Field Trip! (part 2)

Field Trip 2: Shoreditch Boogaloo

The UK is chock full of barber shops, from the tiny and obscure to shops that border on legendary. There are established chains (Murdock in London), world-reknowned one-offs (Savills in Sheffield, Ruger Barber in Oldham), and smaller shops galore.

Whatever your personal vibe— be it old school, rock n roll, traditional Turkish, mod, avant garde, etc.— they’ve got something just right for you.

The Nomad Barber
A new-ish shop that has captured the imagination as of late is Nomad Barber. Nomad is both 1) a physical shop in London, just off of Brick Lane, and 2) the nom de plume of one Miguel Gutierrez, who spent a year traveling around the globe visiting regional barbers and practicing the craft himself in innumerable exotic locales (check his Instagram account, it’s siiiiiiiick!).

Miguel eventually returned to London and opened up a shop in almost-too-trendy Shoreditch.

Danish Daniel and I have been talking about making the trek to Nomad Barber’s shop and seeing what all the fuss is about. So one day after barber school, we caught a bus to gentrificationville and set out to find The Nomad.

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FOUND: The Nomad Barber

We got there around 5:30 or 6pm and the shop was bustling. There were 3 barber chairs, all filled, and 3 barbers snipping away.

Miguel/“The Nomad Barber” himself wasn’t there but the dude he opened shop with was, and that guy was super friendly (though I feel incredibly rude right now because I forgot to ask his name. Bad Tita!). He chatted us up for a bit, and so we learned that he is originally from Birmingham, where he started barbering. He and Miguel opened Nomad together about 15 months ago, and it was a smashing success from day 1.

They are currently working on expanding to a 2nd Nomad shop, this time in Berlin, which will hopefully open its doors in early April. All 3 barbers were busy working on clients but so friendly and welcoming; we left because we didn’t want to be a nuisance, but they were all SO nice.

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On our way out we decided to do a drive-by on two other nearby shops.

Jack The Clipper
Located ON Brick Lane, and I assume the name is meant to appeal to tourists, which would be helpful for garnering extra walk-in traffic. It looked like a more traditionally Turkish-style shop, but we didn’t stop inside so I’m just extrapolating based on what I observed through the window.

 

Bucks
I’ve passed Bucks a bunch of times, as it’s on Kingsland Road, which is a main artery for people moving North-South between Shoreditch, Hoxton, Dalston and Stoke Newington (i.e. ME). I always see at least one female barber working inside, and word on the street is that Bucks is actually owned by a lady barber, so it’s already got mad street cred with me!

When we stopped by it was far too packed inside for us to pop in— there were 5 or 6 barber chairs, all filled, plus the waiting area was teeming too. I made a mental list to stop by some other time when it looks a little calmer, but it was cool to peek through the window and see all the barbers in action.

 

Day 17

Action Jackson

Today was the polar opposite of yesterday. Seriously, it couldn’t have been more extreme how different the two days turned out.

I was being a whiny brat yesterday (in my head, at least) because I really want to try my hand at clipper work and fades, but kept landing Yeti-pelted clients who wanted scissor-only cuts instead.

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Yesterday’s clients

Well I can stop whining now, because my wish was granted and then some.

By the grace of hair gods, our first client sat down and immediately said “I want a zero fade”. Hallelujah and thank you baby jeebus!

 

I could tell he’d be cool because he and I were wearing matching all black Converse low tops, and I’m shallow enough to judge someone’s character by their shoes.

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If you wear these, I like you.

Of course I had no idea what I was doing, so Papi had to walk me through each step of the fade. I also discovered that I have a Fade Action Stance™.

 

It’s much harder to see the microscopic lines on  a fade when I’m the one clipping, rather than observing. Definitely something I need to do a bunch more of, in order to acquire an innate feel for how to make and then erase micro lines as I go. Still, I got it done!

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Me in (fade) action

The rest of the haircut was easier (partly because we shared it), and it was a bit of a relief to get my first zero fade out of the way, if only because that takes me one step closer to maybe sort of knowing what I’m doing… hopefully… in a few weeks…

 

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First Fade: DONE!

Our 2nd client was super sweet and tall, with really interesting stories. He was just in WeHo (random!), and before that Honduras, working as a volunteer microeconomics counselor. Say what??

He had a grown-out disconnected cut with super long bangs. He wanted to take it about an inch or two shorter initially, but partway through cutting his topbox, he decided to go large.

 

Go large by going short, that is. So we ended up rocking out a shorter top blended into a high tight fade on one side (the side his bangs used to fall on), while keeping the disconnect on the other (parted) side. It turned out very avant garde and he loved his new look— it’s the first time he’s had short hair in 3 or 4 years, and he looked great!

 

Today our bookings increased from 4 clients a day (2 per group per day) to 6 clients (3 per group). So I have a 3rd fella to discuss.

The 3rd client was a lovely Spaniard from Madrid. I forgot to get a true before pic (the one I snapped is post hair wash but pre cut). He wanted us to just take it in and neaten it all over, but he likes to wear it messy and non-combed.

Which is totally in my wheelhouse— that’s basically the ONLY kind of cut I’ve been capable of giving people all these years.

We scissor cut his hair like crazy, and it turned out quite dapper. He was very happy with his results (though we had to keep handing him his glasses whenever we asked him a question. Apparently he’s incredibly blind without them).

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So we were 3 for 3 today: Three haircuts, three happy clients who walked out of the academy ready to hit da club.

And zero lunches for me, because I was so busy with back to back cuts that I had neglected to eat anything all day, aside from the one banana I’d eaten first thing in the morning.

I ended up scarfing down my lunch for dinner (though some folks call lunch “dinner” here and dinner is “tea”, so that gets confusing), then raced to a yoga class, wherein I soon realized that eating so close to class time was a bad idea. I fought the urge to throw up every time we held plank pose 😷

Day 16

So Over Scissor Cuts

Patience is a virtue. One that I often do not possess.

I should be enjoying the relaxed pace of 2x haircuts a day, as it will be ramping up soon. Tomorrow actually, to 3x cuts per team. But my impatience issues makes it really, really difficult to wait my turn during each cut.

I’m even more eager to dive in on some serious clipper work, since my experience prior to barber school was 100% scissor cuts. Using clippers is new and shiny to me, while scissors feel more old hat (though they shouldn’t, as I’m learning to use them in totally new ways right now).

Therefore I found it immensely annoying that BOTH clients today wanted scissor-only haircuts. I wanna use my clippers nowwwww!!!!!!

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Me in class today

The first client was truly a piece of work, follicularly speaking. He claims his last trim was in October, but that unruly mane told another tale. We whacked off a good 2 to 3 inches and he still had a ton of length on top.

Once the top, sides and upper dome of his head were done, my challenge was trimming and tapering the spectacularly long now-mulleted back of his head/neck. Which took me longer than all the other steps combined, due to sheer volume and density of his hair back there.

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Client #1 mid-cut

Three hours later, we finished his epic scissor cut. Just in time to miss lunch!

The next guy had less daunting hair and a smaller head, but because AGAIN it was a scissor cut (and also he had a bit of a shitty attitude), I kind of lost interest. I know that’s bad, and repetition is good b/c it builds muscle memory.

But I’m a brat and I REALLY want to use my clippers!

Here’s hoping that tomorrow brings me some clipper practice. At the very least, the day will revolve around 3 separate clients. Though if they’re ALL scissor-only cuts, I really might stab one of them.

Something nice: I passed a floating book store/library on my walk to school. Here are some pics to cleanse the palate.

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WORD!
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So many books, so close to so much water.
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A lovely reading bench, unless you suffer from motion sickness…

Day 15

2nd Day, 1st Flake

I showed my Berlin buddies around the barber shop/academy this a.m., then bid them adieu and got down to business. Which in this case was waiting around for our first clients of the day (I’m sensing a trend here).

Sadly, one of the morning client flaked on us, so good sport Lawrence took one for the team.  He let two of us give him a touch up from his Papi cut the other week, which was great clipper practice for me.

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Lawrence looking stoic as he gets cleaned up around the ears.

Our 2nd client of the day (but really, the first one who bothered to show up) asked for a zero fade. I was stoked, because a zero fade is at the top of my “to learn” list!

Unfortunately, since we switch up steps between students and I had done the clipper work on Lawrence earlier, I could not claim clippers again on this round. That’s the main downside to sharing a haircut— I don’t get a chance to do everything every time.

The end results were great though, and it’s always helpful to watch and learn when I’m not the student working on a particular section of the cut.

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We be trimmin’
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Daniel gets low with his scissor-over-comb stance
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Zero Fade: Complete
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Da crew (from Daniel’s snapchat)

 

We’ll be ramping up to 3 cuts per day starting Wednesday, and soon thereafter we will move on to doing the full hairdids ourselves. I can’t wait!!

Day 14

Our First Human Clients!

A Friday to remember, if only I hadn’t spent half the day blacked out with excitement.

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First order of business: Setting up my fancy new barber’s cloth, which couldn’t have turned out better.

Alexandra did a wonderful job; the cloth fits my station and tools perfectly. It’s nice to have a little extra padding under my clippers, which are quite hefty. Also, the patterned side reminds me of home (it’s got an American Southwest-ish vibe).

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My fancypants barber setup

Next, it was time for us to hurry up and wait. Two clients were scheduled for the morning session, one for each student group. Since there are 5 of us, we will spend our first week cutting in groups of 2 or 3, swapping places between each step.

For some of students, it would be the first time they’ve ever touched scissors to human hair. Personally, since I started cutting and dying dude hair in high school/college (granted, without a clue about proper technique), I was more nervous about using clippers and making sure my overall process was up to code.

All of us huddled in the shop’s office awaiting clients. The first to arrive was for my group, and he most definitely put my new clipper skills to the test. He had a mane of thick wavy hair— I failed to nab a true “before” photo, but you can see how long his top hair was, and extrapolate from there.

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See all that business up top? The sides & back were that long too.

His first request was a 5 grade on the sides and back.

“HOW??” I thought to myself, as I hovered near his brunette cloud of hair, scouring the thick mass for a logical point of entry. Finally I just dove in with my clippers, and carved a path of hairline around his skull. My results are visible in the picture above— cleaned up sides and messy professor hair on top.

We took turns tackling the rest of the stages, including each of us scissor-over-combing one half of his head. The whole process took 2.5 hours, which is kind of insane.

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He was super happy with his sharp new look. I couldn’t resist taking a selfie with him.

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Happy client, happy barberette-in-training.

We blew right through lunch while working on our first clients, and the afternoon bookings arrived just as we were wrapping up, so there was no time to eat food before round 2. Running on fumes is the new normal for us, apparently.

Our second guy wanted a scissor cut all around, which is totally in my wheelhouse. I will admit a little envy at the other group’s 2nd client— they got to do a de riguer proper fade on theirs, which I am dying to try my hand at.

By the time we finished up for the day, most of us were fainting from hunger. So we did what any self-respecting barber student/teacher group would: Headed to Wetherspoons in Angel for some cheap ‘n’ greasy fish & chips & beer.

(For the uninitiated, Wetherspoons is a Denny’s-esque chain in the UK that features slot machines peppered about inside, for customers who wish to relax with a pint and a gamble.)

Two friends from Berlin were en route to meet up with me for a weekend visit, which was exciting. The three of us ended up in a much later night greasy chicken & chips joint, where we encountered a posse of truly fantastic New Romantic Goths.

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NewRo Goth Tribe

Day 13

Bye Felicia!

We did it— we got Kate’s hair down to a zero fade and officially bid her adieu at the end of class today. I don’t think there was a wet eye in the house, as all of us are rarin’ to move on to real people.

Which we are doing TOMORROW. Eek!

Lots of prep went into today, and a bit of nerves as well, since we all want to be at our top game for live human cuts. I did several rounds of full haircuts on Kate, including clippers at a gradually lower grade. For the last hour of class we got into zero fades, which even on a mannequin is quite gratifying.

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To break up the day (and sharpen up his game for our weekly Friday eve student/teacher outing), Papi got a skin fade from Greg, who works upstairs at Gents Of London. It’s interesting to see how each barber’s methods differ.

Greg used to work for Murdock, a high end barber shop chain based mostly in London, so he’s been through their employee training in addition to the schooling required to become an NVQ 2 certified barber.

WARNING: BARBER-Y TALK AHEAD

Greg’s method of knocking out the longest and shortest grade lines first, then working on transitioning from there makes intuitive sense to me. As a totally untrained haircutterist, my instinct has always been to work on the back and sides first, and leave the topbox trimming and blending for last.

We’ve been learning to work topbox first, but Greg starts in the back, working forward to each side, THEN moves on to top. Overall his methods felt pretty natural, and I can’t wait to try out his method as well as the others we’ve been learning.

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I’ve been craving a proper burrito experience, but unfortunately they don’t exist in London.

I settled for a street stall burrito, which features such lowlights as: plain white Panda Express-style rice, drippy liquid “guacamole”, and the spiciest salsa was nearly indistinguishable from ketchup. I think I’ll stick to Indian food until I return stateside!

 

Practicing a zero fade on Kate was fun, but I think we won’t truly get the knack of it until we’ve practiced on live human hair a few times. Danish Daniel said I can try out skin fades on him once we learn cutthroat shaving, so that will be fun.

I wish I knew a houseful of boys that would let me experiment on their heads at night!

Day 12

Go Clippers!

It’s strange how the things you dread can become your absolute favorite. Scissor over comb is one of those things for me (see Day 11 for deets). My first time scissor-over-combing around Kate Tastrophe’s head was confusing with a sprinkle of “am I doing this wrong?”, but by my third time around, I was finding the process of removing careless whispers— dare I say it— FUN!

Still, I’ve been begging Papi to let us bust out the clippers since day 2 or 3, because I have the patience of a flea. Finally finally FINALLY, my wish was granted today.

The mini clippers are adorbs. We use them for cleaning up edges (around the ear & neckline), “bonus back hair” eradication, and fine-grained blending work on zero or skin fades. It’s a form of sculpture with hair as the medium, so of course I dig it.

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Not sure why they come with plastic brass knuckles?

The Wahl Super Tapers we got (2000 series, so they’re extra fancy) are like a 1950s Cadillac: Big bold curves, shiny chrome exterior, and they vibrate louder than a massage chair in my hand. I think I’m in love.

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VROOM VROOM!!!

We’re tackling the remainder of Kate’s hair in stages, based on clipper blade lengths. We started with a 4mm into 5mm fade (some dudes will know what I’m talking about) and then give her the full haircut to match (top box cut/texture, even out sides, even out triangles, blow dry, then scissor over comb to fine-tune).

We only had time for one round of clipper practice, but it’s already my new favorite thing alongside scissor over comb.

Tomorrow we will keep going until she’s got a zero fade, and then Friday… REAL ALIVE HUMANS!

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