In the Black community, barbershops have been more than just places where men can get their hair cut. They are safe havens, sacred spaces, and provide an overall opportunity for men to come together and just be themselves. Men have learned some of their greatest lessons, shared some of their greatest failures, and been their most transparent selves, all within their 30 minutes to an hour session. And female presence has increased, the barbershop will always be a symbol of strength, comfort, and refuge for our brothers.
Now we all know that the barbershop wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t for the barbers who work in them. Aside from cutting hair, barbers are often regarded as mentors, father figures, sounding boards, best friends, and community leaders, and the following three barbers embody that and so much more. The first found his way into the barber industry after realizing that college wasn’t for him, but later found a way to merge his love for psychology and cutting hair to provide a service that now speaks for itself. Next is a woman who saw being a barber as a backup plan, but later found herself taking up space in this male-dominated arena through style, grace, and an impeccable eye for detail. And finally is someone who has been cutting hair his entire life, and now uses it as a way to provide opportunities to those who need it the most.
Ivan Pierre, Illustrious Cuts
How long have you been a barber, and what led you to pursue that as a passion?
I’ve been a barber for going on ten years. Growing up, I was always around hair because my mother did hair. She owned a pair of clippers that were never used, so I practiced cutting my friends’ hair until I got better. From there, I went to college; however, I realized that it wasn’t for me and decided to go to barber school.
What are all of the services that you provide?
The men typically come in for the detailed work and enhancements for those whose hair is thinning. One of my newer services is a spa treatment. That’s where I allow the client to relax while I shampoo their beard, give them a hot towel, and the works; it’s a total experience. As far as the women, I started doing designs a few years ago. Over time, I got better and then implemented color. Women are mostly looking for convenience and don’t feel like going to multiple places for their hair services. So, being able to do the cuts, design, and color was a plus.
How has the business changed for you over the years?
It’s hard to put into words, but just going from hard work and the continuous grind to getting into a position where your name starts to circulate, and you begin to work smarter and more efficiently. For example, I used to cut 20-22 heads a day to cover myself financially, but over time, my clientele progressed, and my prices went up. I realized the quality and experience that I was giving my customers, and they didn’t complain about it. But all of those things allowed me to have a better quality of life. I was able to do more with my family and take care of other business. Now, I only cut ten heads a day and have the same financial outcome as when I first started.
When did you realize that you were on to something?
When I started to hone in on my social media, I was able to show mass groups of people what I was doing at one time. People and companies began reaching out to me for paid partnerships on Instagram, and that’s when a light bulb came on. I realized that what I was doing was working and that I had to keep going. Then I started to focus on the root of everything that was happening and found that it was my customer service. Just being a good person and making my clients feel great once leaving my chair, was far better than any haircut that I could give them. I’ve learned that treating people with kindness and creating a space where they want to be, creates a sense of loyalty and relationship, which extends beyond the service.
What are some of your collaborations or partnerships?
I used to tag the products that I use on Instagram so that the companies would notice. But then I realized that there were millions of people who were probably doing the same, so I redirected my focus to my work and let God shine His light on me. Once I changed to that mindset, that’s when companies started reaching out. So this year, I collaborated with Head & Shoulders’ natural hair care line and an event with Mountain Dew for All-Star Weekend. That was a weekend-long event at Blind Barber, located in the West Loop, and they interviewed celebrities and athletes and had ESPN reporters host the different segments. I also did a salon takeover event that weekend with Organic Root Stimulator.
Who inspires you?
Black people inspire me. Despite what’s going on around us, we still manage to be resilient. It’s amazing to see how we always find a way that we’re great people and have a great culture. I know this first hand because I sit with a different Black person every 30 minutes to an hour.
Since becoming a barber, what’s the most surprising thing that you’ve learned about yourself?
I never thought that I could love and care for so many people. One would think that a client is just a client, but in actuality, the more people come back every week, they become family and friends. It’s something that I missed during quarantine, being able to talk about what’s going on in our lives. I feel like it helps us all get through. And it’s a beautiful thing.
For more information on Ivan, please visit illustriouscuts.booksy.com, and follow him on Instagram @illustrious_cuts.
Kiara Bond, Fly Female Barber
What led you to pursue a career as a barber, and how long have you been doing it?
I’ve been a barber for ten years now. After high school, I didn’t know what direction to go in, and my mom suggested that I go to barber school because I had an interest in doing hair. The plan was for me to use that as something to fall back on, but I started to like it and have been cutting hair ever since.
How does it feel to be a female barber in such a male-dominated industry?
It’s very interesting. Because they say that the barbershop is looked at as the country club for men, especially in the Black community, I am privy to a lot of the conversations that take place, and I love it. I get to see different aspects of how men think. In the beginning, it was weird because not many women were in the industry, but because more men are welcoming and more women are coming into barbershops, it’s a little different.
Being that you are a female barber, do you have more male or female clients?
It’s 50/50. Over the past three years, I’ve had more women reach out to me. But in the beginning, I would have maybe five female clients out of 20. Now though, especially with the natural hair movement, more women are cutting their hair off and becoming more comfortable with coming into the barbershop regularly.
What are some of your different services?
Before COVID, I was doing coloring services but had to put it on hold for a moment. Aside from that, I do designs and haircuts for men, women, and teenagers starting at 15. I also do units, which is a hair replacement technique for people suffering from hair loss.
When did you realize that you were on to something?
It was in barber school. Before then, I never picked up a pair of clippers and cut hair. I was doing more hairstyles, but when I got to barber school and did my first haircut, I realized that I could do it. It was an “Aha” moment for me.
What has been your most memorable moment to date?
I would say, working at the Black Women’s Expo last year with Luster hair products. It was very special because they reached out to me. I didn’t have to go looking for them. And the fact that they are a Black company based in Chicago was an extraordinary moment and opportunity to showcase my talent.
What would you say has been the most significant impact on the lives of your clients?
I feel the biggest impact I have is allowing people to understand that you can rock anything as long as you are comfortable with yourself and your style. I try to encourage and support them by letting them know that.
When you decided to pursue a career as a barber, did you imagine your current growth and exposure?
No, I did not. It was very slow in the beginning, and no one was checking for a female in this industry. I had to prove to people that I knew what I was doing at first. But once I became confident in myself and my career, I started to allow my work to speak for itself. At that time, I was able to see how many people were paying attention and knew about me.
What is one thing that you want people to know about the work that you do?
The one that I would like everyone to know is the fact that I pay attention to detail and am a creator at heart. Although my being a barber was random, it’s just a different outlet for me. I like to create and style people’s images. So me paying attention to detail and knowing what looks good on people are two of my strong points.
What does the future hold for you?
It’s an all-around package deal. I don’t think of myself as just a barber; it’s only one of the few things that I have to offer. In the future, I will have a business for styling from head to toe. I can see myself having a company that caters to everyone’s fashion needs.
For information on Kiara, please follow her on Instagram @FlyFemaleBarber and @StyledByBOND.
Antoine Glover, Precision Cuts and Klassy Styles
What led you to become a barber?
I grew up in the realm of barbering. My grandfather was a skilled barber, and as a child, I would cut his hair. As I got older and would want a haircut, my mother didn’t always have the money for it. So one day, she came home with a pair of clippers, and I started practicing. By the time I got to eighth grade, I started getting good at it. Then throughout high school, I cut hair.
At what point did you decide to open your salon?
After high school, I went to the military and was still cutting hair. Once I got out in 2004, I went to barber school and worked in a few shops to get some experience under my belt. After then, I decided to open my shop.
What are some of the services that are offered at Precision Cuts?
I do semi-permanent coloring for men and women, haircuts of all kinds, eyebrows, waxing, anything to do with the neck and above. As far as what’s offered at Precision Cuts, it’s a full-service salon, so we offer eyelashes, makeup, all women’s styles, men’s services, and nails.
How has being a barber and your business changed over time?
Initially, I was trying to get everything fine-tuned as far as being a barber, being that it was just me. But when I became an owner, it was myself and my staff. I later found out that this is the true meaning of a blessing because I’m able to employ people, which helps to take care of them and their families. It also has me hands-on with the community, allowing me to provide information about what’s going on in the city to those who need it. Outside of being a barber, I’m involved in real estate, and by me coming across so many people, I’m always meeting someone who needs my services through my properties.
When did you realize that you were onto something?
I had this moment of clarity, and it just felt great being where I was at. I took a look around and saw what I accomplished and how everyone was smiling and how financially beneficial it was. It just felt good, like that was where I was supposed to be at that moment, at that time.
What has been your most memorable moment to date?
I like the fact that I’m able to make people smile and give them a fair and honest look at who they are, whether it be going on a job interview or speaking in front of a large crowd. You realize that you gave them the haircut, that gave them the confidence to go in and get the job done. I once had a client who didn’t have a job and was going on an interview. He couldn’t afford the haircut, so he promised to pay me double if he got the job. I told him not to worry about it and just to get the job. It’s situations like that, that means something to me.
What’s one thing that you want people to know about the work that you do?
No matter what time of day, I’m going always give my all. That’s my signature, that’s me. If I’m tired or sick and decide to do your haircut, know that I’m going to serve you the right way.
Who inspires you?
I get all of my motivation from the Higher Power. I didn’t have too many people who initially motivated me, but I found things and individuals to inspire me along the way. I have a cousin in Atlanta, by the name of James Chambers, a barber at Julio Jones Hair Salon. I started him off with cutting hair, ten or fifteen years ago, and he took it to the next level. He didn’t know what he had in him, but I knew all along. When I see him so well, it refuels me. So if I ever get too comfortable, I look at him for added motivation.
What does the future hold for you and Precision Cuts?
I envision Precision Cuts having a stamp in Chicago that cannot be forgotten. I plan on taking it to another level, through expansion in Bronzeville or the South Loop, as well as opening up locations in other cities. My goal is to have investors and open as many salons as I can because the community can always use a great barber. A barber isn’t just someone who can cut hair; it’s someone who mentors you, has your best interest, and is another friend. So I see Precision Cuts as a gateway to many parts of success for myself, those I’m connected to, and residents of the same communities as my hair salons. It’s a tremendous blessing, and I look forward to what comes along because it’s all God sent.
For information on Antoine and Precision Cuts, follow him on Facebook at Precision Cuts and Klassy Styles.
Contributing Writer, Racquel Coral is a lifestyle writer based in Chicago. Find her on social media @withloveracquel.