When the boys of V76 get together, good—and stylish—things happen.
After a period of unrest that included dropping out of college, Chris Osborn was introduced to barber Armstead Lewis. Armstead, who became an unlikely mentor, encouraged him to pursue a career in barbering and Chris’s life changed forever. Now a seven-year veteran behind the chair, Chris quickly worked his way up the ranks to become the master barber at GENT Cuts and Grooming in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he’s paying it forward as a leader in the shop for continuing education.
What was your experience with barbershops growing up?
I was a victim of my mom bringing me to random spots to get my hair cut. When I was about 14, I met a friend who always had these super cool haircuts, and he brought me to this great shop in a rough part of town. I started going there and did so throughout high school. Eventually that shop closed and a new shop opened in the same location. And that’s where I met Armstead, the guy who sent me to barber school.
How did your barber convince you to go into the industry?
When I met Armstead I was in college for social work, but had dropped out because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. One day he was cutting my hair and asking me what I wanted to do with my life, which is when he suggested that I go to barber school. He said, ‘It’s a cool job, you meet a lot of cool people and I think you’d be good at it.’ After that, I set up a meeting with the local barber school in Minneapolis, talked to the owner and signed up that day. I started about two weeks after signing up and seven years later I’m still doing it.
What are the big trends in the Twin Cities right now?
We have a very big hipster scene and a great music and arts scene in Minneapolis. A lot of clients come in and refer to haircuts from the show Peaky Blinders—that new school look with a very clean blend.
What’s your top grooming tip for guys?
I would say to blow dry your hair. That’s my number-one thing. When most guys come in to GENT, I’ll cut their hair, blow dry it and style it. The next time I see them they’re like, ‘It looked so good when you did it. I just can’t get it to look like that again.’ And I’m like, ‘You have to blow it dry!’ That’s going to be your best bet when it comes to the newer styles. It builds volume—without it your hair will look flat.
As the master barber at GENT, what role do you play in continuing education?
Patrick Elwell, a senior stylist who comes from the cosmetology side and specializes in men’s hair, and I do a training program for all new hires. The program is mandatory for one year. Every Monday night, we have all the new hires bring in models and we go through haircuts with them from start to finish. We want our shop and our company to be known for being consistent and on point every time.
How did you get into using V76 products?
I’m a huge Bruce Springsteen fan and because no one else in the shop is a fan, I defend it every day. I’ve been to like six of his concerts. One day a V76 Brand Manager came in to GENT and told us about all of the people who use the products and there was Bruce Springsteen, one of the people who uses V76. So we took on the line and now we get to listen to Bruce Springsteen in the shop.
I can’t put the products down. V76 by Vaughn is one of the overall coolest lines that I’ve ever used. The scents, the pliability—it’s just great. I have yet to pick up a product that I don’t like.
What’s your favorite V76 product to recommend to clients?
I am all about the Tex Texture Paste. The majority of the men in my chair like a matte, sandy, rough, messy look. It’s the perfect product for that. It’s extremely pliable, which you don’t find a lot with paste products, and it totally just melts in your hair, making it easy to apply.
We hear you’re engaged…to a coworker. What’s the story behind that?
Our shop is a dual shop where we have cosmetologists and barbers. She started about two weeks after me so we were the new people in the shop together. We met and hit it off. We got engaged about six or seven months ago and are getting married next May. We work together and live together and we make things work. We also push each other very hard to succeed in our fields, which is a good thing to come out of it.
If you could have one person in your chair, who would it be?
It’s got to be The Boss, it’s got to be Bruce. It all makes sense about Bruce and the shop and how much he is a part of V76.