Jazz Johnson was raised by visual artists and learned to appreciate all sorts of art from an early age. After graduating from cosmetology school, she spent eight years working in high-end salons but found it, in her words, "lacking."
Her son's father was a barber and after working with him, she found in the barbershop what had been missing in the salons. "It tapped into the art I was raised with," Johnson says. Today, she owns the Rogue Haircut & Shave Parlour in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which combines the old-time ambiance of a classic barbershop with the latest modern styles and techniques.
We talked to Johnson to find out why she loves her job. If you've been looking for a new career, here are five reasons to become a barber.
1. You don't only get a job, you get a community.
For Johnson, barbering offered a completely different work environment than she had as a cosmetologist. "There is a huge sense of community that I never really noticed in a salon," she says.
The atmosphere in her barbershop fosters relationships that transcend the barber/client dynamic. "Sometimes the lines between clients and friends blur," Johnson explains. She notes that her clients can often turn around a rough day and lift her spirits. It's a job perk that makes a career as a barber all that much better.
2. There is less competition for quality barbers.
Compared to her days in cosmetology, Johnson says there is less competition in the barbering world, at least when it comes to those providing high-quality work. Although it's easy to find chain haircut shops, there are relatively few independent barbers providing specialty services.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that there are fewer barbers competing for clients compared to other hair professionals. In 2015, there were only 14,350 barbers in the nation compared to 362,360 hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists.
Johnson says that once clients find a barber they like, they are often fiercely loyal. "They come in every 2-3 weeks," she says, noting short cuts and styles mean clients make regular visits to their favorite shop.
3. All you need is scissors and a chair and you can work anywhere.
Another reason to become a barber is because it fills a universal need. People everywhere have hair, and it usually doesn't stop growing. As a result, the career offers the opportunity to work in any location you'd like.
"You can go anywhere in the world," Johnson says. "All you need is your tools and a chair and you can make money."
4. It's a flexible career with room for growth.
Similarly, barbering is a profession that lends itself well to growth. Some barbers may work as employees for others, but the BLS reports about half of barbers, hairdressers and cosmetologists are self-employed.
For those who decide to work for themselves, they can make their business as small or large as they want. Barbers can rent space in an existing barbershop, start their own shop or open a chain of shops. It's a flexible career path that frequently allows workers to set their own hours.
"The sky's the limit," Johnson says. "There's always room for growth."
5. Barbers give more than haircuts -- they give self-confidence.
Don't make the mistake of thinking barbers don't have an important job. Just as clients can turn around Johnson's day, she says she can do the same for the people whose hair she cuts.
"They come to me when they're going on a first date or a wedding and want to impress," she says. "[Once I'm done with their hair], they have this look that they're ready to take on anything."
Cutting hair may seem small in the grand scheme of things, but Johnson says she's seen again and again how it boosts confidence and changes attitudes. She says those who want to join the ranks of excellent barbers should invest in quality tools, practice impeccable hygiene and always have a pair of back-up trimmers handy. Oh, and for her last piece of advice, Johnson says, "Take a lunch every day where you can put your feet up."
If think a career as a barber is right for you, the schools below are a few of the places where you can find training in the latest styles and techniques.
Read on and check out cosmetology programs near you to get started today.
- Interview with Jazz Johnson, owner Rouge Haircut & Shave Parlour
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2015 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, United States, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm