Men’s grooming has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years. This is evident on Instagram where every other photo a guy uploads of himself is of his beard’s growth progress and the girls wait until Monday to upload ones of their man crushes — because #MCM always has facial hair (hello, Idris Elba! #guilty). The proof is even on the streets, Telawi’s to be specific. Hang around the area long enough and the number of dudes with full-fledged beards would sometimes accumulate to more than the people queuing up for Nirwana. We respect this movement because it takes dedication and discipline — ‘Ds’ we only see ourselves having in the near distant future. Having had listed a few grooming kits for Movember last month, JUICE continues our men’s grooming streak and speak to Kevin Tan, a barber from Amplitude Barbershop who makes his own pomade under his label Mentega. Interestingly, prior to becoming a stylist and groomer, Kevin used to be more active in the music scene — you might recognise him as the bassist of post-hardcore band AZUREFORJANNE (A4J) and frontman of Reach for the Skies.
What got you interested in men’s grooming?
Personal grooming to me is allowing a guy to express who he is or what he’s comfortable being. It was later on that I realised my identity was related to it too. Like, when I was in secondary school, I tried really hard to fit in with the “cool” kids. They were the type of kids who’d throw you around until you “earned” your place in their circle.
Ah, high school.
Yeah, and the result at the end of the day was losing my identity. After I dropped the idea of hanging out with them, I found friends who accepted me as a whole — my style, the things I liked — and that in return made me feel comfortable. So after being aware how the two — my personal experience and grooming — linked to one another, it really motivated me to want to help others discover what makes them feel good too.
That sounds like a really cheesy romantic comedy but we get it! Do you do that through Amplitude Barber?
Sort of. My main role at Amplitude Barbershop is barbering, which includes consulting my clients, giving them a haircut or shave, recommending the most suitable products for them, and giving grooming tips/advice. All of us in the company do pretty much everything we can to grow the barbershop.
Was being a barber ever part of your career plan?
Honeslty, I never thought I’d become a barber. Before I ventured down this path, I used to look for places to purchase items like straight razors, different types of shaving creams, and lots of different hair products to experiment with. Just out of curiosity and interest, which then led to me making my own hair products too. Despite all of those factors, I never thought of it as a potential career yet — it wasn’t something unfamiliar.
It seems you may have subconsciously. How long did it take you to polish your skills?
About a half a year… Well, it took me that duration to charge a client for a cut confidently. But I wouldn’t say that I’ve learnt all there is; I am always working on polishing my skills even more because there’s so much to learn.
Did you think we’d live to see the day where men’s grooming is as big of a market as it is now? Not that we’re complaining, we like this lumberjack trend.
As cliché as it sounds, the classic never really dies. The industries constantly look to the past for inspiration — which trend/movement made an enormous impact on society, what worked and what didn’t — and a lot of things stick. While women have way more stuff to look at for grooming — from accessories to make up products to facial masks, and to all kinds of moisturisers and “enhancers” — men have the essentials. Get your hair done right, facial hair trimmed neatly, wear some cologne, and the only accessory that you can really count on any day is a nice watch. It’s quite simple.
Ah, we do enjoy the simple life. Would you ever consider growing an over-the-top beard?
Beard and moustache work are one of my favourite bits of the job! It’s the equivalent of putting icing on the cake for me.
Except you don’t really want icing on your moustache ‘cos that could be a bitch to clean up after.
Some people feel having too much facial hair leads to an unkempt appearance, which is a fair assumption if that person doesn’t maintain it properly. If done nicely, facial hair can look very neat and acceptable even in the corporate industry. I would love to try growing facial hair, but unfortunately my genes won’t allow it… Maybe that’s also why I love doing beard and mo’ work so much!
Sometimes it’s a blessing that you don’t have to shave every other day. We know that you created Mentega pomade, what was it like to create your own men’s grooming product?
I am a heavy pomade user. I’d go through an entire tub just after a few weeks of purchasing it! Slowly, I realised little details about the various pomades I used that were good and not too great, so I decided to try making my own.
That seems to be how most independent businesses start.
Yeah, I think people start creating products/services they’d like themselves, and realising it would really work the same for other people. The process of creating my own pomade was both joyful and tedious but after putting in all those hours, I produced something I liked, so it was worth it. Mentega was the perfect name for it ‘cos it’s light yellow in colour and feels exactly like butter.
But does it have actual butter in it though?
Yes! I have ingredients like cocoa butter and shea butter in it.
Like making a cake! Only for your hair. How’s sustaining yourself as a barber and pomade-maker been so far?
My career in barbering and brewing cosmetic products has been growing since day one, and so have the benefits that come with it. There’s definitely sustenance and stability.
That’s pretty dope, man. We know you make and play music as well, but are these two jobs the ones you focus on full-time or do you have other ongoing projects?
Career-wise, Mentega and Amplitude Barbershop are the ones I’m prioritising at the moment. Making music is a massive part of my life, and that will always be happening no matter when or where I am, but I don’t plan to use music for a full-time career. Not now, at least.
But you still dabble here and there, we presume?
I’m still working on various musical projects — some to put out, and some just to have fun with on my own. I’m still incredibly involved in it because it does take up a lot of my time in the week but it does fuel me. So, I’m not complaining.
We hope to hear something from you soon, then! Okay, last question so you can go back to music and making pomade, tell us your best/lamest joke.
What does a cow say when it goes to the cinema? Moooooooovies.
Oh my god. Where did you even… We have to stop asking that question.