Shop 101 - Episode 13 |

For years there has been this age-old debate over male versus female barbers.  Are men better than women when it comes to cutting, lining, and shaving?  Are men more precise?  Are they more accurate?  Do men prefer the services of a male barber over that of a female barber?  Before I answer these questions, let us take a quick look at the history of the profession.    The earliest records of barbers show that they were the foremost men of their tribes.  They were the medicine men, the priests, and the chief figures in most religious ceremonies.  In Egypt and Greece, thousands of years before Christ, the barber was highly respected.  History has shown that the barbershops of ancient Greece were social, political, and sporting news headquarters for poets, statesmen, and philosophers.  In the middle ages, the barber profession combined the skills of a barber with those of a surgeon and a dentist.  These professionals were called Barber-Surgeons.  However, as the field of medicine and dentistry advanced, it became more and more difficult for one person to perform the duties of three.  So finally, in 1745 a bill was passed permanently separating barbers from the medical profession.  This marked the decline of the barber profession as a whole, Barbers lost their ancient dignity and respect.  From that point forward, throughout the civilized world, barbershops became hangouts; places where men displayed their lowest instincts and women dared not enter.  As the Civil War era began, barbering once again became an accepted and respected profession, but it did so without the luster and glamour of previous years.  Now, let’s fast forward to 1985 where things drastically changed and over 50% of the barber students are women.  This gradual influx of women into the field has given the barber profession an upward lift.  The presence of women in a barbershop seemed to remove the low-life, “for men only” image that began in the 1700s and at the same time the presence of women seemed to bring back the dignity and respect of the Greek barbershops.  Women started becoming barbers in the late 70s and today there are over a quarter million female barbers nationwide.  As a salon owner, I have employed male and female barbers.  I have found that if you put a mask on the face of a skilled female barber, the client would not know or care that barber is a woman.  Female barbers just like men take their skills serious.  They know the importance of precision and speed in a barbershop.  Women employ the same techniques and habits of male barbers and many improve upon these techniques.  Women have taken the barber profession to another level because they can offer intangible benefits that men cannot.  Female barbers can offer a gentler touch and more importantly they can offer the female perspective.  Having a woman’s perspective is extremely valuable in a barbershop because most people believe that the opposite sex knows more about what makes you look good.     Now let me answer the questions that I posed earlier.  No . . . No. . . No. . . and No.  Men are not necessarily better at cutting, lining, and shaving.  Men are not necessarily more precise and accurate.  And most men do not prefer a male barber over a female barber.  So what’s the bottom line?  Sex does not matter in a barbershop as long as the barber has mastered his or her skills. Women barbers were once a limited commodity but today they are growing in numbers.  As their numbers increase, we are seeing a revitalization of the barbershop community.  If the barber profession is to regain the prestige and professional respect that it once had historically, it must allow women to continue to revamp and redefine the internals of the barbershop.  This revitalization along with other factors such as technology and current business practices will continue to elevate the external respect and the internal pride that barbers once possessed.    I’m James Thomas and that’s what THIS is. 
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The New Year brings promise and a new found hope for many. Most resolutions are made with the hope of becoming more wholesome and healthier. Individuals attempt to free themselves from the holds of habits such as nicotine or alcohol. They also push to become more fit via exercise and diet. Unfortunately, these routine rituals only last a few months at best. These steps are necessary but there should also be a focus to installing a new internal mental upgrade to compliment the external. The point missed most is that the mind is the key to changing everything. We must begin to be a DIFFERENCE MAKER to ourselves before we can MAKE A DIFFERNCE to others. You can begin by becoming a DIFFERENCE MAKER at your occupation. The problem initiates here. More than half of the population is considered the work force. Majority of this number are unhappy with the work they do. Many hold positions simply because of the wages they receive. A robot induced routine is adopted and the desire to MAKE A DIFFERENCE becomes lost. I recently discovered a list compiled of jobs that society couldn’t do without. The occupation of Barber settled in at #7. This ranking speaks volumes of the importance of what Barbers really do. The fact that Barbers are on this list should motivate individuals to want to excel and be a DIFFERENCE MAKER, not only in your shop, but the industry as a whole. The importance goes well beyond the cosmetic impact. The impact is felt deeper in the communities served by the Barbers. These are the men and women young people see regularly. The energy given off by Barbers can transpire to someone’s day or week. Therefore, Barbers must remain positive during each interaction. All Barbers work on a voluntary basis. No one is drafted into the profession. In other words, always put forth your best effort to MAKE A DIFFERENCE. You chose to be here. Every job has highs and lows attached to it. It’s very easy to get in the habit of finding and pointing out everything wrong associated with an occupation. The difficult task is to be a part of the solution and not the problem. Barbers in the Barbershops, although ranked on this prestigious list of needed trades, suffers its fair share of low points. There are many days of the week that are slow in customer traffic and low revenue is the result. Inadequately prepared Barbers who may experience damage or equipment malfunction with no backup tools available, poor Barber ship (the relationship between Barbers in a shop) along with gossip, results in an unhealthy uncomfortable work environment. The lack of enthusiasm and cooperation from Barbers with special promotions and events spell certain doom for the entire team. How do you become A DIFFERENCE MAKER? Glad you asked. You begin to BE A DIFFERENCE MAKER by picking up the clippers because you truly want to help others. The money will come if you illuminate that passion for taking pride in how you can make someone else feel about themselves. With this standard in mind, the slow portions of the week take on new meaning as each encounter with clientele will propel you to soar for new heights in human interaction. The best shop isn’t necessarily the most decorated one with material items. (Anyone can put a new TV in an abandoned building, that doesn’t make the place nice and welcome.) It’s the message and performance of its Barbers with the community all year round. I think it’s easy to get amped and excited when the shop is full and you remain busy all day long making lots of currency. What’s your motivation on a rainy Wednesday afternoon in the middle of summer? These are the days that reveal the Real Barbers from the non-attentive, just here to pass the time, paycheck chasing clipper holders. What do you give to those customers on slow days that also need your professionalism just as much as those that come in on the busy days? Do you have what it takes to MAKE A DIFFERENCE every day? The Boy Scouts used the motto “Always be prepared.” How you prepare for the day has great consequences on the outcome of your day. Did you get enough rest and have eaten properly? Is all of your equipment maintenance correctly? Do you have extra tools in case of failure or damage? Did you remember to get enough change for your customers? Everyone is human, therefore mistakes happen and equipment is dropped or mishandled resulting in a slow process of work. Take the time and money to invest in extra clippers, blades, guards, combs, and a small tool set for those repairs that can be done on the fly. If your clipper bag is full, buy an inexpensive backpack or carry bag to house those extra essential items needed to become A DIFFERENCE MAKER in the shop. Have that change fund prepared so not to inconvenience customers coming from work or the bank and only possess large bills to pay with. To the average customer, this not only look as if you’re prepared but you’ll display the passion you have for your craft in the actions you have taken for the day. As I stated before, Barbers work as volunteers. If you are in a shop that you don’t particularly like or get along with colleagues, find another place to work. No one is drafted into a shop, you have a choice. This choice you make can MAKE THE DIFFERENCE in you being happy or miserable. Although it’s not good to be a gypsy in this business, you must find a level of comfort that’s right for you. The calm work environment that is built in the shop spreads to visitors that enter. You can feel when a shop has Barbers that do or don’t get along. When Barbers gossip about each other, cutthroat actions take place; customers are swayed from one Barber to another. The animosity that builds from this money hungry tactic can explode in negative outburst or altercations in a shop. This definite taboo should be avoided at all cost. A true family will have disagreements; but, the agree to disagree unwritten contract should never interfere with customer or employee comfort. If there is problems, owners and managers should be the voice of reason when dealing with these matters. If there is a negative element (we all know the guy who never has anything good to say), he or she must be quarantined from the rest of the Barber staff. Negativity is contagious.

When you finish school, here is some advice on choosing a shop or salon to work in. Just a few things to consider might be: 1st Location, Location, Location - If you are trying to build a clientele, you need the traffic, parking, and cleanliness. 2nd You need to know if this is the atmosphere for you. You need an atmosphere where you can grow, not a shop or salon where it is an unstructured free for all party (a place where you make money during the day and spend it all at night). You need a place where you can be motivated to do better and someone is showing you what to do and not telling you what to do. 3rd You need to know if you can handle booth-rent or commission with little or no clientele to work with starting out. Maybe commission is a good option, then work your way to booth-rental, and eventually to your own shop. Whatever you decide to do PLAN and RESEARCH. Remember what Barbers and Stylist have done before, so do not be afraid to ask questions. Now Go Handle your Business.
Any questions or comments, please contact me via e-mail

Q. Does your hair coloring DVDs teach coloring of the hairline and can I use Black Ice Spray for the whole head or only on the hairline?

A. Yes! On my Precision Coloring DVD I demonstrate a full dye on hair & beard and yes you can use Black Ice Spray on the whole head. However, Black Ice Spray is a touch up spray and not a dye.

Q. Can you tell me what pencil you use on the hairline and is it used as a guide? When & how do you take it off? Was it a eye liner or something? Where can I get that and how can it help me?

A. The pencil used on that style was indeed a white-eye liner pencil. It is not used for a guide only for style. That style was originated in Philadelphia about a decade ago to give a longer lasting effect to the popular sharp "ash" line.
To submit your "Questions for the Queen" go to: Questions will be randomly selected. Submissions are not guaranteed.
Davida is a Professional Men's Grooming Specialist with over 20 years of experience. She is the creator of Black Ice Style (, a social network for Hair & Fashion enthusiasts and also part owner, along with her husband Jerl Leary of Black Ice Chromatone Spray, the original touch up spray to the stars (e.g. Mario, Tye Tribbit, Marques Houston & Donnovan McNabb).

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