We recently sat down with traditional barber (and partner in marriage with our Director of Color Education Jamie Anderbery-Stout) Michael Stout to learn more about his craft. Here he explains the art of barbering and why that gent behind the chair is so much more than someone who cuts your hair every few weeks. Take it away, Michael.
Barber. What does that word mean to you? Something? Nothing? For a select few╌for a small percentage of this driving work force that gets us up and out of bed everyday╌it means a whole lot. That small percentage is licensed barbers. I am one of them and love the art of barbering. Here’s why your barber is so much more than the guy who cuts your hair every few weeks.
In the beginning of my career, I didn’t know much about barbering or how to run a chair╌and I never thought I would be able to cut an entire head of hair in the same day. I grew up getting most of my haircuts after my mom at the beauty parlor. But after finishing cosmetology school, I knew exactly what I wanted do: never go near women's hair again!
I was quickly drawn to the smooth and straightforward style of barbering. Becoming dual-licensed within the same year, I soon realized the vast differences between a barbershop and a salon. Speaking from my experience as a traditional barber in Southern California, the barbershop helped guide me out of a life of trouble and towards being a stand-up gentleman with a firm handshake, which nowadays is getting harder and harder to come by.
The duties may have changed over the years from pulling teeth to just cutting hair (yes, barbers used to be dentists, too), and the hairstyles may alter from classic to modern, but the approach is all the same. The barber represents himself as an honest, hardworking individual looking to help his fellow man. Sometimes we as barbers forget that our service starts and ends in the neighborhood. There may be a select few that have a traveling clientele, but for most barbers, it's the locals who keep your family fed.
This became very clear to me on my first day working in a shop, along with every last detail of our trade, like knowing when a client is in financial need a of a comped service, which client can't handle loud music or who is set to come in for the big wedding haircut. Speaking again from a traditional barbers standpoint, I've observed barbers work themselves into the fine fabric of others families and memories. The barber becomes that almost faceless friend. The person you can tell everything to and expect nothing in return, when you need to get back to feeling normal, or get that news off your chest.
I started seeing all of that happen in the barbershop while building relationships with all walks of life. I began to get a better understanding of all the different things people go through and that somehow made me realize how similar we all are; we all want to feel good. A big part of feeling good is looking good. I get the rare opportunity to help another person feel good. And that's the ultimate goal in this business, looking in the mirror and feeling good! Knowing and believing you deserve to look that fresh!
Barbering is more than a trade; it’s humbling and proud work. I'm humbled everyday by the constant knowledge I get from this trade and proud for the hard work and dedication I've put in to this craft, knowing I can take it anywhere and shake hands with a fellow barber. And to me, that means the world.