Much like skateboarders and wildly popular DJs, really good barbers now have corporate sponsors. Rob Ferrel, better known as Rob the Original to his more than 69,000 fiercely loyal Instagram followers, is one of those world-famous barbers.
Celebrity branding is beginning to get under our skin... or maybe it won't get out of our hair. I think you get the drift.
He’s sponsored by ConAir’s high-end pro brand BaByliss (he says it’s really big in Germany and only just starting to grow in America—probably thanks to him), gets free equipment like blow dryers and trimmers, and travels the country teaching fellow hair stylists and designers the latest technological advancements in hair-cutting techniques.
His claim to fame? Specializing in Chuck Close–level photorealistic portraits shaved onto the backs of people’s heads. Ferrel has cut and trimmed designs from Jesus to Tupac to Batman and, a recent fan favorite, World Cup soccer players into the heads of fans ranging from two to 40 years old. His work is one of the most practical and democratic forms of visual art—as long as you have hair, Ferrel will shave someone else’s very recognizable face onto it.
When I catch him on the phone from San Antonio, Texas, he’s preparing for a competition in which makeup artists, regular hairstylists, design hairstylists, and basically anyone involved in the beauty industry will compete for fame, trophies, and maybe even their own corporate sponsorship. But during our conversation Ferrel emphatically insists that he was the first person to ever do a hair portrait and he’s so damn good at it I think I might just believe him. What’s even more amazing, though, is that he hasn’t kept the technical secrets behind his rare talent to himself. Instead, he travels the country teaching the technique at ConAir conferences. Like any good barber, Ferrel is talkative and friendly, and above all fame and trophies, he really just has one goal in mind: To see the hair design industry grow into the celebrated world-renowned scene it was always meant to be.
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