Name: Alison Shepherd
Barbershop name: Male Concept
What got you into barbering & how long have you been in the game?
It was an accident really, I left halfway through my A levels because I wasn’t enjoying them, I was quite naive and thought it would be really easy to get a job, pretty much everywhere I applied too either shut down within months of me applying or said I didn’t have the experience to take me on.
My mum’s friend saw an advert for a local hairdresser offering an apprenticeship in hairdressing and £90 seemed like a lot of money to me after just getting pocket money so I took it.
Later into my training my college found me another shop where they promised me more money and a higher level of training, they said if I didn’t stay there I couldn’t carry on with my course, unfortunately the man who ran the shop ended up paying me less than promised and was inappropriate towards me and the other younger girls so I didn’t stay long, being young I was too embarrassed to tell the college so I just left about two months before qualifying.
I almost gave up but the guy I was going out with at the time suggested I try his local barbers, he told the boss I could cut men’s hair, which I couldn’t, and told me she was willing to train me which she’d not agreed to, but once she met me she decided to take me on from there and I’ve done it ever since. Started barbering when I was 18 and I’ve done it now for 8 years
What was your biggest mistake/learning curve when training?
Not being patient with myself, I was a slow learner and a perfectionist. Because I used to have low confidence in my abilities, I used to produce a lot of ‘mushroom’ cuts. But all fixable, I’ve seen young barbers which training be overconfident and take too much off and go too high and then you can’t fix it so your poor customer ends up going out with a Lego head
With new barbershops popping up all over, what do you think makes a successful barbershop business?
Being able to cater to everyone (or almost everyone), pay attention to your customer, not everyone wants to talk but the people who do make sure it’s an enjoyable experience and be aware of who’s around you. I hear a lot of customers say they stopped going to certain places because they feel intimated or when there’s children or older generations in the barbers are language is not crude. It’s okay to have banter and be rude in the right environment but you have to be aware of your surroundings.
What are you finding is the most popular style/request/trend recently?
In our area skin fades are really popular with a lot of texture on top with the fringe either swept over of straight down
The barbershop is the perfect place to relax and discuss all manner of topics. What’s the funniest story you’ve come across when chatting to clients?
I think some of them are too rude to tell you guys, me and my customers get onto some very weird subjects, a lot of my customers I have a good back and forth with so we can take the mick out of each other, we’ve set up a dating site for one customer’s rather large mole, they usually take the piss out of my tragic dating life, and I had a conversation with a little boy about how if the whole world was made out of bacon.
Guys growing out beards have been popular over recent years; do you think this trend will continue/what’s your opinion on them and the styles?
As a female I LOVE beards, so I hope it does, I think as long as you look after it and keep it in shape then it’s absolutely fine. And of course, you’ve got to be blessed with enough face bush to be able to grow one, there are a few men that as hard as they may try it’s just not in their DNA to have one.
Men’s grooming is only getting more popular, what new styles/products or techniques would you like to see improved/brought out or developed within the industry/peers?
I think in a lot of products people pay more attention to the packaging than to the product, some of the best products I’ve used have had not so good packaging (which is a shame) but some of the worst products have had great looking packaging. I think it would be good to have some more natural products too because a lot of the time I do not understand one ingredient on the back of them, and with the way, a lot of industries are going natural seems to be the way.
There’s a lot of banter between barbers which helps makes the shop a fun place to be. What’s the funniest joke played/situation occurred in your shop?
Usually, the pranks get played on me (that’s what you get for working with boys) holes in my water bottles so I dribble everywhere, and we have a lot of water fights with our water sprays too. I have got them to scare the crap out of each other though, one of the boys was hiding outside the loo waiting to make the other one jump, and then I gave the other guy the heads up so they made each other jump and bumped heads. I also shaved a dick into one of the boy’s heads and made him go get me a sandwich from the local shop.
What one bit of advice, if you could back in time would you give yourself when you were just starting out in barbering?
Wear comfortable shoes, and keep an eye on your back, posture is everything.
What’s your top tip for cutting/trimming/fading/styling etc or favourite tool to use in your shop?
Final question, it’s Monday morning your team are lagging from a heavy weekend what track do you put on to get everyone motivated?
If it were up to me I’d put on Bryce Vice on Spotify radio but we end up with radio 1 on the tv or Frasier
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