Some see the barbershop as a sacred place for men to gather and be in their manly element and of course there is a place for that logic.
BUT in the 20th year of the Spice Girls releasing Wannabe and kickstarting a generation of girls who believed in gender equality, we thought it would be the perfect time to gather together a #squad of some of our favourite barbers and men’s hairdressers and shoot a collection on female models.
We also reached out to some notable female barbers and got them to tell us their stories.
The start of my career/what got me into hairdressing:
I started my career as a Saturday girl in a small salon in Dundee. I loved the atmosphere and buzz from the shop. When the time came to leave school, I decided to further my career in hairdressing and left full-time education when I was 16. It was very scary at the time – but I knew I had a passion for the industry and needed to follow it.
I was fortunate enough to be offered a full-time apprenticeship in the shop where I was working as a Saturday girl. By the age of 17 I was level 2 qualified and amazed by how the industry was developing. After my level 2 I decided I would continue learning and achieved my level 3 hairdressing with the next 8 months.
What I liked and disliked about the salon environment:
I loved how the salon environment made me feel everyday – it didn’t feel like work. Clients were always so happy to come in for their appointments, and equally as happy – if not more – to leave, feeling great about them selves and their new look.
I adored how I could make people feel so confident and relaxed. My favourite thing to spend my time on was making people look so different with my re-styles. It was all so fascinating.
Unfortunately I did not enjoy actually doing women’s hair as much as I thought after a few years. It was always a long process and after I had built a large and regular client base I realised I did not have many woman that wanted those drastic re-styles I loved, most just wanted a small trim.
This eventually started to get quite boring and tedious.
My first taste of barbering:
When it came to me leaving the the salon – I knew it was the best move. I was offered a job with a locally owned barber shop which also offered to train me in traditional techniques. I was slightly nervous to begin my career in a male dominated industry – being a female I was not sure I would be able to fit in.
After a few months of training I was let lose on the public, and it was awesome. I enjoyed having more freedom to do what I thought men would suit and I found most male clients were not as fussy as what I was previously used to. I loved when I finished a cut and you could just tell how much your client appreciated your hard work. I continued to work hard and improve my skill set everyday.
I noticed men were a lot more into changing their style than woman. They wanted to know what was best for them and how I could help make them look better. I felt working in a salon provided me with customer services skills most men were not used to when experiencing a barbershop.
I also soon realised men loved a woman cutting their hair, they felt like I was telling them what women wanted and the whole relationship between me and my clients was incredibly smooth.
My favourite thing about working in a barbershop is the atmosphere. It is not as serious as a salon. Everything is laid back, everyone is always having a laugh…and a whiskey or beer.
Why I fell in love with barbering:
I quickly came to realisation that I loved being a female barber. The industry was rapidly growing and every barber I met so was interesting – everyone was keen to share their tips and experiences and sadly I dont feel like this is the case in a hairdressing salon.
Before I knew it I had international barbers commenting on my work, following my social accounts and messaging me asking me about my career. Although sometimes I find it odd when I feel like I know these barbers on a personal level, when really I just know their Instagram account.
That’s all just part of the fun – 9 times out of 10 I will eventually meet them in person – then it’s like you’ve met a million times. I get to travel all over the uk with work, meeting new faces, barbers and watching some of my favourites cutting live on stage.
Barbering is a male dominated area of the industry, we are curious as to why you chose to become a barber?
Yes it is, it’s very male dominated and really rare to see a female barber in the industry. I chose to become a barber because I’ve always had an artistic side and I never really new how to use it.
With barbering it’s like art in itself. I have a vision in my mind before any cut and then in a way the hair is my canvas. I work away until I am happy with what I see.
What has been the biggest difficulty in being a female in a barbershop?
I would have to say the biggest difficulty for me so far being a female barber would have to be when I first started out, guys would say stuff to me like “I don’t want a woman cutting my hair” and “can you even fade”. It’s comments like these though that made me work even harder to prove them wrong. They are now the people who will ask me for appointments.
I would also have to say myself, I’m my own worst critic. You can’t leave my chair until every last hair is in place.
Why do you think that there aren’t more female barbers?
To be honest with you I think it’s more of a traditional thing. It’s more of a male dominant industry. So the Barbershop should be where men go to have their chill time, no women allowed sort of thing. If women want to go into the hair industry they tend to work towards hairdressing, but with barbering becoming more and more popular I get more hairdressers asking me how I started out or asking where did I train.
A lot of female hairdressers are taking the leap from hairdressing into barbering. It’s so refreshing to see.
What piece of advice would you give to any girls thinking about specialising in barbering?
Don’t wear nail polish, there is no point when you’re working with aftershave it just comes off, get some acrylics or gels, joking, but true ha. If it was female or male I’d have exactly the same answer. Work hard and gain knowledge because anybody can do whatever they want to if they put the work in.
If you could leave us with a trade tip, this could be anything from a technical skill, to business to something personal, what would it be?
Always look after your client. Make it an experience from start to finish.
The hairdressing world and education are two of my biggest passions, so when I first met with Andis to discuss becoming an educator and joining their team, I was extremely excited. At the time, I was also pregnant with my third child and after a turbulent time following the birth of my second daughter and becoming a hospital mum, I was nervous but wanted to continue as normal with my career – the industry is what defines me and I am incredibly passionate about it!
Unfortunately, my daughter had other plans and was born early, resulting in a lot of health complications and for the second time I had become a hospital mum, now splitting my time between two different hospitals in different cities, to be there for both of my daughters.
The stress and strain during this time lead to a battle with postnatal depression and I felt like I had completely lost myself and that spark I once had for the industry. I couldn’t face leaving the house, hiding behind my front door, terrified I was going to lose everything I’d worked so hard for.
My audition with Andis came around so quickly, I felt nervous, extremely underprepared and completely lost sight of my capabilities. I struggled my way through the audition but fortunately, the management at Andis, saw my full potential and secured a second audition in May.
Finally, someone believed in me when I couldn’t see past the fog of postnatal depression, and had given me the second chance I needed. My confidence returned – there was no way I was going to mess this up now!
I prepared as much as I could and on Sunday 22nd May, I arrived at the Andis stand at Barber UK armed with product knowledge and a restored determination. The audition with Andis went extremely well and I am proud to be associated with a brand that not only offers amazing tools and education, but also has compassion for people.
I owe a lot to this incredible industry, not only for the opportunities it has given me along the way, but also for showing me hope at a time when I needed it most.
About 3 years ago a good friend of mine, Conor Taaffe had started training to become a barber. I was always fascinated hearing about his experiences and about the barbering world, something I had never even experienced.
I had never even been inside a barbershop and yet I found myself amazed by his Instagram posts and all these amazing barbers on social media, I started following them all.
About a year later I convinced Conor to take me through a haircut; I got a friend to model and he cut one side and I mirrored the other. It felt like I’d been doing it forever and I banged out my first ever haircut, a skin fade! From there, I looked up as many videos as I could, followed as many barbers as I could and started practising on anybody I could get my hands on.
I’m so blessed to have progressed so quickly, I’ve only been doing it a year and a half but I think it’s so important to throw yourself into the deep end and have no fear in whatever you face.
I had never really thought that being a female barber would be any different than being a male barber and I have to say I’m blessed that I haven’t come across many struggles. I found following female barbers pushed me even more in my progression, I didn’t see any limits in why females couldn’t be any better than males but it was good to find a few girls who were killing it on par with the boys in the industry.
Barbering is a craft and once you’ve got the right mind-set to see no limitations or boundaries you can do just as well as the top in the game, male or female. I think the main thing is to not take any criticism to heart, when I hear “you’re good for a girl” I just use it as fuel to keep pushing myself.
I suppose I’ve always grown up around lads, I use to play football and growing up I was always the only girl on the team so to be in an environment which is male dominated isn’t an issue, it’s actually a little more comfortable.
I’ve never been interested in being a hairdresser, the salon vibe just doesn’t appeal to me, I think the right barbershop can be a lot more chilled and less intimidating than salons. To find a place you can be yourself in is key and I’m lucky enough to have found that in every shop I’ve worked in.
With thanks to BaByliss PRO UK, Apothecary 87, Kevin Luchmun, Alan Beak, Jonathan Andrew, Deneka Greensmith, Lieanne Buckley, Lynndy Rolfe, Hayden Cassidy, Kenlee Taylor, Marcus King, Hooker and Young, Schwarzkopf Professional UK.