Elliot Forbes, hair and grooming specialist from London, worked in the Treatmentspace at the Mühle Store in Carnaby for four years. In 2019, he became a TikTok star with a video about hair trends. He now has 9.7 million followers there. He also has his own YouTube channel and has published an e-book with hair and beard care tips. He is a full-time content creator since April 2023 and is not yet sure whether he will miss cutting hair.

“TikTok was the first platform that made sense to me”

Elliot, from a grooming specialist to a TikTok-star: how did your career start?

It was never my intention to become famous by creating content for social media – I really didn’t think of becoming someone with an influencer or celebrity status. I only understood it as a marketing tool. I was planning to open up my own barbershop, and, of course, I knew that I’d need lots of customers to make it a success. And as it didn’t go so well at the beginning, I started producing videos.

Why didn’t it go well?

I don’t know. I struggled with Instagram, I struggled with Youtube. I felt that I didn’t quite understand what was needed on those platforms.

And that changed with TikTok?

Yes, when TikTok came along, I watched it and just understood the context of the platform. It made sense to me. I felt, oh, I should do that! I knew what was required.

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So what makes TikTok different?

It’s fun, it’s real. Much more real than Instagram, where everything is polished and curated. On TikTok, especially when it started, everything was very raw and it felt like a real community. If you want to get a sense of TikTok, spend two hours a day just scrolling and watching for a week. If you’re not consuming lots of it, you won’t really understand it as there are so many insider jokes, little nuances.

You need to get sucked in?

Yes. When you want to understand a video, you might have to watch four different videos before that so you get what it’s referring to.

What is it about you that works so well on TikTok?

I hit it at the right time. And I always consider what the audience gets out of my videos. Is it entertaining, is it educational, is it both? I would never post self-serving content. I offer hair and styling tips, like the top 5 hairstyles of celebrities, which is fun but also educational. Then I started doing shaving and ASMR Sounds*.

Why are these sounds so important on TikTok?

TikTok is a lot about sounds in general. You can’t have your phone muted when using TikTok as you can’t be reading captions – that’s just not how it works. I started using sounds during the lockdowns, when the MÜHLE shop in Soho was closed. So I pinned the microphone on me and recorded the shaving sounds. People seemed to latch on very quickly, so I did more and the quality kept improving.

The videos have to be entertaining or informative – preferably both.
One of Elliot Forbes’ focuses are the sounds that are made when shaving.
Now the sounds are like one of your trademarks.

I just met my YouTube-Manager and we decided that we’re going to have two channels in the future – one of which is going to be purely about ASMR.

Do you interact with your followers?

Since there are so many followers now, it’s become quite overwhelming. But as I’m a full-time content creator now, I’ll dedicate more time to that.

Do you get any negative reactions?

Not an awful lot. I don’t put any negativity in the world so I don’t see a lot coming my way.

Do people recognise you in the street?

Yes, people stop and talk to me every day. I think that’s incredibly flattering! Nobody has been rude or over the top. People are very nice and appreciate my content.

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What’s changed now that you’ve become a full-time content creator?

In the last three years, I did everything at once – I also still worked as a barber and I didn’t really have a strategy. I never had a moment to take a breath. But I’ve been lucky and it worked out well, also financially. Now that this has become my business, the planning and strategy have changed dramatically. And I hope I’ll be less exhausted.

Now that you’re famous, there are probably a lot of brands that approach you. How do you decide which ones to work with?

I only work with brands that resonate with me. Your audience can tell whether you’re trying to sell something or whether you’re really recommending a product. So for me building trust in the long term is much more important than the short-term profit.

Do you have any personal favourites?

I use a lot of MÜHLE stuff. I’m not just saying that because this is for 30 Grad! My favourite razor is the matt black Rocca. And the brush – I use the synthetic brush, which I prefer to the badger. I also like Musgo Real, a really classic old-school Portuguese brand. It smells great!

There are some quite impressive videos showing you cutting your own hair! Do you always do that?

I always struggled to find someone to cut my hair exactly how I wanted it, so I started doing it myself. I’ve not had my hair cut by anyone else in four years. So during lockdown, when suddenly everybody had to cut their own hair, I was able to give a lot of advice.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to create my own products. But that’s further down the line because it’s a big investment and I really want to get it right.

*The term “ASMR” was coined in 2010. It stands for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response” and refers to a relaxing, often calming feeling that spreads from the scalp to the whole body.

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