IT IS easy enough to gain a new skill, to incorporate another string to your already crowded, over-populated bow; but, to master said skill whilst building sponsors and strengthening connections across your whole, homegrown brand — this is a different breed.
Aarian Rico Alexander Alexander Sharifi, also know as Cutthroat Samurai is exactly that; a self-made, self-sustained barber based in his Dojo, Central Southampton. But, for Rico it’s more than a haircut; barbering is an art form of physical-proportions to be flaunted everyday, at every opportunity.
Interviewing Rico was different; for those who love speaking to new people and learning about background, like we do, there is something special about the way someone can carry, manipulate and direct questions in a manner that they prefer. After all, the theory behind this project was to spread local word; grow and develop the concept of local productivity to suit isolated needs.
Setting the scene, we’ve been asking local creatives to reply to questions via voice note or video; this enhances the feel and natural flow when spreading the word of their craft. Rico’s voice sat nicely on a plateau of lo-fi hip hop; no filter, just Rico.
CTS: Alright mic check, mic check one, two, one, two; this is Smooth Barry coming in live. No I’m joking (laughs), thank you very much for having me do this; I really appreciate you contacting me and taking the time to break this down after and go through it. I’ll try make it least hesitant as possible, but I am notorious for that shit, so, sorry if that’s the case. With the ADHD by brain runs 10 times faster than my mouth does, so sometimes I get stuck — but I will try.
TC: It’s no stress man! Pleasure as always, let’s kick it off with something clean and simple. In as many words as you like, who is Cutthroat Samurai?
CTS: WELL, first of all I am the Cutthroat Samurai, a.k.a. the Bandito Barber, a.k.a. your barber’s barber, a.k.a. in the rap-game known as The Shooter, a.k.a. you know, El Chapo the Chef (laughs again). No, I go by many but normally Rico da Barber; but the Samurai, I like to think of myself as first and foremost a barber. I’ve been a barber now for the last four years, before barbering I was a chef and specialised in creative plating — I worked in quite high-end restaurants too, Rosette, I worked with Michelin-Star chefs.
So, Cutthroat Samurai really isn’t only a barber, talking about myself in third person there, but a confidant. I’m told I’m the friend with the most friends because with my customers, quotations marks around the term customer there, I don’t see them as that, I see them as people whom I cut there hair and we build a relationship — that relationship develops into a friendship, so I like to think that I cut a big bunch of my homies and that’s why they say the Samurai is the friend with the most friends. Everyone, by the time I’ve had them in my chair at least four to five times, I could see them in the street, we could sit down and bust a one hour conversation over a coffee, no stress; actually, I’ll sit there and be genuinely interested in what they have to say.
But, I’m real bad for this whole side-tracking thing, bro, especially when there’s no one sat in front of me, saying, “alright lets get back on topic”, so I apologise for that in advance. You’ll probably have to take a load of this shit out.
I like to think there isn’t anything I can’t really do in this game anymore, but when I started specialising it was in beard-shaping and sculpting, blade-work, Afro-Caribbean and Asian ethnic hair types — but anyone that knows me knows I’ll cut anything, there’s nothing that can sit in my chair that I’ll say no to. I usually execute it to a standard which will make that person pretty happy with what they get in the end, I’ve never had someone come back and tell me their haircut wasn’t good enough in my whole career from day-one, I’ve never had someone turn around and say, “oh, I fucked up”, you know what I mean? So, that’s always a promising thing to tell you that I’m heading in the right direction — or at least doing the right thing to a certain extent. That or they’re just scared to say anything, should I say it gives me the indication that I’m pretty good, sorry! Actually no, I do think I’m pretty good but that’s because I work fucking hard to do what I do, you know what I mean?
I think if you asked most people to describe who Cutthroat Samurai is, to myself, it would be a along the lines of a very passionate, very down-to-earth — again, it’s difficult to describe myself without sounding like a dick, but I’ll cut anyone. My youngest customers are six and they’re getting busted a proper nice fade, with a nice little design on it of this and that — then my oldest customers go up to 73 I think? That’s good ol’ Paul, Paul comes in and I’ve convinced him to rock around with a classic parted comb-over, faded with a line through the middle; at 73 he’s looking fucking bossy as fuck, just walks around looking swag-daddy know what I’m saying. I have businessmen as my clients, I cut famous bands, I cut famous rap artists, I’ve cut athletes, most of the Southampton FC team, I cut everyone from every walk of life man — I don’t judge, your money is as good as the next man, your time is as good as the next man and I appreciate that you’re giving me your time to sit in my chair.
I don’t care if you’re a baller that makes 50,000 a week or you’re a street-level drug dealer making £10 on an awful day; your money don’t change, it’s your time that I appreciate you spending with me.
That’s the relationship that I’ve built with a lot of people, that I spend my time, I give them my time to cut their hair and they give me their time to allow it to be cut; that’s the real transaction right there. Money is just a physical form for me to pay my bills, or change that time into a physical form that can be tendered; because if we could trade in time and pay for electricity with that I would, instead we gotta deal with that good ol’ Queen Lizzy.
I hope that does describe who Samurai is, I think that’s what you were trying to get at.
TC: Reeling from what you mention above about cutting anyone and anything, what has been your biggest achievement to date? And besides this, career-wise what are the two things you’re most proud of?
CTS: When I started this about four years ago I had set myself goals. I always do a three and five year plan with anything I do, something I learnt a while back — in three years I wanted a big brand behind me, I wanted to have some high-ticket clients, and then five years on I wanted to open my first shop. I’d say my biggest achievement to date is in itself achieving those goals a lot earlier than expected. I’m in year four now after I picked up a pair of clippers, day dot, by two years I had on my books a hefty clientele, international and domestic of I’d say what you’d class as your celebrity clientele. From the sports-personality side, all the way from football club; Jack Stephens, Charlie Austin, Yan Valery and a bunch of the other guys being cut on a weekly basis. Then when it came to the music and rap-game, a rapper called Snik who’s the number one rapper in Greece, I was flying over to cut him regularly; artist called Soul-Meister who I’d say is an alternative artist from Greece, flying over there to cut him, do shows for him regularly — whereas actually through him I met my crew I guess, I mean, I’m an affiliate of the crew called WNC Wednesday Night Cypher, it’s a six-piece rap-group, really well known in Greece, sold out shows and top of YouTube trending charts every time they drop a video. I actually got to perform in front of 3,000 people, on stage as a rapper.
Mans not a rapper, but I spat a little 16 they liked and put it in a track as a joke, that joke went way too far and I ended up on stage in front of 3,000 for my first time spitting these bars.
Fucking went out there and felt like 50 Cent, it’s like a lifelong dream of a lot of people who are in the rap-game to stand on stage and spit to thousands of people, and I managed to do that which was quite fucking cool.
So, I did all of that within a two year period, gaining the celebrity clientele. Within year three I had gained my first big sponsor, Uppercut Deluxe which is one of three alongside Clarity Razors and Viper-Brand — for none of these I’m an official ambassador. I’m sponsored by flow so they send me products, I use them, I do work for them too as well so for Uppercut Deluxe I’ve gone out and cut all the staff in their HQ; it’s an Australian brand, the biggest male-grooming brand now in the world. Clarity was a small independent company based in the UK, and Viper Brand is a clothing brand run by a member of another band I look after, Bury Tomorrow. So, I got my foot in the door with the heavy-metal scene through Sony Entertainment as I’ve done work for them, Redbull and Coca Cola as well; I worked for Bury Tomorrow as their barber whilst on tour, which is quite a big name band in the UK for that genre of music, opening the door for me to work with 36 Fists on tour which is pretty dope.
By year four which is this year, I actually opened my first shop. So, realistically I was a year in advance for my three and five year plan of where I wanted to be. So, I’d say that’s my biggest achievement so far man, is reaching my set goals of when I first started this and wrote them down on that piece of paper, I said this is what I wanna do and I did it you know. I did it not only to a good level, but I did it early and quick — big names, big brands and my own shop.
Two things I’m most proud of? One is the fact that I have taught this gift or trade that has given me so much, I’ve managed to give that to a few people since year one, Within six months of me cutting hair I took on my first apprentice, Marios, then I had Jake as my apprentice second, my brother Carlos as an apprentice third and now I’ve taken on another apprentice called Summer at the moment — she’s kind of my newest apprentice in a way. One thing that I’m really proud of, is the fact that I didn’t just take the gift that I was given and sort of let it sit with me, I tried to bestow it upon as many other people as I could because cutting hair gave me so much in the sense of something to work towards, a passion, it was something that started as just work to get me out of being a chef and developed into a passion hella quick.
The other thing I’m most proud of, erm, I don’t know bro. Baby I think that’s probably just what I’m most proud, it’s that. I guess becoming a teacher too, I now do seminars at the local City Guild College, whilst also becoming a teacher of Art of Cutting Hair — it’s something that I’m very proud of myself because I’ve never been an academic, I’ve never seen myself as a teacher. For me to already be teaching private students and an actual, physical body of education, like the UK City and Guilds, see and appreciate my level was that good they wanted me in to teach their kids how to cut hair, and be able to start a teaching qualification so I can be an outboard examiner — that’s what I’m doing at the moment, that’s 2020’s thing, teaching.