Hair designs are a growing trend in men's (and women's) fashion. It started with just a few strategically placed lines, to small stars and symbols, to full blown pieces of artwork etched in hair. Now, you are just as likely to see young boys on the playground sporting their favorite sport's teams logos in their hair as you are to see a young man at a club with an abstract design taking up most of his head. Like tattoos, designs are expressions of one's personality, passions, style, and interests. However, unlike tattoos, they are completely temporary so they can change as fast as your hair can grow. So most men (or women with short hair) can have a blank canvas for designs every month.
My husband is a Master Barber who specializes in hair design. I was interested in the growing popularity of the trend so I decided to interview him on what it's like being a barber and creating designs. Here's how it went.
How to Cut Hair
Me: When did you first start cutting hair?
Terrance: When I was 16. When I was a sophomore in High School.
Terrance: I had a friend who was working at a barbershop and I was always hanging out at the barbershop. I was always cutting my little cousin's hair, so why not make money off of it?
Me: Why is cutting hair something you really enjoy?
Terrance: Hmm. I don't know, I get to make people smile. From when they sit in my chair to when they get up, I help make them feel good about themselves. I guess in a way I contribute to their self esteem. I like all the different people you meet. All the different cultures and backgrounds. I can be myself when I'm cutting hair. If I'm happy, I can be happy--if I'm upset, I can be upset. Also, people tend to be loyal to their barbers. It's cool to stick with someone and get to know them for years. (pause) Oh and it's good money (laughs), but that's not my motivation. I just like being around people.
Me: What are some basic skills you feel every successful barber needs to have?
Terrance: Communication. You can be the best barber in the world with a horrible personality and lose clientele. Then actual barbering, I guess. One of the most important parts of a hair cut is the shape up. You can have an okay hair cut with a great shape up and that's a good hair cut, but you can't have a great hair cut with a horrible shape up. So shape ups are definitely a skill you need to have. There is no such thing as a quiet barber. You need to have communication skills to connect with your clients.
Me: Do you think it's better to go to a barber or cut your own hair?
Terrance: (laughs) You talking to me? That's tough because I'm a barber. Depends on the situation. I've become picky over time because I know what I want. When I go to other barbers I try not to be so picky because I know barbers don't like picky people. But when you sit in my chair you can be as picky as you want. If I know what I really want then I'll do it myself.
Me: What is your advice for finding a good barber?
Terrance: One is word of mouth, that's big in barbering. Two, is actually seeing a hair cut from start to finish. You need to see how someone came in and how they go out. But first is definitely word of mouth.
Me: What advice do you have for someone who wants to learn to cut hair?
Terrance: If you're not a people person don't bother and at the end of the day, if you're working for someone, you'll just make them lose money. Even if you have great skills, you'll still lose clients if you don't talk to people. So really don't bother. I mean, it's a great skill to have, especially if you have kids because you can cut their hair at home instead of taking them somewhere.
Me: What about general hair cutting advice?
Terrance: Don't be afraid to remove the hair. Some people are afraid to cut it, but don't be afraid. It will grow back. Find a barber you think is good and imitate them and make it your own. Learn a technique, a routine, and stick to it until you can make it your own. Stick to the routine and techniques, it makes it simpler.
How to Cut Hair Designs
Me: When did you start putting designs in hair?
Terrance: Probably around 2005...? 2003, 2004.
Me: Do you remember your first design?
Terrance: My first design...I can't remember the first, but I remember one of the first. It was on my boy, Jessie. He sat down and told me to do what I want, practice.
Me: How did it turn out?
Terrance: I think it was alright for that time. Designs weren't big at that time. Things were simple, the smallest simplest thing was a big deal. I think in comparison to what I do now it was BS (laughs). Now people add faces and colour and all types of detail. I'm not really big on the colour, because if you mess up you can cover it up with colour. I'm all for just cutting the hair.
Me: What have you learned since you first started doing hair designs?
Terrance: I picture what I want to do in my head before I actually do it and I can think through where I'm going to put my lines. I also learned there's no rush, I take my time. There is no reason to rush against the clock. If you come to me then you're dedicated to investing your time in a cut.
Me: What do you do if you make a mistake while cutting a design?
Terrance: Depends on the design. If it's a freehand design then there's no mistakes (laughs). If they come in and tell me what they want and I mess up on it then it's free. I learn from it and learn where to remove the hair next time. What I've learned about making mistakes in hair design is that it's better to be honest. If you try to fix a mistake you'll probably just make it worse, so, I learn from it and it's just free. I want to give my customers what they want.
Me: What is your advice to someone who wants to try cutting designs?
Terrance: Find a person or a couple people who are willing to let them do whatever they want. Practice is important.
Me: What is your advice for someone who wants to get a design cut?
Terrance: Depends on what they want. If you are just starting out and want something small than just go basic....Know how big you want it, know how much of your head you want covered with it. It helps the barber know what he's dealing with. And bring pictures, it really helps out.
Hair Designs with Colour
Tools for Hair Designs
Me: What tools do you use to cut your hair designs?
Terrance: The regular Andis T outliners and just the Andis outliners.
Me: That's it?
Terrance: Yep. And if I have to fade then I use my masters or a pair of designers. No special equipment.
Me: Are there other tools you would like to have or do you think would help make hair designs?
Terrance: I don't know. I don't think so. I'm comfortable with what I have. When I'm using the tools that everyone else is using I feel it's a skill. Once I use specialized tools I feel it's a handicap, the tools are doing the work.
Me: Have you ever been in a situation where you had to do a hair design and didn't have all the tools you need?
Terrance: Yeah. (laughs) Is the follow-up what did I do?
Terrance: Improvised. I think, yeah, I just improvised. I just used the tools that I had. Depending on the design it might limit what I can do in the design. But yeah, it all depends on the design.
Inspiration for Hair Designs
Me: How do barbers cut hair designs? Is everything freehand?
Terrance: I don't know how everybody does it. I've heard of people using stencils. I've heard of people using colour pencils, drawing it on, then cutting it in there. But like I said, I'm more for just cutting the hair. I feel like it's more of a skill that way. I will look at pictures, but it feels like more of an art form when you go in and cut it....An artist doesn't use stencils....I mean, I'm just speaking about the artistry of it. If you're doing it just to make money, then yeah, go ahead and use stencils.
Me: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Terrance: Hmm. I get excited when people ask for a design. I get inspiration from what they want or what they say. I get excited to see the finished product and that inspires me. I get inspired by the vibe of people, I want to give them a design that compliments their personality and swag. That's where being a people person comes in, you need to be able to get a sense of people's vibe.
Me: What advice do you have for someone who is looking for inspiration for a hair design to have put in their hair?
Terrance: Think about your personality, if the design is going to compliment their personality. Look at pictures and try and find inspiration that will compliment their style, fashion sense, and personality. Don't go for something that doesn't match them.
Me: What advice do you have for a barber who is looking for inspiration for hair design cuts?
Terrance: I don't know, because I need that sometimes. Don't be afraid to look at other barber's pictures. That's when I think it's not a competition, it's respect. So if I can get an idea from a different barber, then I'll do it.
Best Hair Designs
Me: What are some of your favorite design cuts?
Terrance: I like anything with shadowing, light to dark. One of my favorite ones was Yu-Gi-Oh, the Japanese anime character, and Sonic the Hedgehog. I'm learning to do faces more. I also really like my abstract designs, ones where people just told me to go and do what I want.
Me: What do you think makes a great hair design?
Terrance: Clean lines. Clean sharp lines. To make it stand out.
Me: Do you think that this is a trend that will last?
Terrance; I think, right now it's hot, a lot of people are doing it. I think you'll always have people who are willing to do it, but it will die out. Right now 4 out of 10 people will come in and get a design. If the popularity decreases, I think it there will still be 1 out of 10 people coming in to get is done, because it is a form of self expression.
Want a design?
If you live in the Hudson Valley area or in NYC and would like Terrance to do your hair you can check him out at the Unisex Hair Palace in the Poughkeepsie Galleria or let me know you'd like to schedule an appointment with him. His schedule is pretty busy (since he also works at Marist College and we're expecting another baby), but he's always happy to take on new clients. Don't be shy!
Me: What is the difference between a barber and a master barber?
Terrance: License. License makes you a master barber. There's different levels of barbering, that have nothing to do with skill. I was an apprentice just a few years ago, but I was more skilled than some master barbers. You just need to apprentice and work towards getting your license.
Me: How can you tell if someone is a good barber or not?
Terrance: How comfortable they seem with the clippers, how they hold them (laughs)--maybe that's just me. But I think it's how comfortable they seem with the clippers in their hand.
Me: What is a reasonable price for a men's hair cut?
Terrance: Hmmm, wow. It depends on what you're getting. Just a basic hair cut, no face included, no straight razor, I'd say 15--right now in 2013.
Me: What is a reasonable tip to leave a barber?
Terrance: I don't think there's such thing as a reasonable tip. A tip means you like what he did, you liked the conversation. If you don't like what he did then don't leave a tip. A tip is extra, that's where skill really gets involved. If your skill is not worthy of a tip, then you don't get a tip. My thing is, you can't force a tip. If someone spends their last $15 on getting a hair cut from me, then I respect that more than someone who has and gives me a tip.
Me: Is there anything else you'd like to say about cutting hair, hair designs, or being a barber?
Terrance: Oh man...as a trade you're a walking business. Anywhere you go, someone is going to need a hair cut. Your job is to keep them coming back after the first time they sit in your chair. You are a walking advertisement of your skill. It's more than just cutting hair, barbering is a lifestyle. It's a give and take. You can look at your barber for the latest styles and fashion and your barber looks at you for the latest styles and fashion. I love it.
Samantha Harris (author) from New York on March 24, 2013:
Thank you very much. He'll be happy to hear his work is appreciated :)
Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on March 24, 2013:
AWESOME idea to do this and what a talented hubby you have! Love his designs and creativity! Excellent pics and interview. Voted up, useful, interesting, awesome, shared pinned!!