Knives, chisels and hammers are some of the unorthodox tools that Martin Safari uses in his trade. / Photo: TRT Afrika    

By Pauline Odhiambo

Martin 'Safro Fades' Safari is not your typical barber.

Instead of using clippers or scissors, he uses knives, shovels and hammers to cut his clients' hair.

In the streets of Kenya's capital Nairobi, people often stop their activities to stare as Safari shaves his clients.

His clients, meanwhile, sit unflinchingly still as Safari positions shovels and other potentially dangerous objects near them.

Theatrical craft

Safari's theatrical craft has earned him a name and a livelihood.

At the end of each shaving session, his clients look smart, with not a single hair out of place.

Safari was named the Best Content Creator in the 2023 Grammy barber awards.

"I did not attend the (Grammy) awards ceremony because I did not think I would win," he told TRT Afrika.

'Surprise win'

"I had been nominated alongside more famous and widely travelled barbers. My win, therefore, came as a surprise," he added.

The 24-year-old is a Rwandese national, who moved to Nairobi in late 2023.

"My relocation to Nairobi four months ago was strategic. I felt the city would boost my profile as an unorthodox barber," Safari said, adding that his move "has paid off."

His most viewed video has garnered 95 million views on his Instagram page (safro_fades), which has more than 230,000 followers.


Safari, who was pursuing a course in business administration at a university in Rwanda, dropped out to pursue his passion in hair grooming.

In December 2022, he posted his first video showing his theatrical shaving skills. In the video, which went viral, he was using a hammer and a chisel to shave his client.

Safari said the video helped him grow his Instagram following to 100,000 from 2,000 in under three weeks.

"I wanted to stand out as a barber," he said, revealing that he charges between $45 and $60 per haircut.

Martin Safari, 24, is a Rwandese barber in Kenya. / Photo: TRT Afrika

Celebrity judge

In 2023, he was privileged to be a celebrity judge at a barbers' competition in Cameroon.

Safari says: "Getting clients to trust that I would shave them safely is the biggest challenge I'm facing in my craft, given the non-conventional tools that I use."

He adds that he has to offer to shave some of the skeptical clients "for free and buy them lunch" as an incentive.

Safari hopes to create an international barbers' expo that would showcase his skills to the world.

Training workshops

"I believe expos would offer publicity avenues for talented barbers to expand their markets," he said.

Safari also hopes to establish training workshops for people interested in acquiring the haircutting skills that he has.

Click here to follow our WhatsApp channel for more stories.

TRT Afrika