Living the Dream Through the Scissor Blades

Look at any family picture dated from the ’50s or even earlier. There is one particular overlooked detail of manhood in that era by present generations — hairstyle.

While most people today would be donning stylish looks by the influences of a highly dynamic society and pop culture, there will always be a population of ‘old souls’ who will try and revive the looks and styles of the past.

Dan and his team are one of the few barbers currently exerting efforts in reviving men’s ‘classic look.’ He said, “I’m trying to bring back the art of Classic Barbering in our neighborhood. One of the reasons that made me do this was because some barbers are just doing passionless haircutting, wherein they don’t focus about its art — the art of barbering.”

Started from a haircut drop-by

He started having an interest in old-school style haircutting in 2015 when he went for a haircut visit from another local barbershop specializing in this particular style of hair grooming.

“I was following certain barbers that do the same theme of haircutting that I now do, too — they were the first ones to reestablish the trade; they were our roots and mentor. They are known as the Brother’s Keeper Barbershop, HEAVYHANDS Barbershop, STSC (Southern Town Social Club). Also, I must include Los Samp Barbershop and Slick Barbers Co. as the ones who started the initiative in bringing back the glory days of Classic Barbering in the Philippines,” he said.

For the record, two particular hairstyles have seen their resurgence in present times on men’s heads. One of those two is known as ‘slicked-back’ or pompadour. It came from the Edwardian Era in 1900s England when most barbers were confronted with difficulty blending longer hair on top and faded back and sides.

Moreover, the ‘undercut’ hairstyle has seen its revived popularity, too. This particular hairdo was frequent with men in the working class of the early-20th century in the West. Also, gangs in criminal enterprises of that era had this style to avoid having limited vision by a longer hair — when doing misdemeanor sprees. But nowadays, these hairstyles are now associated with manliness, clean-look, and class.

A vision of friendly grooming service

At these present times, it’s unlikely that someone would pursue haircutting. But Dan added one of the reasons that made him decide to join the fray, “I saw the camaraderie that was going on within the community of Slick Barbers Co.”

He reiterated that a client could immediately experience a positive and inviting vibe as it enters the barbershop. “It was not just about someone sitting down and telling them the particular haircut it wishes to have,” he added.

“But then, I started building up those little steps towards the founding of my shop when I came to a point in my life where things are starting to get messed up — it gave me a form of escape from the things that were dragging me; down.”

He remembered his experience: “It was completely different — once you get in, they’d warmly greet you as if you were a long-time friend of theirs. Then, once the barber did the haircut, both you and the barber would instantly have a special bond that would make you think, ‘he’s now my barber.’

The experience left an impression within him to reach an idea in bringing that particular experience into his neighborhood. However, the vision didn’t materialize yet in that year, 2015. It didn’t immediately come to fruition since Dan was still a Maritime student at the time and didn’t have the means to purchase the tools he needed to start the business.

With piling hardships from his battles, he took the embers that set the flames in motion. He said, “But then, I started building up those little steps towards the founding of my shop when I came to a point in my life where things are starting to get messed up — it gave me a form of escape from the things that were dragging me down.”

From a simple dream into a living reality

He decided to start doing haircuts in 2019 around October, finally. “That was the time where I was just out from doing duties onboard a ship. I invested the savings that I gathered from that opportunity as I thought that I shouldn’t idle once I get to finish my duties onboard the sails,” Dan said.

Dan also mentioned that working onboard a ship was hard, and he realized that he doesn’t want to see his lifetime working on sails. He continued, “That realization has become my sole gateway to pursue barbering — as I felt that I am passionate enough to get my hands to work within the art of barbering, about pomades, hairstyle, and grooming.”

Then, I said to myself, “What if I start doing haircutting?” After that, I started commencing my chosen path on that fateful October of 2019. I decided to purchase my tools, although cheaper versions, yet — from there, I never stopped until I founded Barberos ‘N The Hood here in Pembo, Makati City, Philippines— a proper homegrown footing.

Turbulence in a smooth sail

As with every start-up business, there will be trials that will test the determination of a business owner. Dan was no different with a fair share of such challenges. His sheer effort and love for his craft helped him sustain his dream.

The first challenge that Dan encountered was keeping a stable list of customers when he was starting. As he shared, “I’ve dealt about getting trust from people who’d allow me to give them a haircut. It’s understood because I was just a starting barber, and no one has an impression, yet, that I can do good haircuts.”

He conveyed that this particular problem did pave the way for him to improve his skills in expressing the art in barbering. As he said to himself, “I have to get better to gain trust from people to attract them to go into my shop.”

“However, the initiative is essential. For instance, you’d have to think about your trademark as a barber. Also, you need to understand the purpose of plying this niche — is it for the community, or only for your benefit?”

Another problem that confronted Dan was his struggle in looking for people that will understand the passion that he had decided to pursue. He added, “I’ve had someone belittling me because I’m just a barber. But, if you’ll look closely, you’ll see that the community of Classic Barbering has started to become bigger where anyone is welcome to join in.”

Dan continues, “Because as for us in this business; generally, we do this for the community, camaraderie, bond between our clients and us because we weren’t seeing everyone as mere customers but as our friends, too. I address my frequenters as ‘patrons’ because I share a string of brotherhood with them.”

As with the negative shades that Dan has experienced, he said, “One of which is the humiliating idea that becoming a barber is a useless profession for most people in the Philippines. I suffered discrimination since I have a degree in Seamanship, but I decided to become a barber.”

Dan has mentioned another form of discrimination from people who don’t think that haircutting is not an honest profession — where someone can earn a good earning. These have tried to discourage him from stopping cutting hairs and reconcile with his former duty as a seaman.

Honest-to-goodness way of earning

However, Dan expressed that haircutting could serve as an excellent means of providing for the family. As he stated, “I’d say that it’s a form of sacrifice to hone your skill for the art that you are doing — then along the way, you’ll finally see the monetary income flowing in.”

As a barber improves his skill, he can increase the service pricing for equipment upgrades to aid the skill improvement for customer servicing.

He added, “With regards to profit, it’s fair enough. It does provide, can sustain a family, and even allow me to purchase things I like. Because when you decide to be a barber and have to do it for the community itself, you will never have to think about income at first.”

Through his humble and relentless untiring passion for improving his haircutting skill, Dan has consistently given a high level of professional service for his clients that saw them coming back even though he adjusted his rate. He said, “To put it in perspective, you’ll see if your ‘day ones’ (first customers) will still go back for your service despite the service price increase.”

Although Dan managed to impose an augmentation in service costs, his excellent relationship with his clients did help him to keep his business alive. He proudly shared, “In here, we started to charge our customers from 60 pesos ($1.25); then 100 pesos ($2.09); then 150 pesos ($3.13) to 180 pesos ($3.76); and finally, 250 pesos ($5.22) — yet, those clients remain to go back for our service.”

However, Dan never ceased to be thankful and stay humble. He added, “I’d think that our loyal clients are the ones who appreciate our passion for this craft that we do. They are the ones whom I consider as the bloodline of this shop’s tenure because we will cease to exist if it wasn’t for their unwavering support.”

Another fuel to keep ongoing

Since the inception of Dan’s barbershop, it created a robust standing in his community. With it, he has been experiencing a continuous outpour of fulfillment. With each service he gives, his ‘patrons’ were always looking excited when they enter his shop.

As Dan relates, “With each haircut service, I’d know that I served as an instrument that boosted my customer’s self-confidence once they walk from the shop. Sometimes, I’d hear them say, ‘Damn, I’m looking clean now.’ As for him, it was one of the most fulfilling aspects of his job as a barber.

He also added that the fulfillment he feels is sometimes not about for him as a barber, “It’s about for those people wherein I give my service — patrons, and clients. More on, we are here to spread happiness for each one of them: make their hair look good and handsome.”

As for the future generations that wish to pursue the art of barbering, he has this meaningful wisdom to say, “Focus on the craft that you are doing; assess on your own if you want to do this particular work of art.”

He also added, “Do it well — go on and cut hairs, do it some more, and don’t listen to people who degrade barbering.” Dan also expressed that an aspirant must think that those who try to put their profession down will eventually see the collective efforts to keep the culture alive along the way.

For a beginner’s path for improvement, he has this to say, “Look upon those international barbers in classic haircutting — as they would serve as your reference for the quality of haircut that you’ll be giving to your customers. From them, you can compare if your work is good enough or help you see areas of improvement about your particular style.”

“‘Gang… Hanggang Mamatay

Classic Barbeing’s resurgence in modern culture is still in its infancy. However, as with every noble work in existence, Dan prefers to make people understand and respect why certain people like him have decided to stick in doing haircuts. “Keep in mind those hours or days that a person sacrificed for his pursuit of passion. It is not just about barbering itself but in every profession too.”

Dan said that he learned to mature in the trade where he currently belongs because he gets to meet different people from all life directions every single day. He also expressed, “Try to understand everything and everyone. While you’re at it, try to keep everything in balance, too.” For him, the culture is pretty much alive, more than ever, and he won’t stop just yet.

When asked about when he will be doing the haircutting, he laughingly concluded, “Our motto, with those of my contemporaries in community-based barbering: ’Til Death. Gang… ‘Gang Mamatay. Because we are happy in doing what we do. Barbering is what makes us feel happy while at the same time, providing for our family’s needs.”

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