Words by Corey Chalumeau
Photography by Aundre Larrow
Adrian Fanus’ AF Grooming is tucked away on the 3rd floor above the bustling Dekalb Avenue in Brooklyn. Adrian describes choosing this out of the way location as the best business decision he’s ever made, explaining that “no one’s going to pop in and try to sell you DVDs!”
With a client roster that includes Forest Whitaker, Idris Elba and Tyson Beckford, walking into Adrian Fanus Grooming, brings about a certain air of luxury and excellence, reminding every client that top tier grooming salons still do exist. Over tea served by Adrian’s receptionist, we got to know a man who’s built his own lane in the grooming industry.
Bevel Code: What do you feel gave you that push to open your own shop (or should we say lounge)?
Adrian Fanus: A lot of people approached me about opening a shop. However a lot of them didn’t share the same passion and vision that I did. So for them it was a business move, like I can make some quick disposable income. But for me, I love people, yes I see myself as a groomer, a servant for the people. Through grooming I have the opportunity to impact someone’s life, even change their life, so I wanted an environment that would reflect that. That means no television, no loud music. It’s important for the client to build a relationship with their groomer. Without those distractions you can focus on that.
BC: I understand you consider yourself a groomer and not barber, what’s the difference between those two titles?
Adrian Fanus: I feel like a barber is someone who just cuts hair. A groomer on the other hand is someone who’s not just skilled in the art of cutting hair, but also skilled in art of giving you a skin consultation. To give someone their best cut you have to be well-versed and knowledgeable about skin. I mean you have to understand that what haircut works for different head shapes, the difference in scalp, and how to use the correct products for that individual. A haircut should be tailored to who you are as person, your career, personality and lifestyle.
I always say a guy’s more likely to cheat on their partners, than their barber.
So if client hops in my chair and they’re like “Hey Adrian, I want a fade.” I’ll then ask that individual a few more questions. A groomer is a bit more in-depth.
BC: Do you feel men are scared to open up to give direction on the cut they really want?
Adrian Fanus: It’s all about forming a strong relationship and building trust. If there’s trust in the relationship, that person will feel comfortable with opening up. As a groomer it’s your duty to let that client know that you have their best interest at heart. That really needs to be emphasized over and over. However, this does take time, you can’t force it.
I always say a guy’s more likely to cheat on their partners than their barber. This relationship is that serious! To the point where it’s almost like a divorce when a client stops coming. It’s really hard to tell your barber that you’re no longer pleased in this relationship.
So what makes great haircut is a haircut that’s specifically tailored for that individual in every aspect, from the beard, to the eyebrows, to the nose, to the back of the neck. No haircut should be a one size fits all.
BC: We talk a lot about what makes a haircut good. What do you think makes a haircut great?
Adrian Fanus: Well for that I’m going to use the analogy of going to get a suit. So you can go to J.Crew, Boss, Prada or Banana Republic, wherever, and get a suit off the rack. You’ll get a pretty decent fit, sometimes even an exceptional fit. But,for example, if you go to to Savile Row in London and get a tailored suit, now that suit will fit different because it’s been tailored to your specific body, and it’s the same thing with a haircut.
For some guys a sharp line is important and may work, for others it’s not. So what makes great haircut is a haircut that’s specifically tailored for that individual in every aspect, from the beard, to the eyebrows, to the nose, to the back of the neck. No haircut should be a one size fits all.
BC: How were you able to build such a high profile of clientele, was it someone seeing your work or you being in the right place at the right time?
Adrian Fanus: The answer is simple, simpler than people care to believe.
How I build my celebrity clientele was by focusing on every single person that sat in my chair, because I know the minute you left that chair, your haircut is representation of my craftsmanship, my work. You know there’s 5 degrees of separation; if you want to get to anyone in the world, you usually can get to them thru 5 people or less.
For example, if I cut you and you know someone, who happens to know an editor, who happens to a premier photographer in NYC, who happens to be looking for a barber to cut his models before a shoot. I’ll be referred to the photographer based off of from previous work with you. It’s the degrees of separation, understanding that anyone who sits in my chair is just important as the next no matter their career or status in life.
BC: Do you see yourself opening AFG salons in other places outside of Brooklyn?
Adrian Fanus: My current focus right is to open another salon in Los Angeles. Eventually my goal is to open salons in every major city, every major metropolis, to have my salons in London, Hong Kong, Bangkok, International is the long-term goal. It’ll be a salon for professionals from all walks of life that want that a real grooming experience instead of a barbershop environment.
BC: Can you share some pointers for any guy hopping into the chair on how to get that great haircut?
Adrian Fanus: Be honest about what you want! A lot of guys are intimidated and don’t tell the barber what they really want. Like hey I’ve been thinking about this haircut or hey you messed up last time. Vocalize what you expect from the haircut, because you’re paying for it. You should always get what you paid for in this situation.