Our guide to barbering

Our guide to barbering

First published date February 05 2014 Amended date November 10 2015

Barbering dates back as far as the Ancient Egyptians and is still integral in today’s grooming culture.  Back in those days, barbers would also perform surgery and were very highly regarded in society, and though that belief may have dwindled over the centuries, a barber is still a noble and important profession today. Do you have a love for hair and hair styling? Feel like it is something you can try your hand at? As long as you don’t have the same intentions as ‘The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’, Sweeney Todd, then why not get to grips with clippers and pomade and embark on a barbering course?


Why barbering?

Though they both fall under the same umbrella, barbering and hairdressing are quite different. If you intend to solely specialise in men’s hairdressing then barbering is for you. Barbering will focus only on men’s cutting, styling and shaving where as hairdressing applies to dealing with both males and females. The problem with barbering of course being your restricted to men as your clientele, however if you wanted to cut women’s hair too, then there are more general hairdressing courses available too.


Can anyone become a barber?

Yes. Introductory courses are open to anyone looking to break into the hairdressing industry regardless of what little or vast experience you have. Don’t be scared though if it is all new to you. It may seem daunting and look complicated when you are getting a haircut yourself, and the idea of being in complete charge of someone’s hair seems like too much responsibility, but just remember that everyone has to start from somewhere!


What will a barbering course involve?

Courses vary depending on which level you decide to take on. At introductory level, you will be shown the fundamentals of barbering, learning how to cut ‘scissors over comb’, use clippers properly as well as other techniques such as fading, layering and tapering. However, emphasis on the word ‘shown’ – at the beginner stage it is highly unlikely you will actually be cutting people’s hair. So patience is a definite virtue starting out! As you are focused on barbering, you are also required to be taught how to cut facial hair too, whether it is styling a beard or a clean, wet shave with a razor. Health and safety becomes paramount here, naturally, as you’ll be taking a blade to someone’s neck! The levels up from introductory courses are Level 2 NVQs where things will be far more hands on, but to note, a lot of Level 2 NVQs require you to already be working in barbershop or hair salon. If you are an intermediate barber looking to progress even further, then there are more advanced course options to choose from also. The more complex techniques you will learn at this stage include point cutting, texturising and graduated and disconnected cuts also. Practice makes perfect while training and a lot of aspiring barbers or hairdressers find practising on friends or family a great way to learn, just hope they can trust you with their hair!


Career opportunities

Needless to say, taking on a barbering course opens the door to a career as a barber or hairdresser unsurprisingly. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t delve into other areas of grooming and personal care. There are numerous different paths you can go down with many other courses available, you can take a course in hairdressing for example, which will incorporate women’s cuts and styling. The skills you will have gained in barbering will only serve to help you if you choose to venture into a different field within the industry; the more versatile you are the better!


Did you know?

-          The word barber comes from the Latin word ‘Barba’, which means beard.

-          The traditional red and white barber’s pole usually found outside a barber shop represents the times when barbers were also surgeons and blood-letters. In medieval times, barbers would also perform surgical like procedures and would often hang bloodied white bandages outside their shop, which is where we get the familiar red and white stripes poles outside barber shops from.

-          Barber shop music and quartets date back to the 19th century where men would often socialise at a barber shop by singing and harmonising together.