Clipping the Clippers
NBA stars are constantly in the spotlight. They need to have the newest kicks, the freshest clothes and blinged-out watches; it may as well be a part of the job description. One of the biggest aspects of the overall swagger a player must uphold is “the cut.”
If you walk on the court with a bad haircut, you’ll be a trending topic on Twitter within an hour. A haircut is a way to express who you are and how you feel. So having a good barber is crucial.
Anthony ‘TK Official’ Bennett is an in-demand barber in the San Fernando Valley that has cut hair for Klay Thompson, Chris Paul, Doc Rivers, Austin Rivers, Deandre Jordan and other NBA players.
“When I got into barbering I told myself I needed to change my nickname into a barber-type name,” TK says.
He went with the name ‘Too Krispy’ which later evolved into TK official when he started working at A Cut Above on Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Woodland Hills, Calif.
TK learned how to cut hair after years of watching his father give himself and TK haircuts. His mom bought him a pair of clippers after his parents split up and he began to cut his own hair.
“After four years, I started cutting my homeboy’s hair and when I was 22, I finally decided to be a barber,” TK says.
His first big-name client was R&B singer Mario. Before he was a barber, he ran into Mario at a Subway, while they were getting food. He ran into him a second time at the mall and used it as a business opportunity.
“I was like ‘yo, remember me?’” TK recalls. “‘Remember you told me to heat up my tuna at Subway?’ and then he remembered. So I told him I was a barber and that he should come through, so he took my number down and a couple days later, he hit me up for a cut.”
He cut Mario’s hair and got a big response off social media after posting the picture on his Instagram page.
But the cut that really put him on the map as a barber was when he cut NBA All-Star Klay Thompson’s hair in 2015. One of TK’s friends from high school saw that he cut Mario and NBA forward Wilson Chandler and that friend happened to be hanging out with Thompson and Thompson’s brother.
“So one day he hit me up and said ‘me and my boys need cuts’ and when I went over there, it was Klay Thompson,” TK says. “After I cut Klay’s hair, I started getting a lot of love and that’s when Austin Rivers hit me up, Reggie Bullock, Marshon Brooks, Joe Johnson and a lot of up-and-coming players.”
Daniel Durbin is a clinical professor at the University of Southern California and says that the style and appearance of an NBA player goes beyond just trying to look good; it’s all about business.
“The style of a player has a lot to do with branding,” Durbin says. “Athletes now more than ever understand how lucrative of an opportunity endorsements are now. They want to get their name and style out to the public in order to increase their brand.”
A lot of the success TK has had in his career has come from the use of social media, where he has 13,400 followers on Instagram.
“Honestly, Instagram is where I made all of this happen,” TK says. “You can go to the mall right now and approach a couple people and tell them what you do but you can only do that so much. Instagram has millions of people on it and you can hit up whoever you want.”
TK says you have to put your pride aside when messaging people on Instagram to find clients.
“A lot of men don’t want to hit up another man like,‘bro you should come check me out, I’m a barber in the area’ but I was hungry,” TK says. “I had a copy paste thing I would do that said, “Hey man, what’s going on? My name’s TK the barber and I’m a new barber in LA…’ and a lot of them hit me back.”
He has already begun to achieve one of his biggest goals. He aspired to get on production sets to cut hair.
“One of my goals this year was to get on set because that’s more money and more exposure. I started cutting Chris Paul’s hair in February and I went on set with him once already.”
Another goal for TK is to own his own shop and product line one day.
“I want to keep the revenue coming and take it to the next level. Besides that I just want to keep getting better and keep making my service better,” TK says.
Fidel Becera worked with TK for six months at A Cut Above and says that he was a master at his craft, but always stayed humble.
“He was really humble. There are barbers who are stuck up and wouldn’t talk to you if you asked for tips or pointers, but that wasn’t him,” Becera said. “He is super detailed with his work and he took time to listen to his clients and to make them feel comfortable.”
Cutting hair isn’t the only thing that takes up TK’s time. He also produces music and does some photography on the side.
“I’ve been messing with music my whole life,” TK says. “I got my first keyboard when I was 10, but before that whenever I was at my grandma’s house using hers.”
TK loves to sing and write and he incorporates all of that into his music.
“That was the only compliment I ever got in school, that I was a good writer,” TK recalls. “As I got older, my friends and I would always freestyle. When I was 14 we bought a microphone from Target and we used a recording software that was already on the computer. We didn’t know what the hell we were doing.”
2015 was the year he fully committed to making music and he bought all the equipment he needed to make his tracks. One of his clients taught him everything he knows about how to use the music software and how to make beats.
He put barbering back as his main priority this year because his music wasn’t making him any money.
Taking photos of his clients after he finished cutting their hair ultimately got him interested in photography.
“What really got me into it was being a barber,” TK says. “Instagram is so big for barbering, so people started getting expensive cameras so I got it for that but then I wanted to shoot models and girls.”
However, photography is no longer a big part of his life now either.
“I was into that for a little while but it was taking too much time to edit the photos and to set up the shoots,” he says. “It was taking time away from what I needed to do.”
TK now focuses on cutting hair and getting his client list up. To follow what he is up to, his Instagram handle is @tkofficial_.