A man’s world? What it’s like being a woman in barbering

Tight fades, tatts and testosterone – In 2017, is barbering still a boys game? We spoke to flame-haired Skye from Most Wanted Award-winning Cut & Grind about her experiences as a female behind the chop-shop chair…

How did you get into barbering?

“I started a hairdressing apprenticeship when I was 19 and my first ever haircut at academy level was actually a classic men’s scissor cut! I enjoyed it so much – I instantly felt cutting was more what I was attracted to, and so I decided to pursue that part of the industry.

“At the same time, a work colleague was also telling me about her friends who were barbers and how much they loved it and I thought ‘Wow, that’s something I would love to do!” I wanted to get my experience level up before going down that route, but I always had barbering and men’s hair in the back of my mind.”

Have you faced any obstacles or adverse reactions from people as a female barber?

“I think it comes with the job, whether people notice or not. I get mixed reactions when I tell people what I do. Mostly positive – which is great – but you will always get people who doubt and don’t understand your passions and abilities. But you know what? It drives me to prove them wrong.

“You have to have a thick skin to survive and evolve in most jobs. I love beards, but on one occasion I introduced myself to a client and he looked shocked and disappointed that I, a young female, would be doing the service. But after I looked after him and showed I cared about his beard and getting a great result, he now only lets me do his beard.”

What makes the atmosphere within barbering unique?

“On the whole, I feel the vibe is more chilled. Guys tend to be more relaxed, honest and direct, but they love the fun and banter of a barbershop. Men come in for a haircut, but also the chat makes it a fun and unique place to work.

“You can’t take yourself too seriously and you need to be prepared to be the butt of a joke every now and then, but you just gotta play along have fun with the guys! It’s not for everyone, and I’d say a sense of humour is a must.”

Do you feel that there are more women entering barbering now compared to say five years ago? If so, why?

“I do, 100 per cent, and I love that woman are breaking boundaries and stereotypes. The kind of women who do barbering tend to be like-minded individuals. I’m lucky to know some top female barbers in the field, and we have an unspoken understanding in the shared passion for the job we do.

“I feel that five years ago, barbering wasn’t as big as it is now, but it’s great to have another path for people like myself from a hairdressing background to go down. As for why female barbering is booming – I think it’s a confidence thing! I also think it’s become more accepted in the industry and amongst clients to have women in the barbershop. Gone are the days of it being a “men’s club”, plus I think the clients are happy to see more glamour and diversity in the shop!”

What do you think barbers could learn from the hairdressing world and vice versa?

“I think hairdressers could learn more about the diversity of clipper work and importance of speed alongside accuracy. Plus they could brush up on fades, creative cutting in terms of pattern work, and the skills of hot towel and wet shave – basically, becoming more male focused and seeing the depth of the men’s market.

Barbers could learn a little more from hairdressers about the science of a haircut – training in texturising techniques rather than over-using the thinners and assessing hair texture and hair growth patterns. I think for businesses to have a blend of the two is a great way for the two industries to learn and grow from one another.”

What do you like to think you bring to the barbering sphere?

“I like to think I bring a good mix of what I learnt in hairdressing and what I know now in barbering together. But I also know I’m still learning! I want to help to inspire and teach others while being inspired by people I work with and what I see all around me. When it comes to specialism, I find beards are something I love to do. They’re my passion and like to think I bring something a little different to men regarding that!”

What has been the hardest lesson you’ve learned about barbering?

“I found wet shaving using a razor so scary and hard to use. I mean, it’s a very sharp object you’ve got to hold against someone’s face – I think that’s pretty scary in itself! What surprised me the most in training was how much I love beard trims. I got a knack for it pretty quickly and picked up an understanding of what suits each person.”

What technique were you most proud of mastering?

“Definitely beard trims and shaving, spanning the traditional wet shave to the modern beard boom. Opposites, yes, but yet I love them both. I found them hard to learn, but I wanted to learn both skills so much when I started barbering. After all, if you can’t use a razor, you’re not a barber!”

What excites you most about the future of barbering?

“What really excites me is seeing how much the industry has boomed and how well our first shop has done, especially since it is only two years old. Eventually, I want to get into educating and become head of education for Cut & Grind. I dream of helping open and build up shops and our empire, so the next five years will be pretty exciting for us!”