The Future Of Barbering Is Female

Written by: SalonCentric Team
Mar 01, 2022

We spoke to some of the industries leading barbers, Whitney VerMeer, Jamie DiGrazia, Sofie Pok, and Lici Febo to get their perspectives on what it means to be a woman in the barbering industry. We also asked them about their careers and their thought on where the barbering industry is headed in the future.

Whitney VerMeer (@whitneyvermeer) is a Minneapolis-based educator, entrepreneur, and global award-winning artist. As a barber she’s best known for her architecturally-inspired designs. She’s also the first woman to design a line of haircutting scissors. The line, a collaboration with Mizutani, was specifically designed for women’s smaller hands, allowing for more precise cutting and creative freedom. Whitney is an outspoken advocate for gender and LGBTQ+ equality within the professional beauty industry.

 SC: Which barbers have inspired you the most throughout your career?

Whitney VerMeer: There are so many talented barbers and hairdressers out there that inspire me, but truthfully, I tend to look outside the industry to find inspiration. Our industry can be stagnant and I believe in order to push the envelope and evolve, you have to think outside the box. Creatives that I really look up to are generally very controversial people like Kanye West, Rick Owens, Jesse Draxler, and so many more!

SC: What have been some of the big challenges you’ve faced as a female barber?

WV: I have, of course, faced some challenges as being a female barber early on in my career, but it was rarely because o] other artists. It was generally corporations that would want to put me in a specific box. I have always narrowed my focus to being the best that I could be as an artist, Not as a female artist. I believe that mindset made the box disappear in most instances, and I choose to align myself with male barbers that see me as an equal because I simply refuse to accept less.

SC: When doing research for this article, I came across a lot of “Can I trust a female barber?” What is your immediate response to reading that?

WV: I feel like I can’t even dignify that with an answer. If someone questions that, I don’t want them in my chair.

 SC: True or false: You’ve had to work twice as hard to be perceived half as good as your male counterparts. If so, in what ways?

WV: True, especially as a gay individual that works with both barbers and hairdressers. However, I have always felt like a bit of a lone wolf, so I think in general I have always fought to prove myself.

SC: In what ways are you trying to eliminate gender stereotypes within the barbering industry?

WV: Eliminate gender. Period. I don’t refer to anything as a men’s haircut or women’s haircut. I don’t do gender pricing. I actually don’t discuss it at all unless the individual in my chair wants to.

I also stay away from terms like “female barber or lady barber. We don’t include gender for doctors out of respect and I think our industry should follow suit.

SC: Hopefully in the future when you get interviewed, you will not be asked any questions relating to gender within your field. What can other barbers, salon/barbershop owners, and stylists do now to be allies, help break down gender barriers and create a more level playing field in barbering today?

WV: Be inclusive! That means having a gender-neutral space, getting rid of gendered pricing, changing the language in your chair, and also outside of it. I think we, as humans, need to toss this idea of gender out the window. Quite frankly, it’s silly and has literally nothing to do with hair.

SC: How are you going to change the industry for up-and-coming female barbers?

WV: By leading by example. A few years ago, I made history by creating the first ever scissors made ergonomically for “women’s” (smaller) hands. I also was the first ever woman to have a scissor line. And I put the first transgender model in a barber magazine. Things like that—my goal is to continue to make history and inspire others.

SC: Are there any up-and-coming or next generation female barbers that are on your radar that we should know about?

WV: This one is a little harder to answer. I think it’s been really hard to access the skill set through social media with all the editing software that is out there. I look forward to the day where I can see some talent in person.

SC:  What has been your proudest moment as a barber?

WV: Either winning NAHA Men’s Hairstylist of the Year and BTC #ONESHOT for Men’s Cut of the Year in the same year, or creating the Whitney Vermeer X Mizutani Scissors Crossover.

SC: What are you most proud of about yourself outside of your profession?

WV: While I haven’t been able to travel and teach, I rescued a new puppy and have been training her to become a s Service Dog and perhaps even do Search and Rescue. She was found in a landfill and I rescued her after losing my pup of 14 years. Helping her grow and become the dog she is today has been incredibly rewarding and it was exactly what I needed during the pandemic.

SC: What’s your signature barbering technique?

WV: Blades only. I love to sculpt hair without using clipper guards

Redken artist and owner of Chicago’s Logan Parlor salon, Jamie DiGrazia (@jamiedigrazia) specializes in very short and highly textured, natural hair. She has been nominated for multiple NAHA awards and  won  in 2018. She is also nominated this year for barber of the Year with the T.H.E. Awards by Texture Hair Elevated and the Global Artistry Council. Jamie travels internationally to independent salons and hair shows to facilitate programs that help fellow licensed cosmetologists grow their skill set. 

SC: True or false: You’ve had to work twice as hard to be perceived half as good as your male counterparts. If so, in what ways?

Jamie DiGrazia: I do not see the truth in this statement. I've worked as hard as I felt necessary to get my skill set and business to where I wanted it to be.

SC: In what ways are you trying to eliminate gender stereotypes within the barbering industry?

JD: The salon and barber Industry have always been segregated by two things, length and gender. I opened Logan Parlor with that in mind. We want to fuse the two industries, in skillset, and in community. We encourage everybody to have any hair they wish. We offer gender-free pricing and do not separate our environment. Someone will be getting a beard groom in the first chair and a hot pink balayage in the second. The third chair could be a trans child getting a gender-affirming haircut. We want to meet every guest wherever they are on the gender spectrum and celebrate them and their hair.

I know we have a lot of work to do to open people's eyes to the way things can be since sometimes we see things as they have always been. Through advocacy, social media and news outlets, magazine articles etc., we can start to see and be the change we want to see in the industry. Our collaborative hashtag is #hairhasnogender to join the movement!

I see salons and barber shops every day on social media going gender-free and I speak to it in the classes I facilitate. I offer consulting services on how to implement gender-free pricing. I can help support structuring menus and pricing services based on time and product instead of gender, and how to make it work for your team and business.

SC: When doing research for this article, I came across a lot of “Can I trust a female barber?” What is your immediate response to reading that?

JD: Honestly, my immediate response to this is that this is a ridiculous question and the person asking probably wouldn't be a great fit for me as a client or guest inside of our space. We have a few simple rules inside our space and being kind and inclusive is number one. We foster an environment where hate speech is not allowed or welcomed. We do not tolerate sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia and are a body-positive safe space.

SC: Hopefully in the future when you get interviewed, you will not be asked any questions relating to gender within your field. What can other barbers, salon/barbershop owners, and stylists do now to be allies, help break down gender barriers and create a more level playing field in barbering today?

JM: I would first move away from a gendered service menu and take a look at the physical space and see if any changes could be made to create a more inclusive environment. Creating a space that feels inviting to all. We really are one of the only industries that don't do this. Think about restaurants, they cater to all. I would hire a diverse team of staff with varying skill sets to offer a wider range of services, celebrate the team's uniqueness. Then, take a look at your social media, does the page showcase the same look over and over on the same hair type, race and gender expression? There may be room to grow there.

SC: How are you going to change the industry for up-and-coming female barbers?

JD: I hope to inspire through art, business practices, advocacy, and education in our industry.

I am a PBA member and try to stay relevant and involved with our industry through associations and education. The more big companies like Redken and SalonCentric support our ideas and equality, the more momentum this movement will have and we’ll see less pink tax, hate, and discrimination. It's time to level the playing field in this industry. Everyone needs a good haircut and anyone can give one.

SC: Are there any up-and-coming/next generation female barbers that are on your radar that we should know about?

JD: Check out @by.taylorleven owner and barber stylist at @headspacebarbershop.She's talented, inclusive and a shop owner that has education and professional development at the top of her list.

SC: What has been your proudest moment as a barber?

JD: I think it's important to note that everyone thinks I am a barber, but technically I am a licensed cosmetologist. [That said,] winning a NAHA!  Not just winning and being recognized for my art but being able to advocate for our industry. Being recognized as Men's Hairstylist of the Year and sharing with the associations that I am more than just a “men's hairstylist” and I don't identify as such. I was able to use my voice to help sow change, and the NAHA is now titled “Barber of the Year” in 2022!

SC: What are you most proud of about yourself outside of your profession?

JD: My connection to spirit. I am many things and staying and being connected to my inner knowing, intuition and self-awareness are of great importance to me. I thrive to be balanced and in alignment with my soul's purpose and highest good.

SC: What’s your signature barbering technique?

JD: Mixing different elements like short and long, shaved and wavy, dark and light always keep it visually interesting.

LA-based barber and BaBylissPRO International Educator Sofie “StayGold” Pok (@staygold31) travels the country teaching her signature clipper cutting techniques. Techniques that have earned her many awards and have made her the go-to barber for celebrities including Usher, Post Malone, Nas, and James Charles. She’s also one of the co-creators the STMNT grooming collection, a five-piece line sold at various online and in-store retailers. Sofie is also a professional videographer and photographer. She showcases her skills as a barber and content creator on Instagram where she has earned over 400k followers.

SC: What have been some of the big challenges you’ve faced as a female barber?

Sofie Pok: Building a clientele, gaining respect from other barbers/co-workers, getting certain positions within the shop, finding the right shop environment to work in. It is said you need to have “thick skin” to work in a barbershop.

SC: When doing research for this article, I came across a lot of “Can I trust a female barber?” What is your immediate response to reading that?

SP: It’s an old mindset that’s changing fast. Female barbers have existed for a long time, but when you don’t see it often on TV, social media, or in actual barbershops, it gives this false stereotype that a  woman can’t do the job as well as a man.

Once social media started growing, barbershops became a trending topic and people could actually have a look into its culture. Women started to pop up and showcase their talent and skills and after being in the field for the last 11 years. Now, it’s not as shocking to see women execute beautiful work alongside the majority of men.

SC: True or false: You’ve had to work twice as hard to be perceived half as good as your male counterparts. If so, in what ways?

SP: This is a fact. If I'm average or don’t have an edge, I would easily get overlooked in the shop and in the industry. It happened for at least the first half of my career. It's also the conversation that's always being repeated: ‘Dang, she’s pretty good for a girl, ‘ as if it was like seeing a unicorn. It was more surprising to a lot of people, than it was a normal thing. But if you become exceptional, if you win awards, if you grow your following, it’s a stamp of approval that you are “worthy” to the masses. At that point, you get some attention and spotlight, then people realize oh sh*t, you are as good as any barber. Crazy world we live in.

SC: In what ways are you trying to eliminate gender stereotypes within the barbering industry?

SP: I believe in leading by example. If I can simply push boundaries beyond what I’ve seen and try to do my absolute best, maybe that can inspire the next generation of barbers. Barbering can be done by anyone who’s committed to the journey and how far it can take you.

SC: Hopefully in the future when you get interviewed, you will not be asked any questions relating to gender within your field. What can other barbers, salon/barbershop owners, and stylists do now to be allies, help break down gender barriers and create a more level playing field in barbering today?

SP: It would mean a great deal  in shops if coworkers and bosses could fully support their female barbers in awkward situations. I’ll never forget almost three instances that my guys didn't stand up for me in those moments of getting judged by clients. I hope no one has to feel that way in their workspace. It's one thing if you failed at someone's haircut and they complain, but for them to look at you and guess that you simply can’t do what they walked in for is discouraging. It's the support system in every shop that’s truly going to change the narrative that people will have.

SC: How are you going to change the industry for up-and-coming female barbers?

SP: To continue sharing my story. Keep pushing for new goals and have more conversations around this topic and normalize it. One of my future plans I have is to host some events centered around female barbers. 

SC: Are there any up-and-coming/next generation female barbers that are on your radar that we should know about?

SP: Yes, there’s a group of some amazing and talented women. Here are some IG pages to check out: @nicolerenae , @theoriginalbarberdoll , @allison_cuts , @assyria_gindo , and @dgcuts are just a few off the top of my head.

SC: What has been your proudest moment as a barber?

SP: There are two moments in particular: One, being part of making a five-year edition barbering program for Pivot Point, a company I learned from. Total full circle moment. Second, winning the Barbercon Barber of the Year, purely for the fact it didn't mention male or female.

SC: What are you most proud of about yourself outside of your profession?

SP: A very important one is my ability to think. Our minds are so powerful. It's truly what helps us move to places we’ve only dreamed of. I took an interest in self-development early on after graduating high school and it’s been a non-stop journey of learning new habits and unlearning bad ones. It’s what’s kept me here with an optimistic view of life and being fully grounded in life.

SC: What’s your signature barbering technique?

SP: I don't know if I created it, but I don’t remember seeing anyone do this. When doing a fade, I try to break it down easy to explain it to someone and I leave this weird thin line of hair. It’s a way to separate the foil shaver line from the blend. This hard line prevents the foil line crossing so far into the blend it could mess up the flow. I don’t claim it, but it made sense to me when I stumbled upon it.

Lici Febo, better known as Lici Lady Barber (@ lici_ladybarber), has won many awards for the intricacy of her detailed freestyle designs. As a child, she was involved in an accident that left her with severe burns and limited hand mobility. She attributes winning The CW’s Cedric’s Barber Battle as a career defining moment. After winning the show she became a nationally sought-after educator and motivational speaker.

SC: Which barbers have inspired you the most throughout your career?

Lici Febo: Christina Goree was one of my first inspirations. She was a well-respected award-winning female barber; this was a time where this was uncommon. She was the founder of Lady Barbers United and this truly inspired to fight against any and all transgressions throughout my career.  Kenny Duncan was my second greatest inspiration. I loved his teaching style, his verbiage, and the elegance in which he not only cut hair but the form in which he delivered his message. He inspired me to become an educator.

SC: What have been some of the big challenges you’ve faced as a female barber?

LF: As a female barber I’ve faced many adversities throughout my career. My skill set has always been questioned to the point where I’ve had to go out of my way to prove myself by posting pictures of my work around my station and joining barber competitions. Too many have underestimated my potential to succeed in this industry solely for being a woman.

I have experienced unsolicited sexual advancements both in the shop and at hair shows and the judgement of my character has always been misunderstood. All of these things are trivial to me because they’ve never stopped me from being the best version of myself. I have dedicated my time to education, continually seeking out and learning from mentors, perfecting my craft, and networking to become the entrepreneur and overachiever I am today.

SC: When doing research for this article, I came across a lot of “Can I trust a female barber?” What is your immediate response to reading that?

LF: I Just laugh and shake my head. Many clients have straight out told me they don’t trust a woman to cut their hair and that’s my response. Then I follow up by saying, “Come on man, let me show you what you’ve been missing out. If you don’t like the cut, it’s on me.” Works every time.

SC: True or false: You’ve had to work twice as hard to be perceived half as good as your male counterparts. If so, in what ways?

LF: True. I believe that initially as a female barber there is always going to be speculation on credibility. My skill set is undeniable. Once a client sits in my chair, it’s game over. The goal for me has always been to make a great first impression so as soon as a client walks through the door. I show pure confidence using my posture, the way I dress, the tone of my voice, and my smile.

I’ve had to command respect in the shop by not being afraid to be myself or educate my client. I find that when you're confident, relaxed and unphased by any uncertainty a client may have about you, they are much more relaxed, and the service goes smoothly.

SC: In what ways are you trying to eliminate gender stereotypes within the barbering industry?

LF: My way of eliminating gender stereotypes is leading by example and proving that gender stereotypes are misleading and a juvenile way of thinking.

SC: Hopefully in the future when you get interviewed, you will not be asked any questions relating to gender within your field. What can other barbers, salon/barbershop owners, and stylists do now to be allies, help break down gender barriers and create a more level playing field in barbering today?

The best way to break down gender barriers is through education. The goal is to establish a professional standard within the barbershop and salon environment by addressing gender bias as it happens.

Make sure your team knows what gender bias looks like and how to avoid it. Showcase some examples to help illustrate the point. If people aren’t made aware, then changes won’t happen so it's important to raise awareness. Offer mentoring ongoing support, and praise. Uplift each other. These are the best confidence boosters that help everyone stay connected and are crucial for creating an award-winning team.

SC: How are you going to change the industry for up-and-coming female barbers?

LF: I choose to be a proud representation of a successful female barber, and empower women to stand in their truth and their glory. It’s important for me to remind women that no one has the power to dim their light. In fact, the only obstacle standing in their way is their own insecurity which is driven by fear. Let that go and free yourself from the lies meant to destroy your greatness. My testimony along with many other successful women in the industry is living proof that no matter what experiences you encounter there is always a solution. Patience is the door, and persistence is the key.

SC: What has been your proudest moment as a barber?

LF: I thought my proudest moment would be when I won the championship belt during episode four of Cedric’s Barber Battle. I was the only woman to win this televised competition. Even though that moment paved the way for many women in the industry and changed the course of my career, I have to say the proudest moment of my career was becoming a licensed educator. I have helped shape the lives of many future professionals and continue to inspire and transform lives. This is truly rewarding and have found my purpose in life.

SC: What are you most proud of about yourself outside of your profession?

LF: When I first picked up a pair of clippers, I was homeless. This was a way of survival in my darkest moment. When I discovered that I could create art using this medium, I liberated myself creatively and it shaped me as a hair artist. I was a single mother trying to provide for my children. Today, my kids tell me how proud they are of me and that is the best compliment I could ever receive. I am most proud of watching my kids grow to become just as driven and dedicated as I am, and they are chasing their dreams. Everything I fought for was for them and it was worth all of it.

SC: What’s your signature barbering technique?

LF: My signature technique is my freestyle line work. It’s organic and fluid each and every time. I usually allow my emotions to dictate the end result of my design. I never know what I’m going to do until it's done.

 

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