Day 21

Testy Situations

My university days are so far behind me that I’ve completely forgotten how to handle super basic student-y things, like taking a test. So my initial reaction to prepping for the first of many NVQ Level 2 tests was mild panic.

Eventually, though, I remembered that the internet is our best friend.

Girl using computer 34
Artist’s rendition of me studying for our NVQ quiz

I ended up getting 4 answers wrong, BUT: I will argue that for 2 of those, according to my extensive Google research, I actually answered correctly and the TEST was wrong. Good luck arguing that with the NVQ test-writing board though…

Anyhoo, after all that test cramming, I was eager to get back to my chair for some haircuttery.

Luckily, both of my clients today were up for fun cuts (I’m in an experimental phase; I want to try out haircuts that are more challenging/in style, even though I’m still working on getting my fades nailed down).

The first guy was fascinating—he’s learning Arabic and will be studying abroad in Alexandria, Egypt soon. He also speaks fluent Russian and seems to have lived basically everywhere on the planet in his barely two decades of life.

Most impressively, he agreed to let me give him a blended disconnect, which I’ve been dying to try out on someone.

The disconnect part was fun, and he had a solid idea of how short he wanted the sides & back. Until this barbering course, I had no idea that so many guys have this knowledge. They’ll sit down and say “I’d like a 3 into 4 on the sides and the top just a bit longer” like it’s no thang. Many of my clients are more expert at clipper grades than I am!

Here’s the obligatory before and after:



The 2nd guy was from Liverpool, so HELLO BEATLES ACCENT.

His hair was amazing—the texture was stick-straight, but so thick that it stopped up my clippers several times. As he described it, his hair “doesn’t grow long, it grows OUT”, so he wanted me to cut it super tight, but leave the fringe considerably longer so he can push it up and over.

For THIS cut, Papi gave me a new “usual”, which is: “Do the whole entire cut, then call me over”.  Um, ok?


We got to work and as I mentioned, his hair was fighting back against my clippers. Once we got to his topbox, though, my life got much easier.

It was a fun challenge to leave his fringe longer, since we decided to go a little more dramatic/less gradual with that and the onus was on me to make it LOOK and ACT gradual in his final cut.

The end result from 4 angles:


I was ready for a 3rd client but sadly, there weren’t any more booked for the day.

HOWEVER, starting tomorrow, there are a LOT more clients booked throughout the day—15 if I recall correctly. So I will need to speed up my cutting time considerably if I want to get 3 (or maybe even 4???) clients in one day. Wish me luck!


Day 20

The New Normal

Now that we’ve been cutting our own clients for one whole day, I’ma start acting like that’s what we’ve ALWAYS done.

Solo haircuts? No bigs, totes normal for us.

Oh, THAT old thing?

On that note: I had 2 clients back to back, both wanting similar ‘dos and beard trims.

The 1st guy had super curly hair and knew exactly what he wanted:


A 2 into 3 fade on the sides/back, and scissor cut on top w/ longer fringe to wear pushed up and back. Add texture to make his topbox less voluminous, a squared neckline and everything but his goatee/mustache combo gonezo.

Fading and scissor cutting went smoothly enough, except I took his neckline a touch higher than Papi would have recommended. The client was cool with how it looked, but for me that’s still a bit of a sticking point.

An even bigger sticking point? The whole beard trim process.

For some reason, I just can NOT get the order of everything right once I finish the haircut and move on to beard consultation. Papi went through it with me twice today (with clients), then again afterward so I could write down notes for myself.

Even my notes are kind of a disaster. BEHOLD:

It’s not rocket science.


My second client was fascinating.

He told me how he has used The Secret to manifest good things in his life, and also described his intensive Muy Thai training. Two interests which could not be more opposite!

He also wanted a fade + scissors hairdid, though we took his much shorter on the sides & back (he wanted to see some skin through his hair).

Obligatory BEFORE (top row) & AFTER (bottom row)

At the tail end of our day, we got a surprise: we’ll be taking our first test tomorrow morning. It’s multiple choice (yes!!!) based on the reading packet we were supposed to read front to back (WHOOPS, haven’t read beyond the first 2 pages yet).

En route home, I wandered past The Hunter S, a pub possessing more taxidermy than Donald Trump’s son (backstory: Drumpf’s son kills elephants).

I sat under a stuffed water buffalo and worked on answering practice questions, so here’s hoping I don’t fail tomorrow!

Day 19

Flying Solo

Today we went full Amelia Earhart: It was our first official day doing haircuts on our own.

First solo scissor flight

Apologies in advance—I was so hyperfocused that I forgot to take any pictures of my own handiwork. I’ll have to use pics I found on the internetz as an approximation of my clients.

We also dipped into theory a bit, as we’ll be taking 5 written tests in addition to practical work, in order to qualify for NVQ Level 2 certification in barbering by the end of the course.

I’m not sure what the American approximation of that would be?


I only got a few pages into theory work before enough clients arrived to fill all 5 barber chairs.

First up was a super sweet guy who resembled Prince William, complete with some balding on top. He asked for a grade 1 into 2 on his back & sides, and then trimming just the whispiest tips off his downy topbox fuzz, so he could fluff it up and make his hair look fuller. I was happy to oblige.

Whereas Papi previously had been checking our work stage by stage, today he had us do ALL the clipper work before calling him over to inspect, including mini clipper clean up around the ears/neckline.

Seeing as I failed to snap even one “after” pic of my 1st client, here is the next best thing:

Client #1 (as played by Wills in the TV movie version)


My 2nd client of the day came in and immediately asked for a scissor cut all over. Dagnabbit!

It’s not that I mind scissor cuts in general, but:

1) They take way longer than clipper cuts, especially right now as we’re still getting our technique dialed in, and

2) I want more clipper practice! #firstworldbarberproblems

The client himself was super sweet and kept chatting about comedy shows (both live sets and the TV variety), which is way up my conversational alley. However, he got really really squirmy toward the end.

I tried my best to scissor over comb with his head dodging this way and that. I nearly took a few chunks out of his head with all that wiggling!

Client #2


While I didn’t get to do any clipper work today, I DID play with blow dryers a little, as he wanted his fringe styled to go up and over in a mini-pomp.

Oh, how I wish I could spend a day practicing different blow dryer looks on some fellas, so I can really nail the many different techniques!

Training wheels are OFF!

Day 18

Turning Up The Heat

Some days, I’m a sneakers (‘trainers’ to the English) and black jeans kind of girl. Other days, I apparently dress like a cross between Lydia from “Beetlejuice” and Mike Myers’ ‘Sprockets’ character from 1990’s SNL fame.

Beetlejuice/Berliner vibes

Our first client today was a super sweet guy from the Isle of Man, which where Manx cats come from. Don’t ask my how or why I know that Cat Fact.

He just wanted a clipper/scissor tidy up with low side part, and was super sweet as we three-teamed his head.

One hazard we hadn’t anticipated was his habit of turning his head to look at me whenever he was talking. He was soft spoken but quite chatty, so in order to keep his head still while the other students worked on their sections, I wound up standing behind him in the mirror so that we could converse without someone taking a chunk out of his hair every time he spun his head around.

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Next up was a planetary sciences major, who had quite a thicket of hair on top of his head.

He wanted a 4 grade on sides & back with topbox combed back from the front (no side part). That was the first time I have done a purely backswept (non-pompadour) haircut, so it was interesting. LOTS more hairs to cut with a ‘do like that!

The last guy who came in freaked me out a little with his obviously fake colored contacts. They were an intensely artificial blue/green, which on someone as naturally tan as he was, made him look like an extra from “Cat People”.



He had a high almost-disconnect fade and then SUPER long hair on top. He didn’t want us to touch the top, just re-clip the fade and trim his beard to match. So I got to do all of that myself, which was fun!

Papi also let me do the whole entire clipper work section at once before he checked, instead of doing one small step at a time.

Outwardly I was like “yeah sure, no problem.” Inwardly, I was more like…


That’s another thing: As of tomorrow (Day 19) we will each be doing our own full haircuts on clients. I’m so excited! And also a little terrified!

It’s the day we’ve all been waiting for, and I’m sure it will be nice for Papi too, as he can step back a little and just check our work in more broken out segments, instead of having to check each step as we go.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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!

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…


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!!!!!!

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.

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.

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