Ash Edwards from A J Men Spa in Ipswich is a passionate campaigner for ensuring that barbers are trained to work with a more diverse range of hair types. He takes to MB’s Soapbox to explain more …
“Growing up I couldn’t go to the barbers all my friends went to because they couldn’t cut my hair type. I’m dual heritage so I had to choose between going to a European salon (but risk them refusing to cut my hair) or an Afro barbershop (where I didn’t feel comfortable).
Hair is hair and I believe you should be able to walk into any barbers and get served. You wouldn’t say ‘no redheads’, so why can you do that to people with non-European hair?
I think the main problem is a lack of education. Teaching how to cut all hair types wasn’t part of the curriculum when I trained. It needs to start from the top down. I think cutting diverse hair types should be compulsory in training. You have to show you can cut a fringe and give a cut throat shave, so why not different hair types too?
I recently asked on Facebook what barbers thought about the lack of diverse hair education. People either denied it, defended it or tried to justify it. It shocked me. Traditionally UK barbering has been dominated by European hair. In my honest opinion, not teaching how to work with diverse hair types is a form of institutional racism and it needs to change.
I don’t think barbers who are refusing customers are doing it because they’re racist, but we shouldn’t be turning clients away from our shops because we can’t cater to their hair. We’re in the business of cutting hair! Purely from a business point of view, it makes sense to cater to every hair type.
Local barbers have approached me for training, so I’m now educating. But I don’t like to be categorised as an Afro barber because I work with all hair types. People don’t realise you can get Afro block heads. They tend to be more expensive as there’s less demand, but as more people buy them hopefully they’ll become more accessible.”
MB asked the UK’s leading hair education providers to see what’s changed and changing when it comes to teaching how to cut all hair types.
“In 2015 when the National Occupational Standards were introduced by Habia we reviewed our content in relation to cutting textured hair. Our Hairdressing and Barbering Qualifications now cover all hair types, from straight to curly ‘z’ shaped pattern.”
Emma Mackay, City & Guilds Industry Manager for Hair, Beauty, Retail and Creative
“We offer a full range of barbering qualifications which allow learners to select optional units. Tutors can tailor programmes to meet the needs of both learners
and employers. The core elements of VTCT’s barbering qualifications cover the skills needed to work across all hair types.”
Sam Luce, VTCT Assessment Lead – Hairdressing and Barbering