Don't Call Me Lady

Originally published in Barber Evo, USA Edition #1

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Close your eyes. Imagine yourself in a barbershop: the clippers buzzing, the conversations and music in the background, the sound of water rushing as the last remnants of hair are washed away. Who do you see? How do you imagine a Barber?

This was the first question I posed when I created the website for Her Chair His Hair, and one that I still ask almost 5 years later to this day. The barber that comes to mind will vary based on a plethora of descriptors: old or young, new or advanced, Latino or Russian. However, that Barber you imagined is likely a man and that doesn’t make you wrong, but it does show how far we have to go as an industry.

Every day since I graduated school, I have had the same, eye opening conversation. “Hi, my name is Cassie and I’m a Barber.” Most people, men and women alike, will blink confusedly and ask a simple question, “Oh, you’re a stylist/lady Barber/Barber-ess?” It used to bother me so much until I realized that it is not their fault because we all have been conditioned to think of a barbershop as a place for men. Women have salons and men have barbershops, right? As we lovingly say in Brooklyn…“nah.”

In 1924 the first “women barbers” were admitted into the Barber Union and in 1985 women constituted for 50% of Barber school enrollments.

Women have played an integral role in the barbering industry longer than most people are aware. In 1924 the first “women barbers” were admitted into the Barber Union and in 1985 women constituted for 50% of Barber school enrollments. These statistics are only applicable to the United States in the 20th century and yet, without proof, most people will brush them off and say that it is a new “trend” or “fad” for women to become barbers. So why is there so much pushback? In my years of doing research, networking and developing relationships with women in the industry, the consensus is typically the same: nobody believes us when we tell them what we do for a living.

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Recently, I had a conversation with a fellow barber, platform educator and brand manager at the International Beauty Show in New York. We spoke about a recent event she participated in as a featured judge and how it lead her to realize something very strange about the structure of the battles that were hosted. Full disclaimer: I think, to a degree, “female” categories at Barber events are great because they’re a way to dip slowly into the water. With that being said, the active separation of men and women at these events are a complete disservice to all professionals. This woman told me that the “female” category was not only priced less, at the same price as the student category, but that the cash prize plus physical trophy dwarfed in comparison to the other categories.

Some will read that last paragraph and yell out, “But Cassie, at least there is a female category to represent women in the industry.” I ask you to hear me out. Why at least? From my perspective, it’s indirectly sending a message that women are not on the same playing field as men when it comes to competitions and we all know that’s simply untrue. Well, some of us do at least. This is not an attack on those who have good intentions and are attempting to include or attract women to their events. Historically, most Barber events are geared toward men and any good marketing course will tell you that diversity is key, especially when there is an 18 trillion dollar “female” economy to tap into.

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So where do we go from here? We move forward in unison as an industry while respecting that we all have strengths and weaknesses in our personal path to success. All events, for both stylists and barbers, can actively create an inclusive environment so that any professional looking to enhance their skill set feels welcomed. Most importantly, in my opinion, when someone tells you who they are or what they do, you can believe them and skip the 21 questions about how their gender magically affects their title or license. 

Oh, and you can stop calling me “lady.”

Cassondra Kurtz

Founder of www.HerChairHisHair.com 

Master Barber, State of New York

#ThrowBackThursday HerChairHisHair Presents: Lady Barber Showcase

Hey everyone, I know it's been a while but I also know as barbers, stylists and other industry professionals you definitely understand how work can get the better of you. I have to admit, I have missed writing SO much and was upset that there was very little time for me to get back on here. In good news, our community has continued to grow by the thousands and it is so exciting to see all of you kicking ass while taking (client's) names.

We've just come off an awesome high of having a full stage set up at Connecticut Barber Expo in Hartford, CT thanks to Jay Majors!

I thought it would be nice to finally post some awesome photos and video from our first, personally hosted event in October, Her Chair His Hair Presents: Lady Barber Showcase and Breast Cancer Fundraiser. We raised collectively $1,250 which was donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. and will help so many women across the country with early detection, Breast Cancer education and research, patient ongoing therapy and so much more. *cue cheers*

Thank You...
There are so many people that had a hand in helping make this event a success and I hope you'll take the time to read through the list.

Special thanks to our biggest sponsor, Mr Beauty Equipment from Long Island, New York. They donated the amazing red barber chairs and pink stylist chair you see on the stage and the side tables that allowed the women to properly store their tools. Also, a special thank you to Always Pro Barbers  from Brooklyn, NY for donating so many items to give away including clippers, spray bottles, books and more. Jakpot, creator of the pink Breast Cancer King Midas Capes that graced the stage and were also given away. Charly of the Hustle Barbershop in Queens, NY gave away some seriously cozy shirts that were a huge success as well. 

All night we were vibing to music by the amazing and incomparable DJ Jena Red. We were also graced with some serious talent when Emily Simone came out to play her electric violin. Without these ladies the party just wouldn't be the same. I truly believe great music and entertainment are key to an event.

My parents were also an amazing help, Donna and Jeff, for the delicious cupcakes attendees snacked on and my dad's musical genius with mobile sound. Thanks to him, Jena, Emily and myself all sounded on point when needed.

All of these amazing photos are by Kelsey Campbell who donated her services and time to come capture this night. Video by David "FitBarber" Falla, who also took the time to make sure the event was covered completely. 

Last, but certainly not least, thank you to the ladies and gents who came out to showcase and model for us! Mariela, Lisa, April, Guin Gui, Lady Jae, Corina, Carmen: all of you ladies participated in something that has never been done before. You are the first to headline, showcase and cut in an all female, barber focused, event. Here is to so many more accomplishments in your career as you continue to pave the way for other women in this industry. You are all so talented and creative and I only wish the best success for each of you.

State of the Union: Taking Back Our Industry

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,
Cassie

 

When Giving Is Golden: Social Responsibility as Barbers

Recently I have seen a lot of discussions on social media about giving back as a Barber or Hair Stylist and I felt it was time to finally have an open dialogue regarding when we should or should not participate. For the five years I have been working as a freelance artist, I have participated in somewhere around 4-5 unpaid or low paying events/jobs that I felt would make a difference. But this isn't about my career, it's about yours and when you should say 'yes' or 'no'. 

Mark Bustos Free Haircuts NYC Homeless Her Chair His Hair

If you have Instagram or Google notifications then you have certainly heard about the recent trend of barbers like Mark Bustos giving back to the homeless or that The Vatican is now offering shaves in addition to haircuts and showers.  If you aren't in the hair realm then perhaps you have heard of other not-for-profit programs that offer makeovers for women in shelters or with cancer and MS.

But what about the people that are just looking for hand-outs? Who don't want to pay and don't even have the proper registration? You will walk away annoyed and feeling like it was a waste of your time. I want to prevent this because we, as artists, do have  social responsibility to give back in ways that other groups cannot. 

Here are four tips for making sure that this job is legitimate, first, and worth your time, second.

1.) REASONS

Why are you doing this? Is it for the 'likes' on Instagram? Or maybe praise from the people organizing the event? Look, I don't think I've ever gone a day without thanking someone for the smallest thing but when it comes to these events you may not be thanked. There is so much more at play than just the makeup like catering running behind or the venue not allowing the amount of people they said they would. Address why you want to do this: money, likes, or because it's something that genuinely makes you happy, and you won't have any problems feeling unfulfilled. 

2.) PAYMENT

Are they paying? If yes, how will they pay you? Cash day of, check in two billing cycles, etc. Most of the time non-profit groups don't have a lot of funding to pay for an event but they either budget it or make sure that you're paid quickly for your time on a low rate. If they're not paying you, then just like when you donate clothing to some places, they will give you a voucher for your taxes at the end of the year and you simply claim how much you would normally charge and/or how much product you used. If not? I'd be careful which leads me to my next point.

3.) REGISTRATION

Are they registered as a Non-Profit or 501(c)3? Some companies try to tell artists that their event is non-profit which is a sneaky way of saying,"We've already paid too many people, sorry." If someone approaches you and you have a weird feeling in your gut, LISTEN TO IT! Don't be afraid to ask the right questions like Crystal Wright always says. Unsure of what the right questions are? Ask Crystal. ;)

4.) REACH OUT

If this event is larger than 25-50 people then they definitely have at least 1-2 additional artists. See if they have worked with them before and how their experience was. Most of the non-profits I have worked for have invited me back each year and I've only said no to one. That was after I didn't listen to my gut and ask the right questions AKA I shot myself in the foot. 

There you have it ladies and gents. With these tips you should be on a solid start for you all journeying into the world of charitable services. As Mark Bustos says,"Remember to be awesome to somebody."

Until Next Time!
Cassie