Once again we return to our So You Want My Job series, in which we interview men who are employed in desirable jobs and ask them about the reality of their work and for advice on how men can live their dream.
Given our great love for barbershops, I can’t believe it’s taken this long to interview a barber for our So You Want My Job series. But better late than never! A barber finally stepped up and volunteered to answer our questions, and we thank him for that. He’s really a perfect interview subject for this installment. Drew Danburry was a touring musician and decided to give up the road to become a barber. A younger guy in a graying industry, he just recently completed barber college and opened up his own shop in Provo, Utah, the Danburry Barber Shop. And he’s a guy who’s trying to revive the old fashioned barbershop experience of yesteryear, with great haircuts, a handsome shop, and of course, good old fashioned straight razor shaves.
I’ve always had a dream of making my second act in life that of a barber. And this interview only strengthened that conviction. What an awesome job.
If you’re in the Provo area, go pay Drew a visit and tell him Brett sent ya!
1. Tell us a little about yourself (Where are you from? How old are you? Describe your job and how long you’ve been at it, etc).
My name is Drew Danburry. I grew up in Huntington Beach, California. I’m 31 years old, and I have been a barber for about 6 months now, today. I opened an old fashioned barbershop in downtown Provo, Utah very recently, and I love it.
2. Why did you want to become a barber? When did you know it was what you wanted to do?
To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would like it. But I wanted to try and find a career that I wouldn’t hate. Something I could support a family with and I wouldn’t feel stuck in a rut with my life decisions. After a few months, I knew I’d love it. It’s the best thing ever because I offer services no one else in the area does and I end up hanging out with friends all day long. I cut hair and make people look just the way they want, and I get to meet new people all the time. It’s fun, creative, and I like feeling satisfied with my work. I’m pretty good at it, and I like being able to offer something that brings happiness to other people.
3. How does a man become a barber? You chose to go to barber school instead of a cosmetology school. Why did you make that choice?
Short answer: I went to barber school because I wanted to get the kind of instruction and experience that would prepare me for cutting the kind of hair that was cut both currently and way back in the day. I was taught by people who have been cutting hair for over 50 years, who went to barber school when they were my age (and younger). I specifically wanted to learn the dying art of classic barbering. I cut and shaved over 1,000 clients when I was in school, and I can cut any kind of hairstyle any person wants. Male or female.
Long answer: With the huge influence the Beatles and the hippie movement had on men growing their hair long in the 60s, rather than military short, the popularity of barbers decreased considerably. Barbering and cosmetology had originally been two different licenses. Barbers focused on cutting men’s hair and doing hot lather shaves for businessmen, rather than perming and dying long hair. But by the time the 70s rolled around, barbers and their style of haircutting had waned so much in popularity that most state licensing departments just decided to combine the two separate licenses. Also, because barbers weren’t as popular, and a lot of people were wanting to learn how to dye and perm hair, less people were attending barber schools and going to cosmetology school instead. It wasn’t until just a few years ago in the state of Utah that they even separated the licenses again and a barber school was started to teach the art of barbering. The old-fashioned way. How to cut men’s hair. How to shave with a straight blade.
Honestly, it’s a bit hard to explain all the differences because I never went to cosmetology school, but they seem to be completely different. Girls I meet that went to cosmetology school have a very different way of cutting hair than I do.
Some cosmetology schools teach some of the barbering techniques, like the straight razor shave, but most students at cosmetology school as well as their instructors have never actually shaved someone, and if they have, they haven’t done it often, on a daily basis. At the barber school I attended, not only were the instructors experienced, but we were given plenty of practice shaving and cutting hair. One thing I do to stay in practice, is to shave myself with a straight razor often, which is a lot harder than shaving someone else, and follow up each haircut by shaving the neck with a straight blade.
5. Once a barber has the necessary schooling and credentials, what is his next step? Is it possible to open up your own shop right out of school, or do most barbers first spend time renting a chair at someone else’s shop?
Most people spend their time renting a chair at someone else’s shop. But I wanted to open my own shop, so I did. It’s a lot of work, and an investment is required, but if you want to have your own space and not have to deal with a boss, it’s the way to go. There are a lot of laws and health codes you have to be aware of; thankfully, the school I went to had all the answers to the questions I asked, so by the time I was graduating from school, I was already finished with my state exams and busy getting the shop set up. When you decide to go with renting a chair in someone’s shop, it can be more frustrating because you’re under someone else’s roof, under their rules. You can be building clientele and saving money at the same time, and opening your own shop is more of a gamble, BUT really it’s a matter of what a person wants and is willing to risk.
6. How hard is it to open your own shop? What does a man need and need to know if he wants to do it?
Opening your own barbershop is a lot like opening any other business. You need a barber license, you need insurance, you need to be legally covered to cut hair and shave faces. You need to know what you’re doing, in terms of cutting hair, you need to know how to get the word out, and I think you need to be patient. Because when you first open, you do a lot of sitting. I generally spend any free time promoting online or making sure that the barbershop has an online presence. That Google and Yelp register its existence. I offer a lot of free services to people who’ve never had a shave or a haircut by a barber. It’s an experience every man should have, and if they haven’t, I want them to at least know what they are missing out on. Pretty much everybody who’s sat in my chair is very excited to come back.
Basically: Treat others as you’d like to be treated. Give people the kind of quality haircut and service they expect. And let word of mouth take care of the rest.
7. What is the best part of your job?
Hanging out with great people. Listening to music and talking with friends. It really is like hanging out with friends all day long. The only difference is that I happen to be cutting their hair while we talk. Which is cool, because the client and I both get excited when I give them a haircut they love.
8. What is the worst part of your job?
I don’t know just yet…the great thing about offering high quality service is that if someone doesn’t appreciate the value of what you are giving them, they don’t come back. I do a good job with everyone’s haircut, and I treat everybody like a friend because I really appreciate everyone’s business. It makes my existence possible. If someone comes in and doesn’t want to pay the price I’m asking, they leave. If they get in my chair and don’t feel my services were worth what it cost, then they don’t come back. I really love my shop because I’m not catering to cheap people who only spend five dollars on an uncomfortable haircut that they’re gonna complain about anyway. I give a quality service, at a reasonable price, and I think everyone gets what they want. Plus, I’m my own boss and I do whatever I want, so I’m still searching for the worst part of my job.
9. What’s the work/family/life balance like?
Simple, I’m open 10-6 Tuesday-Saturday. I stay late if people need haircuts, but otherwise I’ve got Mondays and Sundays off to spend with the wife. It’s a good way to live. I go home and relax each evening, and I never wake up to an alarm. I love it.
10. What is the biggest misconception people have about your job?
I don’t know what anyone’s misconceptions would be….I don’t know of too many very rich barbers. I’m a one man shop. I’m gonna stay that way because it’s a decent living and I don’t want to deal with employees. It’s not an extremely rich or poor source of income. I’d like to live comfortably and not worry about money, but I don’t need any toys other than my skateboard and my guitar. And I already got those. It’s a simple way to live and provide for a family.