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.

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.

We be trimmin’
Daniel gets low with his scissor-over-comb stance
Zero Fade: Complete
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.


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).

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

Wahl Taper 2000 Chrome Clipper-600x600

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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Day 11

Scissor Fades For Days

Much of day 1 was spent learning to move our scissors and comb in alignment with each other and man, was it awkward. I felt like I had flippers for hands.

Me on the first day of class.


Today we learned the reason for all that awkwardness: Scissor over comb!

‘Scissor over comb’ is key to polishing off a great haircut— it smooths out any remaining traces of lines or unevenness from clipper work and makes the whole haircut look truly ace.

It’s a difficult task to master, as we simultaneously move a comb through super short sections of hair with one hand, while hovering our scissors with the other hand and taking off minute amounts of hair along the way.

Papi refers to it as “taking off the whispy bits”, but I prefer to call them “the careless whispers”.

Cue infamous sax solo

Practice was not without injury— I made a pizza slice-shaped nick on my middle finger, which I mended with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle bandaid (fittingly). But it’s worth it, as Kate Tastrophe is sporting a true buzz cut now, and the back of her head has been scissor-over-combed to velvety smoothness.


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I stopped into an artist’s loft on my way home to select fabrics for my custom barber station “towel”. The designer (Alexandra Mann) had a dazzling array of printed fabrics in bold colors, many from Africa. She is best known for the wonderfully imaginative handbags she designs and sews, several of which were just featured in the window of Liberty.

After digging through stacks of fabric, we decided on a two-sided combo: Dark denim made out of recycled coffee bean husks on one side, and a cool vaguely Southwestern white/blue/yellow pattern on the other.

It’s probably overkill to commission a towel for my barber tools, but I can’t help it— I want my station to have flair!

Later in the eve, I headed to XOYO to catch my friend Dean’s band Cheatahs before they go on tour. I’ve seen them a few times in LA and they always deliver, but their set last night was the best show yet! The club was 100% packed, and everyone in the crowd was a mega fan.

Cheatahs! (Dean is the one in the middle)

Day 10

Topbox Mondayz

This year’s race for US president has me all fired up— there is only one candidate that I really want to vote for, and a whole lot of contenders that I do not want anywhere near the steering wheel.

The final debate between Hill-dawg and BernBern was scheduled for 6pm PST on a Sunday night, which is 2am London time. Not wanting to miss the final showdown (and maybe hoping to send a little cosmic support to Team Bernie), I woke up at 1am and dutifully plugged in my headphones to listen. By 3:30am I started to fade, so I missed the last few moments of the debate.

Needless to say, I was feeling the Bern— and the sleep deprivation— on Monday morning, so I decided to represent my main man all day.

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The barber shop is closed on Mondays, which means us students get to play DJ. Of course I’m all over that, and today we found the perfect thing: Ana Calderon’s hip hop playlists on Spotify (look her up for a guaranteed good sonic time).

Is there a better way to start the week than by singing along to Khia while practicing topbox cuts? I think not.

Kate Tastrophe began the day rocking a 1960’s era Beatles ‘do; by the end, she had veered into 1980’s Don Johnson territory. PROGRESS!

EOD Kate be all like…

The most exciting part of our day came toward the end, when we finally ripped open our many boxes of barber kit gear and set up our stations.

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Gents Of London uses classic black towels for their clients, while academy students use blue towels for ours. I’m not too stoked about the blue towel look for my station, so on my way home I popped into a Danish Modern store in search of jazzier fabric to use as my barber station towel.

By happy coincidence, I met a woman there who used to work with Vivienne Westwood; her design studio is nearby and she has loads of vintage fabric. Hopefully sometime this week I’ll be ordering custom barber station towels from her.

Overkill? Maybe. Worth it for a super adorbs barber station? Yes totally, 100%!

Field Trip!

Fellow student Danish Daniel and I decided to make a pilgrimage to Nice One barber shop in Chingford—which is WAY East London—because our benevolent barber school overlord Papi hails from there.

Papi’s grandparents from Greece established a barber shop here in 1969; his father runs the shop to this day, and 3rd generation barber Papi works there every now and again, as do two of his cousins.

Though on this particular Saturday, Papi was supposed to be in Newcastle at a football match—he ended up covering for one of the cousins instead, so his football (soccer!) dreams were thwarted :/

So close, yet so far away

On my way to Liverpool station, I stumbled across one of the Lumiere London 2016 installations. I’m a sucker for neon lights, so I had to step inside and take a gander at the pretty sparkly art for a moment before hopping on an overground train to Chingford.

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Right off the train, my first impression is that Chingford is tiny and adorbs. Just outside the overground station gates, there are sandwich board signs for a quaint Tudor-style barbershop. Pretty sure Hobbits gets their beards and feet hair trimmed here. We didn’t go into this little shop, however, as it wasn’t the priority.

Hobbit shaving station


A short bus ride later, we arrived at Nice One. The shop is located on a bustling main street, with plenty of foot, bus and car traffic. The interior is cozy and simple: 3 barber stations, comfortable bench seating along 2 sides of the shop for customers to chill on while they wait their turn in the chair, plenty of reading material.

It was pretty packed when we got there, so we didn’t want to take up too much time/space. In the short time we lurked there, we learned an interesting fact.

INTERESTING FACT: Traditionally, barber shop sinks are placed in front of the chair, and clients simply lean forward to rinse their heads before or during the cut.

In more “modern” shops, the sinks are built for leaning backward into—apparently that positioning is borrowed from lady’s hair salons, and meant for working with longer hair. With short (men’s) hair, leaning forward into a sink gets the job done without the client needing to move to a separate hair wash station. #themoreyouknow

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