Influencer barbers are on the rise, will men shift loyalty?

Epitome Barbers

Charles Kimani shaves a client at Epitome Barbers in Nairobi on May 15, 2024.

Photo credit: Billy Ogada | Nation Media Group

This barbershop on Nairobi’s Kimathi Street is almost like a film studio. As the hum of clippers echoes throughout the room, there is a camera to capture the shave.

Every barber has a ring light to provide enough light as they record the men's before and after haircuts. These photos and videos will be posted on the barbershop's social media pages with thousands of followers.

“Social media is the backbone of our business promotion; we get most of our clients from our online pages,” says Charles Kimani, who is the manager of Epitome Barbers.

Contrast this with a few years.

The barbers of yesteryear were old, reserved, hidden unless you had been referred to them, or located in unkempt, cramped rooms in poorly-lit streets. The only services they offered then were a haircut and a haircut.

However, nowadays, besides haircuts, the new-generation barbers who have become shutterbugs, [have their cameras ready at all times to showcase their works] have diversified into hair colouring, massage after the haircut, facial steaming, manicures, and pedicures; all for men.

These self-proclaimed “architects of swag” post regularly on Instagram and TikTok and earn better than traditional barbers, taking what can be a monotonous job to new levels.

“The least we charge is Sh1,000 for a normal shave. The maximum charge for the services of hair and colouring is Sh5,000. We also have a comprehensive package of Sh7,000, which includes everything,” Mr Kimani says.

The 31-year-old, who goes by the art name of ‘Charlo the barber’, says he started by shaving children before gradually getting good at what he does through social media and fashion trends.

"I always wanted to be an architect, and I feel that I am doing that with the hairdressing thing, even though I did not manage to extend my studies," he says.

Epitome Barbers

Charles Kimani shaves a client at Epitome Barbers in Nairobi on May 15, 2024.

Photo credit: Billy Ogada | Nation Media Group

Another barber who is pushing the creative envelope is Safari Martin. On Instagram alone, he has over 435,000 followers and counting.

In his style of delivering the perfect haircut, he is equipped with various tools, including hammers, knives, pliers, and more. This is what has turned him into a social media sensation.

Now based in Nairobi, the 24-year-old Rwandan barber has no physical barbershop. He says he has been cutting hair since he was still in school.

"I was the best in art class, and my friends convinced me to try lining their hair up, and that's how it started. Although we had a school barber since it was a boarding school, I started gaining clients amongst the students," he says.

His social media blow made everything different because he recently joined the League of Celebrity Barbers.

"It's now easier for me to get clients because I have a wider audience worldwide. My price card has also had to change. Currently, I charge $60 (Sh7,875) for a shave and I only do house calls," he says.

In a week, Safari attests that he would have a minimum of six clients. "Most of my clients are not Kenyans, and the Kenyans that I get are the ones who have been living in the diaspora and are back home for a holiday, which I find normal because it was the same situation in Rwanda."

Safari Martin, a mobile barber and a content creator

Safari Martin, a mobile barber and a content creator poses for a photo at Nation Centre in Nairobi on May 9, 2024.

Photo credit: Billy Ogada | Nation Media Group

Why Nairobi?

"When you talk about barbers in Africa, I looked up to the Kenyan barbers like the Dufanda brothers, Charlo the barber, Jimmy, Fahim and others. I chose Nairobi because I wanted to grow, when I was in Rwanda I won the Grammy award, the content creator of the year among the barbers, I achieved all that but then our barbering industry in Rwanda was still growing so I had to move to a country with a bigger target audience," Safari admits.

However, despite his thrive, the language barrier and persuading people to take the cut for content creation is one of the biggest challenges he has encountered.

"It's always hard to convince people when I am walking on the streets and looking for someone with nice hair. In Kenya, I tag my friend who speaks nice Swahili so he shows them my social page and how creative it can get to convince them," he says, "when I'm out on the street looking for people to shave, I don't pay attention to their financial status because I do it for free. [a way to advertise his services on social media] Most people in Kenya are used to getting a shave for Sh200 or sometimes Sh500."

Paying to shave customers

Because it takes up most of their time, and they see that you are using dangerous tools, sometimes Safari even pays them for a haircut. All this is to create content and reach new customers.

As the influencer barbers spread across towns, will men's loyalty shift to the comfort of the cushy leather chairs and emoji likes of their heads posted on a social media page?

Conservative men say finding a trusted barber is like discovering a hidden gem and it would be hard to yo-yo the allegience.

Ian Kiplagat’s experience with his barber spans 14 years.

"It is difficult for a man to do a lot of explaining on how he wants his hair and, most importantly, his beard shaved. It's always easier when all you have to do is sit and enjoy your time since your barber knows exactly what and how you want your hair to look. That is why I will stick to mine," he says.

Mr Kiplagat tells the BDLife that before he got his current long-time barber, he had previously stayed for three months without a shave, just trying to scout for someone who would shave him to his liking.

On the consistent side, he has had the same style of hair shaved over the years, paying Sh800.

He says his hesitancy to try out these influencer barbers is because he is not as daring.

"I remember some time ago, my barber tried to give me a new look, which was not very different from what I always had, but when I went to the office the following week, most of my colleagues noticed the change and said that I looked slightly different. This made me feel very uncomfortable, so I had to go back to my barber that evening to get my normal cut back," he says.

Although traditional, he says his barber has introduced a few complimentary.

"When we started, it was just the shave, but gradually they introduced other complimentary services, of which I prefer the facials and head massages that I have also received over the years from another consistent lady in the barbershop," he says.

Mr Kiplagat says he is not about to change his current barber because of exaggerated services in the context of modern progress.

"There is a lot of unnecessary pampering with the new styles of shave, which I choose to leave for the young generation," the 44-year-old says.


The Kenyan barber business has gradually proved to be a profitable venture.

However, the difference between the new and old barbers is that the new thrives best with top-notch services and effective marketing of the business.

They have embraced the cut-and-shave style, offering premium services such as beard grooming and head massages that have boosted their sales by attracting customers.

Age and technology have played a role in the shift in barbering.

Charlo tells the BDLife that the majority of their clients are in their 20 up to 35 years. "They like good vibes and lots of interaction, listening to loud music and things to do with their age, and they also like to be understood which we consistently deliver for their comfort," he adds.

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