Anna was looking cheerful and excited when she was leaving her apartment on a dull and gray Monday morning. It was her first day at the new job, and Anna could not wait to start working as a barber in the biggest barbershop in the city. She just finished her training course at the academy and was lucky to get this job. Anna was one of the best students in her class, so her teacher, who was a charming lady named Barbara, told her about the opening position at Looking Sharp, the most famous barbershop in town. Barbara was practicing for forty years and she used to be a teacher for almost all young hairdressers and barbers in the city. It was quite hard to get the job at Looking Sharp since lots of people dreamed about getting in there. Anna could not believe her ears when Barbara told her that she personally recommended Anna for the job. The barbershop’s owner was a former student of Barbara, and he agreed to consider Anna despite her lack of experience.
After reviewing Anna’s resume and interviewing her, Marco, the owner of the barbershop, hired her for a probation period. He also told her that they usually did not hire women as barbers, but the times were changing, and Marco was interested in hiring female barbers as it would change Looking Sharp’s image in the community. There was also one more girl hired, but Anna had not met her yet. So, that morning Anna was pretty excited and nervous as she was the first woman who will work at the most famous barbershop in the city. Her friends, who were also barbers and hairdressers, were quite worried about her, but Anna was confident in her skills and believed that she would handle any problem.
Anna was walking so fast that she came to work twenty minutes earlier, and there was no one there yet, except a tiny shy-looking girl with curly hair and glasses. Anna approached her, smiled, and said: “Hey! You must be Jane, right?” The girl smiled back and replied: “And you are Anne?” They hugged and started talking about the job they both just got. Jane was younger than Anna, but she was working in a small hairdresser salon in her town since she was 17 years old. Jane did not study anywhere, but she was naturally talented, and soon everyone in the town wanted to become one of her clients. Jane’s older brother lived in the city and convinced her to move there, and he also recommended her to Marco, who was his old friend. Even though Jane’s brother was confident in her talent, Jane was terrified, because she never worked in such a large company.
Anna tried to cheer Jane up, and while they were talking, the girls’ supervisor, Tom, has arrived. To Anna’s biggest surprise, Tom did not seem to be excited about his new colleges at all. Tom showed the girls around, told about their responsibilities and duties, and appointed their first clients. Yet, his manner of speaking was rather sarcastic, and he was not even a little friendly and supportive of the new employees. Anna was always a girl who was not afraid to speak her mind, so after the tour was finished, she directly asked Tom whether there is some kind of problem. Tom said that Anna and Jane were the first female employees in the company and that he did not believe that women could be good barbers. “Hairdressers, yes, but not barbers. This is not a woman’s job, and I do not know why Marco hired both of you,” said Tom. While Jane’s eyes quickly started filling with tears, Anna was furious.
For a second, she could not even say a word because she was shocked by such open hatred towards her from a person she met ten minutes ago. Anna tried to tell Tom that he should be ashamed by questioning their professional skills just because they were women, but he stopped her before she even started. “Anna, you can be angry with me as much as you like, but it is not only about me. This is also about the clients of Looking Sharp. And they will not be happy with the female barber, believe me” said Tom. He left, and Anna could not believe she just heard that. She turned to Jane, who looked as pale as the wall behind her, and told her that it is too early to give up yet. She was determined to prove that Tom was wrong.
While they were walking around with Tom, other barbers came to the shop. Anna tried to be cheerful and friendly, but the rest of the barbers were rather cold and even hostile with new workers. Jane was settling in her new place, trying to be as quiet as possible while Anna was feeling just outrageous. She could not believe that the barbershop that she considered to be one of the most progressive ones turned out to be a place with such regressive ideas. Anna was nervously getting ready for her first client, thinking about Tom’s words. Her first client was a middle-aged, busy-looking man in a black suit. He turned out to be friendly and cheerful, who did not mind that Anna was his barber at all. After Anna was done with his haircut, he liked it and thanked her. The first success cheered Anna up, and she went to check how Jane was doing.
Jane’s first client was a tall teenager who came to the barbershop with his mother. The boy seemed bored, and it did not matter to him what Jane was doing with his hair, but his mother was observing the process with suspicion in her eyes. Jane was quite nervous because of that and could not hold herself together, and it took her almost an hour to do a simple haircut. After the clients left, Tom asked Jane to follow him, and told her that if she continued acting like that, it would be not only the first, but also the last day for Jane being a barber in Looking Sharp. Anna entered the room at the same time when he was leaving and heard how Tom mumbled to himself: “This is why they should not be here” while Jane was quietly crying. Anna felt sorry for the girl and talked with her for a long time, trying to calm her down.
The following couple of days were full of ups and downs. Anna had lots of clients as well as the rest of the barbers, and she practically had no time to talk with someone at work. Yet, it was hard not to notice that the rest of the barbers were not pleased with the new employees. One day Anna met a new client, a young man in his thirties, who specifically requested her to be his barber. Anna was a bit surprised because she was working only for two weeks and she did not have permanent clients yet, but she assumed that maybe someone had recommended her. The man sat in the chair, and when Anna turned to him, she saw that he is looking at her with hatred in the eyes. “Sir, is everything okay?” asked Anna with doubt in her voice. “No, actually, it is not,” replied the man. “So, you are the girl who stole my job?” continued he. Anna was shocked. She was just staring at him while the man told her about how long he wanted to be the barber in Looking Sharp, and some girl who did even know how to hold scissors took it.
Even though Anna was astonished by this intrusion, she quickly reacted and stopped the client at once. She sharply replied that barber is not necessarily a man who cuts hair, it is not even a person who cuts men’s hair, it is a person who specializes in cutting short hair (Kilgannnon). That response made the man even angrier, and he started yelling at Anna. However, one of the other barbers stepped in and asked the man to live unless he needs to have a haircut. This incident deeply affected Anna as she realized that she would need to face such men who would question her skills just because she was a woman on a regular basis. Later that day, Anna also found out that Jane quit the job. It was too much pressure for her, and she was making one mistake after another. Anna was left alone in this hostile environment.
That day Anna came home sad and disappointed. She felt alone and was questioning her decision to master her skills in short haircuts. Firstly, she did not get to cut women’s hair as they were not the clients of the barbershop, but she wanted to practice her skills in women’s haircuts as well. Secondly, it seemed like men often questioned her skills in cutting their hair, and she got lots of strange looks from the customers over the last two weeks. Anna started searching the statistics about female barbers, and it turned out that only 20% out of the barbers in the country were female (Limbachia). Even though the number was small, Anna realized she was not alone in this industry, and there are some other women who also work as barbers.
Anna started searching for online forums and groups of barbers. There were a lot of such platforms where people could share useful information with their colleagues. Although the members were mainly men, Anna accidentally found a group that was created exclusively for female barbers. It was a turning point for her as she met lots of women who struggled with the same issues as she was all over the country. They talked a lot, and these women helped Anna to get through the days in the barbershop.
It has been several months since Anna started working in Looking Sharp, and she successfully passed the probation period and got a permanent position. Her charming personality and excellent skills allowed her to make lots of friends who were her clients as well as barbers. However, there still were lots of incidents when men did not want her to do their haircuts, and Tom was still convinced that barbershop is not a place for a woman.
Anna wanted to change the situation but did not how to do it. Once, she was talking to a friend from another state who opened her own barbershop in her town. Her story inspired Anna, and she came up with an idea. One day she came to Marco’s office and told him that she needs to speak to him. She was planning this conversation for a long time and was confident and calm. She started with the fact that the culture of the exclusively male barbershops only supports the idea of toxic masculinity (Courtney-Guy). Looking Sharp was considered to be a modern barbershop that followed the world’s tendencies. However, the principles of work there did not relate to such standards. Marco tried to tell her that they did not hire only men anymore, but Anna told him that it was not entirely true. Women could apply for the job, but even excellent candidates could not work there due to the hostile attitude from some of the supervisors and clients. After Jane, there were two more girls who worked for a couple of weeks and left because it was too much pressure for them.
Anna took a breath and continued. She said that Marco should consider not only hiring female barbers but also open the doors of the barbershop for women as well. Being a barber means specializing in short haircuts, and more and more women chose to have short hair these days. Looking Sharp had to reconsider their policies because the modern times required that. After Anna finished and looked at Marco, she saw that he was smiling. He told her that it was a brave move, and he valued her honesty and would consider her suggestion. Anna was leaving the room unsure about whether she had any impact at all, but two weeks later, she was appointed as the supervisor of barbers who would do women’s haircuts in Looking Sharp.
Courtney-Guy, Sam. “Customer Says Women Can’t Be Barbers ‘Because They’re Not Men’ | Metro News”. Metro News, 2019, https://metro.co.uk/2019/09/23/customer-says-women-cant-barbers-not-men-10793674/.
Kilgannon, Corey. “‘Barbering Is An Art’”. The New York Times, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/04/nyregion/barbering-is-an-art.html.
Limbachia, Dixita. “Young Business Founder Breaks Into Male-Dominated Barber Industry”. USA Today, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/usaandmain/2018/07/18/cassandra-mendoza-female-barber-shop-male-dominated-zytlez-studio/725390002/.