Man for Himself - An interview with Robin James
We recently sat down to have a chat with London based Robin James, an online blogger and YouTuber specialising in men’s style, lifestyle and grooming. We came across Robin a while back, and one thing that really resonated with us was his unique approach and accurate/informative videos. In a world full of online influencers, you can really find it hard to find people who truly know their stuff, so we wanted to introduce him to you!
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, YOUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL AND HOW LONG YOU’VE BEEN DOING THAT FOR?
I’ve had my YouTube channel since April 2013, and I started my blog just ahead of that in November 2012. My background is in television/media and journalism, and I was a digital TV show producer for 6-7 years working for big stations in the UK. It was great being involved in digital production but it wasn’t what I was passionate about, which was more in men’s styling and grooming.
I saw it as an area of opportunity, as many women were doing it and creating successful YouTube channels, but there really weren’t many male influencers in that space so I thought I would start my own channel. It’s been great looking back on it and the growth I have experienced since my first video, which I thought was fantastic but now I kind of cringe, but you have to start somewhere! Four years on I am now doing it full-time and left my job job in TV last January.
WE SPEND A LOT OF TIME WATCHING YOUTUBE CONTENT, AND WE FIND THE INFORMATION YOU GIVE IS VERY SPOT ON. WHAT IS IT ABOUT HAIR CARE, MEN’S GROOMING AND STYLE THAT APPEALS TO YOU AND HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN INTO IT?
I think for me, I have always been interested in experimenting in terms of style and grooming. When I was 14 I remember buying a bunch of hair products, and you instantly think that by buying a product it’s going to change your life (even if your hair isn’t long enough, thick enough etc). I think of styling and grooming as a way to empower yourself in order to make the most of yourself, and it boosts you confidence. We live in a really fast paced world where there’s so much pressure on the importance of first impressions, so I’ve always wanted to ensure I am representing the best version of myself.
For me, I just love the exploration of men’s styling and grooming, and the fact it’s getting so much bigger and there’s so much interest in it is a great thing. It’s not just women who are experimenting with hairstyles and products, guys are really interested it which is great. When I read comments I can sense that guys enjoy making themselves feel better in such an easy way, and it’s also helping people find out what suits them.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY IN THE LIFE OF ROBIN?
I get up and go for a run, I need to go for a run. If I don’t exercise in the morning, I will never do it so that just jumpstarts my day! About one day a week I will organise all my meetings otherwise I won’t get anything done. Most days it’s a case of getting up and answering emails, comments, going onto my most recent video and answering as many comments as possible because that’s one thing that distinguishes me in this space. I pride myself on answering as many comments as possible and being as forward facing with my audience, so that takes up a lot of time. I like to spend some time planning the commercial work I have going on.
WE LOVE BRAND BATTLE, BUT WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE VIDEO SEGMENT TO RECORD FOR YOUTUBE?
Brand battle is the easiest to record, and I created it out of a necessity of not having enough time. I picked up some freelance work last year on X Factor which left me with three days in the week to create two videos and still have a life. I wanted to create a format that could be rolled out week by week, and outlined products I was trailing or already using anyway, so it was more me trying to find a quick win. I was really surprised at how well it did, and they continue to grow because there’s an appetite for them. I would like to scale it into more style/lifestyle, but the hair and grooming just does so well. It’s great, but it was never my main goal as I wanted everything to be equal.
I recently tried something new called Street Style, where I went out and spoke to people on the streets of London and ultimately that’s what I like doing and having more of a conversation with people. It allows me to switch things up and bring new opinions and a bit of colour to the channel, instead of standing by my wall all the time. I’m always testing new formats out, and they don’t always do well but I think I need to do them so I don’t become complacent with the audience I have.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON MISTAKES MEN MAKE WHEN STYLING THEIR HAIR?
I think there’s a common mistake with guys thinking if they use a certain product they’ll look a certain way. I quite often get comments where people will say they followed exactly what I did in the video but didn’t get the same result, but it comes down to hair type, length and texture. Another common mistake is guys overloading their hair with too much product, you don’t need a lot of product. When styling, you really should start with as little as possible and layer it, working it up to the point that you want.
People washing their hair too much is another one. You physically do not need to do it that often. I think men worry sometimes whether they’re doing something correctly but really there is no right or wrong.
WHAT ARE SOME HAIR CARE TIPS YOU COULD OFFER OUR READERS?
Here’s a video that will explain it further!
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A PRODUCT, AND WHAT IN YOUR OPINION MAKES A PRODUCT GOOD?
I’m lucky and also plagued by products arriving, I have tried so many different things but I always go back to a matte finish, good strong hold product. In terms of hair products I am looking for something that is versatile enough to be able to mix it up every day as I don’t want to use several products. For me personally and my hair type, I want something that boost my hair and adds volume.
I think there’s a huge buzz around the whole pre-styler stage. You physically do not need to use a pre-styling product. It has to end!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE NATURAL SCENT AND WHAT SCENT DO YOU LOVE SMELLING IN YOUR PRODUCTS?
I love Oud fragrances, very heavy, slightly Middle Eastern scents that sit well on the skin and make an impact or statement that ‘you’re here’. When it comes to hair, to be completely honest, I don’t really want a scent in the products I use. No one is sniffing my hair, and I don’t really want someones nose in there either.
LIKE ANYONE, OUR PERSONAL STYLE CHANGES AS WE GET OLDER AND MORE IN TUNE WITH WHAT SUITS US MOST. WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WOULD HAVE TOLD YOUR YOUNGER SELF WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR PERSONAL STYLE?
I wouldn’t have given myself any advice because it was through those experimentations and trying different styles of clothing, patterns and colours that I actually worked out what suits me. My only advice would be keep on going, and have fun with things. Now I have a certain look and I stick with it because I know what suits me best. I wear a lot of blues, greys, whites and I avoid black/hot colours. I like clothing with a strong silhouette because I understand my body shape and what sits well on me.
WHAT ARE SOME WARDROBE MUST HAVES AND WHAT ITEM IS YOUR GO TO?
A really good quality pair of jeans. So many high street stores are making ‘fine’ jeans but if you spend $150 on a good solid pair of jeans, you’ll be set. They don’t even need to be washed that often, and if you get some salvage denim it will last and fit your body nicely.
You cannot go wrong with a well made leather jacket as it will take you from season to season.
Every guy should own a good white shirt, for work, formal events, or to place under a crew neck sweater.
Lastly, a good bag!
I’VE GOT $1000, AND I WANT TO GET A GREAT OUTFIT. WHAT WILL I BUY?
You need to have a good foundation for an outfit. Dark denim, don’t go a light wash because you can’t wear it often. A good pair of trainers/shoes, or a pair of good Chelsea boots (brown coloured for versatility). I know I have mentioned it, but a good leather jacket! People do not own enough leather jackets! I know it’s the same answer as before but I just believe these key wardrobe staples will form your main looks, and then you can inject pieces and new trends into the outfit from inexpensive places like Topman or ASOS.
WHAT 3 THINGS COULD YOU NOT LIVE WITHOUT?
I’m a traditional Scottish guy who doesn’t need much in my life, but:
My glasses, because I wouldn’t be able to see.
A good moisturiser.
And a watch, I guess that’s four. I have to wear one or I feel naked. Sorry.
ONE GOOD MEMORY THAT CAME FROM DOING WHAT YOU DO?
When I went into this, I knew I would do whatever it took to make this work, and I also believed it would be successful. I never went into this thinking it was a hobby, I knew I had my eyes on the prize. It didn’t just happen, I worked my ass off to make this work and it wasn’t out of luck, you work! Last January going full time in this was the best thing, because it was that moment of realisation where I am now making decisions in my career for me and I am solely responsible for the success I can create with no limitation. I don’t know what my salary is this month, or next month, but I’m in charge and it’s exciting.
Nothing is going to be so awful. You’ll never been stuck.
WHERE WILL ROBIN GO NEXT?
I would love to have some time off to be able to focus on other aspects of my life that I generally don’t make time for, for example a love life or some travel!