. My advice would be to be more inventive; create within the creation. A lot of us do not know how to use tools like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to promote our businesses.
Marvin Church is a stylist at the Patrick Segui salon. He will be launching a new product line that takes a holistic approach to personal grooming.
Visit www.marvthebarb.com to for the latest on his upcoming book and other projects. Click here to book an appointment.