Village Vitals


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Barbering for Life: Introduction

While living in Luang Prabang, Laos, in 2012, I observed one of my co-workers sit his brother down outside in the driveway, and proceed to cut his hair. They performed basic barbering whenever the other needed it. And when anyone asked them. A small lightbulb shone through this: more people should be cutting each others' hair.

Years before - specifically in 2008 while a sophomore in college - I purchased my first pair of Wahl hair clippers from the CVS pharmacy in Allston, Mass. They cost $19.99 and owned them for two years. I was sick of going to SuperCuts for the too-quick cuts offered from practicing barbers. The quality did not match the effort to leave the dorms, spend money, and think I could have performed similar barbering myself. Thus I took into my own hands the first step towards many more: shaving my head myself.

This practice evolved from buzzing my head with one length, to in my junior year, experimenting with buzzing my head leaving the top a little longer, and the sides/back a little shorter. In senior year, I found I had cut my own hair enough to attempt buzzing the sides/back, and attempting the top using a cheap pair of shears I purchased the year prior at Ross Cutlery in Downtown Los Angeles.

Upon successful self-cut with shears, I figured that I'd offer the service for any guys who felt the same as I felt. I have been sitting for men's haircuts in barbershops and salons at this point for 20 years,. The experience of observing throughout these cuts (looking in the mirror) and my curiosity merged to dole haircuts in my dorm room to anyone willing. The cuts were free, but I couldn't tell my friends what to tip. Life in a college dormroom with a free haircut goes quickly and passably with a six pack of beers, a glass of whiskey, or a few dollars to spend at the bar with each other later that weekend.

Following an update to my shears, the aforementioned lightbulb moment in Laos, and a lucky find in a bookshop in Norway, Maine (, I bring to light the need for more people to understand the basics of barbering.

I thought for a moment to apprentice at a barbershop last year, at the kind offering of my barber of three years, Matthew Baker. He owns and operates Black Rabbit Barbershop in Brookly, NY, and I began patronizing him when he was cutting in Old Tyme Barbershop in a beautiful Art Deco building just south of Grand Central Station in Midtown Manhattan, circa 2013.

Matthew Baker at Black Rabbit Barbershop in 2015.

Matthew Baker at Black Rabbit Barbershop in 2015.

But I do not have the time nor ability to devote physical presence in a shop right now. And I believe everyone should be able to cut their own hair, cut their friends and family's hair, their partners and spouses, and their childrens' hair. We all have hair, so we all should cut it. I still believe in the need for barbers, but just like anything, if you are at all curious about how something works, you should learn.

This is a New, Unstandardized Textbook for Barbering/Styling. I am going to take an edition published by the National Educational Council and revise/update to the most modern version of home-barbering as possible. If you want to save some money, face one of the basic necessaries of life (hair growth, for most) with open arms, or hope to cut your children's hair one day, this experiment will be for you.

Below is the introduction and preface to the textbook. Click on the image of the leatherbound earlier* edition for the pdf.

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Introduction (pp. i-v)