If anyone tries to tell you word-of-mouth marketing doesn’t matter anymore, just mention Mark Maciver’s name. One of the biggest (if not the biggest) barbers in London, he’s cut the hair of LeBron James and Stormzy, among others, and he has earned almost all of his opportunities through good word of mouth. It’s no surprise; this guy is Dumbledore with hair clippers. Maciver does this all as SliderCuts, an alter-ego inspired by an old MC name that is now synonymous with great hair throughout the UK. Breaking on nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram as well as having put out his first book, Shaping Up Culture, in 2019, Maciver continues to leave a footprint on the world — even amidst the pandemic.

Maciver tells Highsnobiety that his mother and brothers gave him haircuts as a kid and this is what ultimately pushed him into the industry. “I got tired of their basic cuts — no offense intended, as this is the reason I’m here today — and wanted something better and fresher. So I decided to try it out on myself,” he says over email. It led to years of learning, studying, and applying the art of barbering to many heads — including his own. On more than one occasion he cut his hair completely off, dissatisfied with the results. But over time, he established himself as a talented clippersmith who built a network of clients through referrals from others. His social media buzz came in, and so did the high-profile heads.

At the height of his popularity so far, everything changed. The pandemic, which has killed 123,000 in the UK as of this writing, has made huge changes to how barbering is conducted in shops throughout the country and the world at large. “I’ve had to shut down my shop, which is my main source of income, and during the times when we have been open, serving people has become increasingly more difficult,” Maciver says. “Now we can’t have lots of people waiting in the shop anymore, we’ve had to remove most of our waiting chairs, so it felt like a different vibe in the shop.”

This has led to life feeling “like a doctor’s appointment,” according to Maciver. Hopefully that changes sometime in the future, but until then, he’ll be building his brand with his one-of-a-kind cuts, integrating himself further into London’s pop culture, and preparing for things to go back to normal.

Here’s Mark Maciver, aka SliderCuts, on his come-up, cutting celebrity hair, and barbering during the pandemic.

Just how important do you think a great haircut is?

A great haircut is often the reason that a lot of people feel more confident walking into a situation. When you’re looking good, you feel good, and as a result you end up performing better in whatever it is; interviews or just meeting up with people, it gives you a level-up mentally. And this is one of the reasons I love what I do.

When did you discover your barbering passion?

When I was 13-14 years old. I’ve been interested in hair. Growing up, I was always intrigued by haircuts and the way that people styled [their hair]. In both real life and television. The triggering point for me to join the profession was that we never had money to go to the barbershop, so I would get my haircut at home by my mum or older brothers. But I got tired of their basic cuts — no offense intended, as this is the reason I’m here today — and wanted something fresher, so I decided to try it out on myself.

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Slidercuts Studios
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Slidercuts Studios

Over time, you got so good that celebrities began to enter your chair. How did you get to this stage?

The process was a slow one, where I focused on my craft and always took a lot of pride and respect in my work and the SliderCuts business. If you know me, you know that every hour of every day is full of me doing something — I’m always busy. I graft, and it was this that helped me to grow and improve as a barber gradually. Having a big client list isn’t something I take for granted, but I do believe hard work does pay off. Eventually you just need to apply the right mindset to your craft.

The business grew in popularity before the days of social media, and I was cutting hair in those days as well, via word of mouth. Once I cut one person’s hair, they told someone else, and then before you know it, X could be friends with Y, and this all happened naturally through personal recommendations.

When I was 18, I got an unofficial apprenticeship in a shop called D&L and I worked as much as possible. As soon as college was done, I worked there full-time. The barber above me there had some bigger name clients, and as I continued my journey, I was trusted more and more to work with them, and if there wasn’t a customer in the shop for me, I would stand there studying the techniques and process.

Eventually, I became a heavily sought-after barber and was one of the first people in the country to have my own website as a solo barber. At the time, only big-name barbershops had websites, and this was around 2008/2009, so for anybody that was searching for a barber online (especially a black Afro hair barber), I was the only person to come up.

You’re also very popular on social media. How did that come about?

I built up a big social presence by being pretty open about oversharing. I spend time creating content, and I really enjoy doing it and always have a lot to say. You have to be open when you are in a barbershop. I want everyone to come in, chill, and chat, and I don’t think you can really be standing there silent and unengaging. So being on social media isn’t too far away from that for me. The more I shared, the more I seemed to gain followers and ended up with quite a few clients, like Anthony Joshua, Reggie Yates, Tinie Tempah, and others.

What’s the story behind you cutting Stormzy’s hair?

A lady from my church put me forward to be on a YouTube show with a friend of Stormzy’s. After we shot the program, we were all talking, and conversation got onto my haircuts. They all started looking at my Instagram and his friend sent him a picture of one of my cuts and said that he should visit me. That was it. Then a few weeks later I get a message from a random number saying, “Yo bro, I need you to save me.” I looked at the WhatsApp profile pic, which was him with David Beckham, so we organized a haircut for that day on a photo shoot. I cut him, he loved it, and the rest is history!

What’s your approach to cutting like? How do you make sure that you give the same amount of effort from head to head?

The reality is you will never give the same amount of effort on everything. But that is my aim, and I’m honest with myself, so I check myself whenever I’m slacking. I have this Bible verse that I try to always remember, which is: Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for God, not for human bosses." This mindset has helped me through the years because even if I got away with cutting corners with people, I always knew god was watching. Also, I feel guilty when I don’t give a client the cut or service they deserve from sitting in my chair.

How would you say that the pandemic has impacted the SliderCuts business?

The pandemic has majorly affected my business. I’ve had to shut down my shop, which is my main source of income. And during the times when we have been open, serving people has become increasingly more difficult. Now we can’t have lots of people waiting in the shop anymore, we’ve had to remove most of our waiting chairs, so it felt like a different vibe in the shop.

I miss seeing people and chatting with them face to face; however, the pandemic has helped me to stretch myself into other areas, which I’ve always wanted to go into, such as teaching. I’m doing online business classes [which you can find here], creating more content where I’m just doing sketches, which I really enjoy, and I’m working on adding in some new chapters to my book Shaping Up Culture.

What about the impact on the barbering industry?

The impact on the barbering industry has been horrible, because plenty of shops have had to close. It’s also eerie, because we don’t know how we’ll have to go back to normal where we can work freely (with restrictions and measures in place) without the fear of us going into another lockdown or tiered system. Last time we, as an industry, didn’t have much time to prepare, and I’m sure many felt the effects of this as much as I did.

Barbershops have always been a social space where people gather. How do you think that this has changed during the pandemic?

The pandemic has made it a lot more difficult to have that social environment. Reduced numbers in the shop take away from the busy, debating chilling spot it once was. The barbershop is known to be the place you can go to even when you’re not getting a haircut. Now you can barely be there even when you’re getting a cut. You have to come bang on-time for your appointment, leave straight after, no shouting, come by yourself if possible, sign this form on your way in. Getting a haircut can now feel like a doctor’s appointment.

What are you doing until then to recreate the atmosphere of the barbershop?

I still allow group conversations to flow in the shop. I do more online conversations on platforms like Clubhouse and Instagram so those who can’t be here can get a little feel of the barbershop.

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