Finding the perfect barber is not for the faint-hearted. Especially if you’re a woman. The usual sexist, pseudo-looking-out-for-your-best-interest comments pop up as soon as you walk in the door. “Are you sure you want it this short?” “I don’t usually recommend a fade for a woman” Or my favourite, yes someone actually said this to me, “No miss, I refuse to make you look like a man.” Sigh.
When I started taking my haircuts seriously, I wanted to go all the way by playing around with different shapes, fades and designs. I was excited to take risks and bend the imaginary gender lines. So you can imagine the spring in my step when I moved into a new flat with a barbershop right downstairs. I burst in the barbershop door, armed with a few photo references of the exact haircut I wanted, and I was greeted with open chairs and the calming buzz of clippers. I was also met with a few pairs of puzzled eyes. One of the barbers ushered me to his station and I showed him the cut I desired. He was skeptical at first but proceeded anyway. As he was cutting my hair, he and his colleagues began to chat. Their conversation was ignorant and appalling. As the only woman in the shop, I felt immensely uncomfortable and couldn’t wait to get out of there. As I was leaving, with a mediocre haircut and a bad taste in my mouth, one of them took it upon himself to comment on my body and despite seeing a wedding ring, ask me for my number. Needless to say, I never went back.
This experience led me to do some research with a few female-identifying and queer friends who regularly have their hair professionally cut. The barbershop stories they told me were shocking, but they were forced to go back to these establishments because their options were slim. I just couldn’t put myself through that again. So, I went on a quest to find the perfect barber. On this journey, I came across an incredible woman master-barber who opened her own shop because of the horror stories women would tell her. She’s consciously inclusive and hires a mostly female staff. She’s amazing, but having a niche clientele meant her prices were a little higher. After a few cuts, I simply couldn’t afford her. My quest picked up again, and I tried at least 3 more barbers and after more arguments about why there is no such thing as a “boy” or “girl” haircut, and many inappropriate comments, I finally found my guy.
An unlikely match, Miguel is a 60-year-old Dominican man who barely speaks English. The first time I sat in his chair, he said the words that made me feel most comfortable, “You tell me what you want and I make you happy.” So, I showed him pictures and he got right to work. The only questions he asked were about my hair texture, the exact style I wanted and any clarifying questions before he cut another section. He gave me the ‘masculine’ line up I wanted and gave me the sharpest fade I’ve ever had. Everything, right down to asking permission to use certain products on my hair, and making sure that he used fresh warm towels was a great experience. Miguel and I will probably never be able to have a full conversation without me breaking Spanish and him doing the same with English, but that man is on my speed dial. At the end of the day, it’s more than just about the cut, it’s also about the experience. So, once you find a good barber who respects your wishes, and knows how to work clippers like a surgeon with a scalpel, you hold on for dear life.
Things to consider when looking for the perfect barber:
Ask around - do you know anyone who gets their hair cut by the barber you’re considering?
Find a barber who asks questions about your hair and the exact style you’re going for. Even better if they ask for feedback during the session
In turn, don’t be shy to ask your barber all the hair questions you have. E.g If you think a style you like might not work for you, ask them to be honest and make recommendations
Is the shop a safe space for you? You’ll be sitting in there for the better part of an hour, make sure it’s a place you’re comfortable in
Find someone who takes their time with your hair. The more care they put in, the better you’ll look and feel
Make sure the price works for you. You’ll probably be going back every couple of weeks, so pick a barber whose prices fit in your budget
Bring photo references. Pinterest and Instagram are treasure troves of cool haircuts #baeswithfades
Let go. Hair is important, but it also grows back. Once you’re comfortable with your barber, allow them to have a bit of fun