A 27-year-old female barber, Lydia Williams, tells TEMITOPE ADETUNJI about her professional journey and why she opted for knife instead of clippers
What informed your decision to become a barber?
My mother called me and my sister one day and said since we were done with secondary school, she would like us to learn handiwork. So, I decided to pray about it for some days. On one of those days I went to have a haircut and it struck me that female barbers are rare. Then the Holy Spirit told me to be a female barber.
Are you a very spiritual person?
I’m just a Christian girl, a spiritual person; that’s all.
What has the experience been like for you as a female barber operating in a male-dominated vocation?
All glory to God, it’s getting better than when I started. It hasn’t been easy. It takes more work, and more time for a woman. If male barbers are sometimes doubted by clients, you can then imagine what the situation is for a female barber. As a female barber one has to be very skillful and be 10 times better than the male counterparts to be able to convince customers; and being skillful comes through practice and research. This is the only way to clear the clients’ doubt.
In a trending clip, you were seen using a knife to cut a client’s hair. Was that for real or just a social media stunt?
Yes, it was for real. I wanted to do something that would make me different or stand out, so I prayed and started my research, and a thought came to me that since we use clippers and blade, then a knife should be able to cut hair as well. So, I tried using a knife and it came out nice, to the glory of God.
At first, it was something I decided to do on my own, but lately, I have been getting requests from clients who want to experience how it feels to have a haircut with a knife. Maybe it will become one of the wonders of the world or an experiences that foreign tourists to Nigeria can look forward to.
How exactly did you come about the idea? Did you see someone do it and you then decided to give it a try too?
No, I didn’t see anybody do it. I wanted something that would make me different, so I prayed and started my research. It was an idea I developed myself. I felt if clippers, blade can cut hair, then a knife should be able to do the same. So, I used it and it came out nice, to the glory of God.
Is there a particular kind of knife you use or just any knife?
I use any kind of knife.
What’s the reaction of your clients whenever you cut their hair with a knife?
Funnily enough, they actually like how it always turns out, but I think it is normal to feel some type of way at first.
How long have you been in this business?
August this year will make it eight years.
Where exactly are you located and have you been at the same location all these eight years?
I used to be in Lagos, then I moved to Abeokuta when I got married; now, I am in Ibadan.
You mean you are married?
Yes, I am married. I’ve been married for three years now. My husband is a contemporary realistic pencil artist. He draws. I met him when I was training to be a barber. We were dating then and then we got married later.
Where did you train to be a barber?
There is a man called Musbee; he owns a barbershop in Lagos; he used to be my barber when I was in secondary school. In the public school I attended, girls are not allowed to make or plait their hair; we only cut our hair. So, when the Holy Spirit instructed me to become a barber, I decided to train under him.
How did your parents and friends react when you chose this path?
My mum is my only parent; she’s a single mother; she took care of me and my sister all by herself; she’s very supportive of this path I have chosen. As for my friends, they were really surprised when they found out and some have been supportive, one way or the other.
What schools did you attend?
I attended Oke-Ira Grammar School, Lagos. I am currently studying Economics at the National Open University. I am in 300 Level.
Has your experience being a female barber been as rewarding as you must have dreamt in the beginning?
It’s been a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. The good aspect is that as a female barber who is very skillful, I get a lot of tips from customers and they don’t complain about my charges. The bad aspect is that sometimes, some clients doubt one’s capability and you have to convince them by giving your very best. The ugly aspect is that I am a married woman and combining this with my duty as a wife and mother, coupled with my academic pursuit has not been really easy. I have so much on my hands. Again, the current economic situation in the country is not helping matters, particularly when it comes to electricity and getting fuel, among other things needed to keep the business going.
How much do you charge your customers?
The price varies; it is influenced by the economic changes or the services I render on the particular haircut.
What’s the minimum or average price that you charge?
Do you have any regrets?
I don’t think I have any regrets, to the glory of God. Becoming a barber is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life, and I give God Almighty all the praise for that.
Do you think using a knife instead of the regular clippers keeps you ahead of competition?
Barbing with a knife makes me stand out. It comes with skills because you have to be extremely careful when cutting; so, it is not something any barber can do.
Who are your role models?
What are your biggest dreams as a barber?
My biggest dreams include becoming a celebrity barber, having prominent people as customers, getting endorsement deals; expanding and having a big space, an institution, where I can train others, especially ladies. I also dream of having a saloon in every state in Nigeria and internationally, too. Also, I wish to travel internally to experience different cultures and giving haircuts, so I can experience different hair textures.
What are your achievements so far?
I have been able to own a mini salon; I’ve received some local or community awards, and some media recognition, and my followers increased on my social media platforms.
Do you think people prefer to patronise women in male-dominated vocations like yours?
I feel it is a 50-50 thing, as long as you are good at what you do and with the help of God Almighty you will surely get patronage.
What advice do you have for women looking to enter a male-dominated profession or vocation like you?
My advice is that they should go for it and give it their best. They will be able to stand out more easily and get noticed, thereby getting the financial freedom and fulfillment they need.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I see myself owning my own institute, a couple of big salons and becoming a celebrity barber.