Tonight I was involved in a conversation amongst many peers that discussed where the industry was going for Barbers and what we could do to improve it. There was talk about how Barbers are being poorly represented in the media all the way to how Barbers represent themselves poorly. It took me a minute to realize why I felt like I have heard this conversation before but not amongst Barbers and finally it hit me: every industry is currently facing the same problem.
If you read or keep up with my previous posts then you know that I have this knack for intertwining multiple industries or topics that seemingly have nothing to do with each other. It's a blessing and a curse because I can go completely off topic but I promise I always have a point. Stick with me.
Barbers, hair stylists, makeup artists, and nail technicians or aestheticians are facing the same reality: prices keep going up and wages stay the same, or in some cases, decrease. Before I became a Barber I was a makeup artist for quite a few years and a freelance makeup artist at that aka struggle city. We are constantly fighting as makeup artists to prove our worth to clients amongst a growing crowd of upcoming artists and the generation of established artists before us.
But Barbers work in shops or studios, they don't 'freelance', so why are they struggling? I'm glad you asked. I'll get back to that.
Another issue is reputation amongst our industries and how the public perceives us. Half of it is from what they've experienced in their daily life and the other half is from what they see on television.
You're telling me makeup artists don't rip each others hair out on set? No way.
Another known fact about me is I don't keep my mouth shut and sometimes to a fault but it's who I am and I don't plan on stopping any time soon. With that being said, everyone knows I speak out often on women as Barbers and how we are constantly perceived as eye candy rather than equals at events.
So, wait, most Barbers who happen to be women don't dress like they're on a yacht in Miami with Pitbull? Sadly not.
Perception. That's how we take our industry back.
You are only good as your perceived value in this era of being a Barber or makeup artist. That's why visually stimulating social media platforms like Youtube, Instagram and even Vine make a big impact. If you can walk the walk after talking the talk then you have instantly increased your value to complete strangers.
People are learning how to perceive us through television shows or movies like Barbershop, Blush, Jerseylicious, Face Off and Cedric's Barber Battle. Not all are bad but not all are good either because they are completely one-sided and, in return, professionals feel like they're not being properly represented.
When the public watches these shows that create a gilded perception, it instantly decreases the value of our work. They see the easiest and most simplified aspects of it and think that's all it requires to become successful. Forget the hundreds and thousands of hours of training or experience and the heavy investments into your kit or tools. You just get it for free like the Youtube gurus, right?
This leads me back to the earlier question of why Barbers struggle. We allow the public's perception to control our pricing.
Only in the Barbershop community have I seen such disdain for people who increase their prices based on their experience, market and simple ability to do so. Products have gone up in price, so has rent and every other utility, plus your own bills to support yourself. So why haven't your prices? Because we continually allow the public to say,"But it's so easy, look at XYZ show! So why are you charging so much?"
...Because I like to eat. (Cupcakes, for any of you who were wondering. My birthday is January 28th.)
Recently I have found myself heavily investing in my continued education, taking time to network with my peers and just take a step back to listen. So many Barbers have so much to say about the rapid decline of how Barbers are perceived but, equally, so many have hopes for changing that and taking our industry back.
There's a quote that says,"The world is full of nice people. If you can't find one, be one."
This industry is brimming with talent: established and upcoming. If you can't find something that makes you proud and willing to represent it, then make a change. There is one thing that stands true in any industry and that is if you build it they will come. Small changes create a ripple effect in our small community that reach out to our clients and their friends or families which in return will help build a positive perception.
Think about it.
Until Next Time,