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So, you’ve done your research, you’ve given it some thought and you want to be a barber. Now what?
How do you want to train yourself to be a barber? There are various way of going about this, apprenticeship, school, and DIY.
Apprenticeship is my favourite option. What is an apprenticeship? It is when you learn in the workplace from experienced barbers. My apprenticeship was in hairdressing in Ontario, but included men’s hair and barbering techniques. I got paid to learn my trade. Some apprentices will do it for free, but I don’t believe in working for free, and neither should you. Your time is valuable, and even if the majority of it is spent sweeping floors, taking out trash, and folding towels you should be paid for that.
How do you become an apprentice? Go to a shop and ask them if they need one, look them in the eye, shake their hands, tell them what you are looking for, and if they say ‘no,’ ask if they know any other barbershops that offer apprentice opportunities. Show up looking like you belong at the shop, have clean clothes on, and do your hair to the best of your ability. Do your research about the shop. Find out what their clients look like, what kind of hair they cut and whether or not that suits who you are. Be confident, but not arrogant. Try to be yourself as much as possible. Bring a resume that is up to date, and be prepared to stay for a couple of hours, they may need you right away. If this doesn’t work, go to the organization that licenses barbers and ask if they’ve heard about any openings in local shops. Be proactive about this, pound the pavement, make it happen.
If you manage to become an apprentice, remember that you are there to be trained into a barber. My apprenticeship was garbage. I did laundry, washed hair, swept floors and got coffee for people for two years, TWO YEARS, and I didn’t even know how to blow dry a head of hair. The people I worked for didn’t care to train me, because there weren’t any available chairs in my shop, and it wasn’t a walk-in establishment, so there weren’t any available clients either, but I didn’t know this. I thought that if I worked hard something would happen. Nothing happened and I learned nothing in those two years. Make sure that your employer gets those clippers and scissors in your hands as quickly as possible, make sure that you get your time behind a chair, and make sure that you get clients in front on you.
From my time barbering I believe that most barbershops will get you working on live models as soon as possible, but there are some barbers that believe you should have to earn the training, and I understand that sentiment, so be a hard worker, but insist on training if you have to.
Make sure that you are registered with whatever barbering association/trade association that you have to be registered with right away. Get to know the people that are involved and make sure that you understand the guidelines of how to get your license. Do what you can to make friends with your contacts at this association. Being on good terms with the people that license you is never a bad idea.
Remember that you’re an asset to the barbershops you’re in and should be treated as such. You will be future barbers, and depending your work ethic, you could be the busiest barber in a shop within a couple of years. Don’t allow yourself to work for minimum wage, or minimal commission, forever. Make sure that you are paid for your talents, or find another shop that will treat you like the talent that you are. Make yourself a barber as soon as possible. Work hard, learn as much as possible from your mentors.
In my apprenticeship I was even sent to school for two two-month-long semesters where they let me go on employment insurance while I learned. The school only cost around five hundred dollars per semester, a pretty good deal considering I was making money while I was going to it. I hope you’re half as lucky in your path to become a barber.
To barbers taking apprentices, be select with your apprentices, make sure they’re as invested as you are before you start investing time and money into them. Make sure that you have a very thorough selection process. Try to hire apprentices that want to be barbers, and are passionate about the field. Try to hire people that are interesting to your customers and know how to talk properly. Try to hire people that don’t steal from you, don’t do drugs or drink at work, are on time, are clean, and give that little extra. Use apprentices for the dirty work, yes, but make sure that your apprentices are receiving an education in every part of the business and make sure that their education is thorough. If you teach an apprentice just one way to fade, and set them to work, don’t expect that they’ll just improve by themselves. Take at least one night or morning out of each week and give them a reason to remain interested. Try and remember what it was like when you were in their shoes. Think of your apprentice as an asset, as someone that might one day manage the shop while you expand into another one, someone that could help you build your business if you lead them properly, and someone that will one day become your peer.
So,apprentices, search out the best barbershop that will give you a paid apprenticeship and work for them, and make sure you are trained well, or find another shop ASAP.
If you’re a barber shop that is offering paid apprenticeships and needs apprentices leave a comment in the comment section and let a new barber into your life.
If you want to make sure you have a sturdy base education before you get started in a barbershop, go to a barber school. Find a well-established, accredited barbering program that touches base on everything that I touched on in my third post. You’ll pay a lot of money for a good education, but here is the thing, you’ll make all that money back by being a serviceable barber sooner. Know this though, even a thorough barbering education is not going to teach you everything that you need to know, and it isn’t going to guarantee you a job. So, if you’re in school and you have barbershops or barbers that come to do a guest spot at your school, barbers that you like, give them your card, follow them on Instagram and Facebook and drop in on their shop on one of your days off. Show potential employers that you care about becoming good at this. Go to the best barbershop in your city and pester them until they give you a job. While you’re in school cut the hair of all your friends (for money if possible, but free is fine as well), and always to what you can to educate yourself outside of school. The more you know about the industry and the services you can give, the better.
Educators get into education for various reasons, a steady income, benefits, and the like. I’ve had teachers that I will remember forever and some that I’d rather forget. Some of your teachers are going to be there because they could not give a shit about you or your education, they’re just teaching for ‘job security,’ or who knows what. We’ve all had teachers like this, and I would hope that when you are paying for an education that you are going to get someone that is invested in the industry, someone that cares about their students and the education that they are receiving. If you’re worried about whether you’ll fit in within your projected school’s setting, ask the school if you can audit a class, or a day of classes before you pay thousands of dollars to receive an education from someone that couldn’t give a shit.
I’ve never been someone that likes sitting in classes, they’ve always bothered me. I am not someone that learns well in a classroom environment and I know that. I get distracted easily and start making a game out of everything, or just stop paying attention until it comes time to do something with my hands. I know how I learn and you should think about this as well before getting into a learning situation wherein you’ll run into issues.
If you know of any amazing barbering schools feel free to leave their names and locations in the comments below
DIY learning is something that all barbers should do, no matter how you decide to approach learning barbering. Do you like reading? Find some barbering books and take a look. Go on YouTube and subscribe to 360 Jeezy and Chris Bossio and take the time to look at the millions of others that are attempting to become famous on YouTube. There are so many different ways to learn, and there is such a proliferation of information on the internet that you can learn immense amounts if you apply yourself. You found this blog didn’t you? This is a time that if you decide to learn barbering you can have a million virtual teachers. All you really have to do is find willing people, and cut their hair. Ask friends, ask family, ask strangers on the street if you have to. Get the dirty haircuts where you fail out of the way as soon as you can, and get on with being a better barber.
Buy a clipper and cut your brothers hair with it. I remember my first haircut, it was on my brother after my sister had cut most of his hair off. I attempted scissor over comb and failed miserably, but I was using children’s scissors and had no idea what I was doing. I think this incident may have sparked off my interest in cutting hair though, and I’m grateful for that. So fuck up your brothers hair, maybe you’ll figure out something from that.
Start charging people as soon as possible. The more that you believe in your skills, the more you can charge. As you gain money from what you are doing, invest in more and better equipment, and better education. The more equipment you have, the more you can learn. The better equipment you have, the longer it will last you. The better education you have, the better barber you will be. Learn to use a clipper. Learn to use your shears. Learn to use a cutthroat (start on yourself though). The more you learn the better you’ll be.
I’ll cover everything that I think you need to know in further posts.
DIY will take you time and lots of it to get a full barbering education. A lot of barbers do without a full barbering education, but I’d rather not be the person that says no to any client that comes through the door. The more you know, the more clients you’ll have. If you decide to DIY, be prepared to have gaps in your knowledge, or be prepared to take a longer amount of time to get where you’re going.
When you feel that you’re ready to work at a barbershop, go and find a job. You might have to start at a position very much like that of an apprentices, but if you’re really good already, you’ll move up the ladder quickly.
I believe every barber should have a license. Depending on where you are, you might have to take an exam, written, practical, or both, in order to get a license. Do your research on this exam before you show up, there is usually a textbook that you’ll have to learn from with very specific terminology and curriculum. You might have to know about specific scalp disorders, chemical services, different ways to disinfect your equipment and the like. So make sure you know what you need to know before you pay to take a licensing exam, otherwise you might as well burn your hard-earned dollars.
I work in a province in Canada where there is no legislation regarding barbering and anyone can declare themselves a barber and starting working as one. This disturbs me. I know that you don’t need a license to be a good barber, but without standards and knowledge a lot can go wrong with a service. For example, I’ve worked with people that use the same razor blade on multiple customers without regard for spreading blood borne pathogens such as hepatitis and HIV. As far as I’m concerned, being licensed is the only way to go, because it belies that you know what your doing, it opens up doors for you to become an educator, or work at a great shop. The more options that you have in this industry, the better for your career. So, I implore you to become a licensed barber, it will be worth your effort in the long run.
Any of the options that I have given to become a barber will require some self learning. I know my apprenticeship didn’t give me all the tools that I needed in order to become a barber. I didn’t know how to fade, and I didn’t know to shave (my teacher laughed and said that shaving with a cutthroat was dead) when I came out of my apprenticeship. I had to learn how to do these things by trial and error, and pissed a lot of paying clients of this way. I’ve left a trail of pissed off customers to get to the point where I make 99.9% of my customers happy. You’ll never escape the learning process of failure before fame, so get out there and mess up early in your career on people that are forgiving of you being a beginner.
If you’re a barber who hasn’t upgraded their education in awhile, go to a course, go to a convention, make sure that the knowledge you pass along is up to the highest standards. Please, take pride in your work. I think my biggest pet peeve is correcting work from other barbers and just seeing how poorly some barbers have been trained. I don’t expect every barber to spend 30-45 minutes on a cut, but I expect them to be able to cut a clean cut every time, I expect them to provide impeccable service for their client, and I expect them to maintain a service that is done with utmost cleanliness.
IF you can offer the best service in your barbershop, your client list will fill up quickly. Having a good education is invaluable (no matter how you get it), as is having one-on-one time with an educated barber and clients in your chair as quickly as possible. The more you know, the more confidant you are in your ability, the better places you can work, the more you can charge, the busier you will be.
Martin aka Crowbarber
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