We were recently invited to speak at a BHSS Black Culture Club meeting. We were honored to share our thoughts on the skilled trade industries, our experiences with Aaron’s journey as a barber, and some industry insights into the roles and responsibilities of a barber.
The Importance of Trades
I must admit, high school wasn’t really my thing. I didn’t like school one bit! After graduating, my sister influenced me to get a cosmetology license so I could cut hair in her shop. I was a barber at Angela’s Ebony Designs for 11 years. I worked alone as I was the only barber. I didn’t have YouTube or social media to learn from back then. My sister gave me the starting point, but it was up to me to make it a career. I had a lot of growing up to do. But I had a trade that allowed me to work for myself and stay employed.
After some time, I moved to another local shop. This was a push I needed. Stepping into a different environment made me get my game up. I knew I needed to work on my business skills, such as being on time and maintaining professionalism. I could see that client experience and ambiance were everything. Encouraged by my wife, I took a leap and purchased ownership of Razors Image.
I was determined to get my Barber license alongside my cosmetologist license. I went to school in Indianapolis 4 nights a week after work (While my wife had a newborn at home! We kept the hustle going!) I also received my Instructor license. Teaching is so important to me because I faced my fair share of struggles in school and struggled to learn barbering on my own. Most of my staff were once my students, and several are dual-licensed and Instructors now, too! I was able to teach at Hoosier Hills Career Center and at Indiana Cosmetology Academy.
Our landlord gave us an opportunity to acquire the suite next door, so we decided to take it and expand our space. Over the years, we have made various business decisions through trial and error. We incorporated a salon but eventually transitioned to just a barbershop. We also tried commission-based payments and went back to booth rent. Additionally, we even changed our logo along the way.
My sister moved her shop into our space. We are stronger together, operating under the same roof and sharing overhead costs and advertising strategies. However, it's important to note that we are still two separate businesses. We have recently relocated to a new suite, which offers a better layout and an upgraded site. I cannot express enough how grateful I am for this working arrangement. Not only do I get to work with my wife, sister, brother, nephew, and cousin, but I also get to be surrounded by my amazing family every single day! It's truly a blessing.
In addition to this blog, we're currently developing our product line! Our online store is about to launch! We're thrilled to unveil our complete collection of oils, washes, butters, and combs.
Barber Roles and Responsibilities
Obviously, the role of a barber is to cut hair. Historically, barbers were surgeons and dentists. However, as time passed, the role evolved and became primarily associated with male grooming practices such as shaving, haircutting, and shampooing.
The responsibilities of a barber go way beyond just giving haircuts. As a barber, you have the amazing chance to connect with people on a personal level. You get to help your clients shape their identity and enhance their appearance. It's your job to carefully evaluate their features and provide guidance to boost their confidence and address any hair, skin, or scalp issues.
But being a barber is about more than just the technical stuff. You're also responsible for creating a soothing and relaxing atmosphere in your shop. It's a place where people can come to unwind, chat with others, and share their stories. You can foster social connections and offer companionship or resources to those who need them.
As a barber, you have a unique chance to connect with kids in a way that sets you apart from their parents and other adults in their lives. It's a responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly. Sure, you might be old enough to be their parent, but you have the power to be cool and relatable without being overly parental. You're not their buddy, but they understand that you have your own life experiences. By simply being there to lend an ear, you can positively impact your community.
So, you see, there's much more going on in a barbershop than meets the eye. It's a place where transformations happen, both inside and out. Being a barber is a unique and fulfilling profession that allows you to make a real difference in people's lives.
A Few Things About Barbering…
I have learned so much in my 24 years as a barber. Community is so important! Giving back and helping others is paramount. In our hometown, we look forward to participating in back-to-school events by Banneker and City Church. Our barbers go and offer free back-to-school haircuts. Allowing high school kids to shadow and learn things hands-on is a great way to mentor those interested in the trade.
Problem-solving is of utmost importance. I can customize my approach and use suitable products to meet my client’s needs by identifying common issues like dry scalp or razor bumps. It goes beyond simply providing a haircut; I can offer valuable recommendations and go the extra mile to enhance my clients' experience.
It's crucial to stay updated with the latest trends. While I can do traditional haircuts all day, staying current with trending styles and products ensures our relevance. Exploring new techniques, cuts, and tools challenges me to keep learning and perfecting my craft.
Self-employed barbers have the responsibility of managing their own business in addition to providing haircuts. This includes tasks like bookkeeping, bill payments, marketing, and more. Fortunately, I am grateful that my wife takes care of these aspects for me. However, she keeps me informed, and there are times when I need to concentrate on these matters as well.
I am truly amazed by the artistry within the barber industry. Social media has changed the game and provided a platform to showcase incredible skills. It's inspiring to see what others can achieve, and it motivates me! Barber conventions and hair shows will open your eyes to the true artistry of barbers, who can rightfully be called artists!
The consultation holds great importance in the relationship between a barber and their client. This is the time for a friendly greeting to welcome the client to the chair and set the tone for the overall experience. The consultation is also a prime opportunity to understand the client's desired haircut and style. By having a conversation and gathering information about their lifestyle, job, hobbies, grooming preferences, and any problems or concerns, the barber can effectively determine the most suitable cut, style, and products for the individual.
Truth about Communication
Communication can sometimes be a challenge when dealing with clients from different regions. For instance, when someone walks into my barbershop in Indiana and asks for a "Philly Fade," they really mean a high fade. It's not uncommon for clients to be unsure about the specific numbers they want for their haircut. They might request a 1-2 fade but based on my expertise and their description of their lifestyle or desired style, I can tell it's too short. In these situations, I find that using pictures can be incredibly helpful. As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." Showing clients examples of different haircuts puts their minds at ease and allows me to understand their preferences better, ensuring a successful outcome.
Truth about “Do Whatever”
Sometimes, a client will plop down in the chair and casually say, "Just do whatever," or "What do you think will look best?" But let me tell you, my friend, these situations are never as simple as they seem. There's always some guidance provided during the consultation. As a barber, it's my duty to understand that the client has a vision in mind, and it's crucial for me to know the boundaries. That's why I always ask two vital questions: How short is too short? And what's the plan for the top? By getting these details, I can quickly whip out some pictures showcasing different styles, turning what could be a lengthy 5-10-minute consultation into a snappy 2-minute chat. Trust me, it's all about efficiency and ensuring you leave the shop looking sharp and satisfied.
Truth About Clients
Truth about End Results
Knowing how vital this consultation is, we strongly encourage our clients to speak up and let their barber know precisely what they want and how they want their hair to feel. We want to encourage barbers to educate clients on their needs to help everyone save time in the future and get the desired results quicker. Knowledge makes you sharp on the inside. Applying it makes you sharp on the outside!
Aaron & Kristi Brown, Authors
Aaron Brown is a Master Barber, Cosmetologist, Educator, and Entrepreneur. As a shop owner and product developer, he has a passion for promoting healthy hair and scalp. He loves to connect with others and share knowledge on industry trends and products to solve common problems with the hair, scalp, and skin to help clients look and feel their best.