Reflections on Barbering: More than just a barber

“Frank, What’s the difference between a hairstylist, a barber and a staff member who cuts hair at franchise haircut place?”

Each offers different services and specializations. A hair stylist offers a salon selection for grooming options including hair cuts, hair coloring, hair care, and hair styling. A barber mostly focuses on shorter hair, traditional haircuts for men. A franchise hair cut place tries to have a one-size-fits-all model for all hair styles and hair cuts. What all three have in common is that they all offer hair cuts and unfortunately it is easy to make broad generalizations that all three are the essentially same.

A problem with these broad generalizations is that they place a limited view on the actual capabilities. In order to have a haircut to my liking, I need to actually understand what each place specializes in. If I wanted to have a quality mid-skin fade, with a little off the top, I know I’d want to go to the barber. It would be silly of me to expect a franchise haircut place to perform the same service because it’s not what the staff are trained to do. If I had the view that all three places just cut hair and chose a random one, I know I’d probably end up with a haircut I’m not happy with.

It is convenient to oversimplify, generalize and label, but not accurate. It is also easy to perceive these inaccuracies as fact since the generalization or label is “mostly correct”. The truth is an accurate reflection of the present reality. “Mostly correct” is not the truth. A hairstylist cuts hair, a true statement. A hairstylist only cuts hair, a false statement.

This principle extends well past the comparisons among a hairstylist, barber, and franchise hair cut establishments to how people are oversimplified and labeled. These labels are not accurate or true, but often perceived as fact. It’s easy to label someone and accept that the label is all he or she can be. I share that I enjoy cutting my friends’ hair so immediately I’m labeled as a barber. When it comes to having other conversations, I’m dismissed and ignored because, well, “I’m just a barber”. From their perspective, cutting hair is what I do, so that is all I am. I’m not valid and I don’t matter because of someone else’s perception of me.

I love to skate. I enjoy cooking for my roommates. I have a passion for teaching. I enjoy writing. However oversimplifying and labeling me as “just a barber” is an incredibly limited view of who I actually am. The oversimplification of who I am is not accurate, and represents a rejection of reality in and of itself.

People are labeled all the time. How these labels are used depends. Most of the time, these labels are used to obfuscate the present reality and manipulate certain perceptions. Some people want to be “seen” as successful so what do they do? Add labels to their LinkedIn with all words related to success, or constantly repeat these labels in daily conversations. Some people label others, positively or negatively, which shape particular attitudes or perceptions. By labeling, these individuals are stuck chasing an image, clawing desperately for a facade to become reality rejecting the truth for a comforting lie.

Words matter. Choosing the right words is not always the easiest or most convenient of tasks. However, making the effort to understand and accurately describe present reality offers a holistic and rich view of the world. We are more than the labels we give ourselves and give others.

I am more than just a barber.

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