When did you first discover your chosen profession? Most of us wait till college, while some of us never manage to find that special thing we’re meant to do. And then there are the lucky few, like celebrity barber Maurice Manley, who found his calling at a young age.
“I started cutting hair when I was 12 years old. When I started, it was on my own hair. I used to sit and wait for my dad to cut my hair and this one day I kept asking and he kept putting me off, so I did it myself.
And I messed my hair up badly! But I kept going because I was determined to learn how to so I wouldn’t have to ask him anymore,” he explains.
His pre-teen style saving grace led to attention from his friends and eventually paying gigs. By the time Manley was 16, he was getting paid to cut his friends’ hair. Soon after he had an epiphany.
“I’d see actors and stuff in the movies and their hair would be just terrible! I knew then I wanted to start cutting hair. I knew I could do a better job than their stylists were doing by them.
I did a ton of work on videos, photos and shoots, and I happened to meet Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s stylist at the time. H taught me everything I needed to do to become a celebrity stylist.”
Manley’s list of clients reads like a who’s who of black Hollywood. “In the past, I’ve worked with everyone from Usher, DMX, Ghostface Killer, Q Tip, Xzibit, Donnie McClurkin, Joe, Chico De Barge, Mario.
And my current clients include Common, Jermaine Dupri and Sean Patrick Thomas. I don’t know if this is a big one, but I also worked with Conrad Murray.”
Yes, that Conrad Murray. You may have seen Manley pop up on TMZ this week, after one of their reporters came in to photograph Murray mid-haircut. He was later interviewed by the reporter.
Black Voices caught up with Maurice about his skills as a barber and to find out the best advice he has for black men who want stay looking so fresh and so clean.
Are there new trends when it comes to black hair?
Not really, but there is a new level of consciousness with black men and grooming. It ties in with the whole metro-sexual trend.
There are more products now for men, and they care more about their image when it comes to their hair and skin.
Nowadays more men are getting pedicures; it’s an overall evolution. It’s not like there are trends in hairstyles, unless you’re getting a Mohawk or design.
More people are requesting designs and there are a lot of skillful barbers who can cut shapes and even faces into people’s hair. But that’s mostly popular among the youth or something done for hair shows.
Have you noticed changes in your clients over time when it comes to personal grooming?
Yes, they care more now. More men are asking me about which products to use, if I would recommend waves or how to avoid razor bumps.
What products are you recommending?
It depends. If it’s a dandruff issue, I recommend American Crew or Organic Root Stimulator. If they want thicker or fuller hair I recommend a system called Status a shampoo, pomade and mist spray that expands the hair shaft and gives the illusion of thicker hair. This can help with male pattern balding.
What do you for your clients with male patterned baldness?
I have mastered a blending technique. I use the hair that’s on their head, but I just cut in such a way that one would not notice that the hair is thinning or balding; I blend it all in. In a worst case scenario, there are fill-in hair fibers to spray on. I purchase mine from the beauty shop.
What’s the best advice you can give to a man looking to keep his look fresh?
As a man, you have to know when it’s time to evolve. On my business cards it says specializing in men’s grooming and image consulting.
Part of that consulting is acknowledging where you are in your life. I know many guys who think cutting their hair will make them look old.
But, in actuality, when a man cuts his hair low, it takes years off his age.
What are the specific concerns for black men and their grooming regimen?
Black men require special attention when it comes to our hair, our skin and how our hair grows. It’s important to know how to address these issues, otherwise you’ll wind up with problems like ingrown hair and razor bumps.
I recommend for razor bumps — if it’s kind of light — Organic Root Stimulator anti-bump spray. Bump Patrol works great, too, and it’s fast. However I’m really an advocate of preventing razor bumps.
Before a man shaves, his skin needs to be prepped. You have to treat your skin before and after you shave. It’s all about conditioning and maintaining the moisture in the skin.
Shave with and across the grain, versus against the grain. If you shave against the grain you will get razor bumps, guaranteed.
You’ve cut the hair of many celebrities and have made quite a name for yourself. What’s next?
My mission is to take my brand and make it a household name in terms of franchising. I want to do something different that hasn’t been done in barbering before.