Thanks for agreeing to do this ‘Meet The Members’ chat for Barber Banter. Would you like to introduce yourself?
Hiya I’m Victoria, I’m 40 years old, married with 2 children. A boy Harry who is 21 this year and a girl Elliotte, who has just turned 8.
So Victoria, can you tell us a bit about your back-story and how, when and why did you become a barber?
So I’ve been a barber for 20+ years, I was medically discharged from the Army in 1999, after 3 yrs. I loved it, had some of the best times of my life in. But unfortunately never left the UK that whole quote. ‘Join the Army Be the Best’. I ended up cleaning, on PE, or on Guard Duty. I was based down in Deepcut for the majority of my time. It was awful but the social aspect and the friends I made, made it all bearable.
Anyhow, I come out and I had no idea what I was going to do. The Army gave me a ‘yeah you can come back in a year and you can rejoin’, so I was basically back on my arse. I left school with basic standard grades and GCSEs, I was back living with my parents. So after 3 years of coming back when I wanted and doing what I wanted, now having to ask permission made me feel like I had hit rock bottom,. Looking back now, nope that wasn’t even the edge of the cliff!
So here I am no job, I did have a payout which helped, but I ended up pretty much doing everything I could to take my mind off the whole situation. Drinking, partying, toking! yep I was a massive pot head. Going into town everyday, I’d see all these girls dressed in white, getting their hair and make-up done. That got me thinking. ‘This must be an easy life’. So I made inquiries as to get on the Hair & Beauty therapy course…. 2yrs fuck! I thought, I could do that, waste some time, it’ll be a laugh. I can do my own make-up how fricking hard can it be?!? Famous last words!!!
I started that September and from day one I was hooked. The cutting of the hair, colouring, make-up, ohh and working towards the end of year competition work too. It was amazing. But I can still smell the putrid stink of perm rods now (hated that with a passion). I struggled through, there was soooo much to learn in such a short time, I used to cry at night, trying to remember the theory science and the bones and colour wheels and all the formalities of hairdressing. Just when I thought I was starting to get it, I was done. College was finally over…. shit now what? Here I am with hairdressing qualifications, with no real clue what I was doing.
I had a few junior jobs but found being around woman annoying as fuck, “Oooh where you off on your holidays?” “Do you have a boyfriend?” “My ex did this, he did that, I said blah blah fucking blah” The idea of sitting with the same woman for up to 3hrs tortured me, it’s a long time when you run outta shit to talk about.
But I wanted to cut hair so I’m driving down the road one afternoon, after being down the beach with mates, and I see this barber shop. There’s literally a queue out the door and a man stood outside dressed in red and white looking quite poorly, he was taking a quick breather. I had nothing else to do, so I popped my head out of the car window and ask if he wants a hand, he told me to come in. I cut a few clients and swept up. I was loving the cheeky banter. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m ‘A level’ pretty, but I’m here with a bunch of young, fit, military lads in uniform, who flirted and left me £5 tips. And don’t forget at this time I’m a skint single 20 year old, of course I was loving it.
The barber loved the help, so at the end of the day, he told me I could come back. However he also told me that I ‘cut like a girl’ and needed to be retrained. He was prepared to help me retrain on the condition that I tried my hardest. That was the start of the next 7 years of my chapter.
I ended up as his manager, due to him having a stroke and having to take a year off. I was more than capable as I had taken charge of the shop duties numerous times before, but this was different. I didn’t realise how much pressure I would be under at the time. He had me working all hours as well as being in charge of 2 other girls. But I can proudly say I trained those 2 other girls. And they became so good, they went off to run their own shops.
In my personal life at this time I had overcome many traumatic events (life’s shit really) and I ended up having a massive breakdown after about a year of never being away from the job, even on a Sunday. I lived above the shop so never felt like I was away from it. If the alarm went off I’d pop down to reset it. ‘Stress of job, stress of life’. And I lost the baby we had been trying for. I felt at the time the shop was to blame for it all. So I fell out of love with cutting hair and jacked it all in. The phrase ‘threw it all away’ came to mind!
I moved away from the area with my boyfriend, he was in the RAF and was being posted down south. We got married and we finally had our baby girl. Life was good but I was sooooo bored being “just a mammy”. I was still cutting hubby and my Dads hair so when my daughter went to school, I went back to work.
My dad passed away December 2017 and I always kinda felt he wanted me to go back to barbering, so when an opportunity came up in summer 2018 to run the ‘station barbers’, I applied to take it over. I had heard there were over 100 applicants so I didn’t think I stood a chance. However, I genuinely wanted it and I knew it was the right time for me to try. I found out that I had an interview and really went for it. I opened up my house up for the weekend, cutting hair in my kitchen, taking pictures of each cut. Just so I could stand out just that bit more in the interview. I could show them a recent portfolio of the cuts I could do, showcasing my ability and the standard of work I could deliver.
Interview came and went and it was down to the final 2, me and another girl. The other girl had already got a shop so unfortunately for me she got the position. I was gutted. The interviewer phoned and said he was sorry. He told me he was impressed with my work, so he would like to place me as first reserve. He said that if it didn’t work out, with the other girl then they would like to offer me the position! Never mind, I tried. I was determined to get back into barbering.
I wanted to learn more so I got work in a Turkish barber shop. I learnt the beard trimming, cutthroat shaving and taking crowns off, which i hated. We just didn’t fit, lovely guys but our styles just didn’t work together. I then went to a high end barbers in town. I knew they were busy, in fact in college, it was known as one of the best. The best students got taken on there all the time. The day I arrived I was overcome with nerves, but I slotted in like one of the team and finally felt at home. I managed to build up my speed and all the time gaining more confidence and knowledge.
Then the letter arrived through the door asking if I was still interested in the salon? YES, but I love my job now! Could I take the risk?! I had to do it. NO REGRETS right. So I dialed the number and said yes!
So on the 16th September 2019 I started my new chapter…. ‘Vix The Barber’, Station Barbers. And I can tell you, it’s amazing. I love opening that shutter every morning and being busy with gents queuing out of the door.
When did you first notice the idea that being a barber was trendy or fashionable and was it difficult being a woman in this industry?
Well when i first started barbering 20 years ago it definitely wasn’t fashionable for a woman to be a barber. In fact it was bloody hard going for us. It wasn’t really considered a trade for a woman. Every day was spent answering questions like “Surely you’d be better working in a ladies salon?” And there was always that one gent (a few times a day actually) who would be like “I’ll wait for him” or “I can’t tell that joke in front of her”, so I’d be sent on a fag break. It was frustrating! I was there to learn and I could cut hair just like he could. But the problem was I had tits.
Not sure when that all changed but it’s become a lot more acceptable for a woman to be in and around barber shops. There are definitely more women barbers now. It’s good to see.
Do you use social media? What do you think of the influence it has had on the industry or your own career?
No, I don’t use social media for work, not really anyway. I occasionally throw up a picture or a offer. Or I’ll post onto our wags (RAF wives and girlfriends) page and say, ‘It’s quiet so bring the kids in’, or ‘I’m closing early’ I find that I’m busy most days so, A I don’t have time and B I hate the whole ‘skin fade’, lighting has to be right or 100 people jump on it bandwagon. As much as I portray a ‘look at me, I’m full of confidence, go fuck yourself’ attitude, I criticize myself a lot more than anyone else could. I would spend days looking over a picture I’d taken thinking, what I could have done differently? It would get to the point that I’d knock my own confidence. So I don’t like taking pictures for that reason. And the real bottom line is that if client has left delighted then I’m happy.
What do you love about your job and what do you dislike or you think, could be improved upon?
I love the social aspect of my job. The way that your clientele become your friends. You learn about their families, their hobbies, their joys and sad times. For that half an hour you almost become their therapist. I love to chat and speak to people. I love opening the shutter and the feeling I have of ‘I wonder will it be busy today?’ And the satisfaction of knowing that at the end of the day I’ve worked my whole life to get to where I am now.
All of my dreams have come true and I can build on that dream and make it even bigger. I want to take my family on a surprise holiday as soon as this damn Covid-19 is over, that’s what I’m working towards. And you know what? I don’t dislike anything really. Maybe quiet times but even then I get to clean the scuff marks off walls, tidy up the shelves, clean the skirting boards… hair really does get everywhere.
What’s a typical day like for you?
A typical day in a RAF camp? Are you joking? There isn’t such a thing! I’m based in a building which has a Subway, Costa and the Mess or dining facility, so it’s a busy building. Sometimes guys just pass the shop going for dinner and even though they don’t need a haircut they’ll pop in and have a chat. And then sometimes they’ll end up getting a trim anyway.
There are always lots of laughs and there are a nice bunch of girls around me from the shops or the Mess. I have chairs now outside my shop (that’s never happened before) as it can get really full now. I get the odd fag break or toilet break, but most days I’m starving, busting for a pee and gasping for a fag.
How do you see the industry or men’s styles changing in the future?
It isn’t changing really. It’s circling come round again, just this time with added ‘umphhh and fashionability’. Footballers seem to have always had a big impact on our trends and America are always about a year in front too. But hey it just takes that one barber to make that one haircut special by switching it up a bit. One day that might be me!
Can you tell us a bit about your favourite tools or products you use?
My favourite tools have always been Wahl. I guess it’s what I learnt on and it’s what I’m familiar with. My fave just now are the Wahl Magic Clips and I love them. They’re so light an easy to use. As far as products go, I use Crazy Bull. There are a new product not long out and I genuinely love them. They’ve been a big hit in the shop too. I also love the fact that I’m the only one in my area using them. Makes me slightly unique and I like that.
Where do you see yourself in 5 (or 10) year’s time?
Wow where do i see myself in 5/10 years time? To be honest with you, I didn’t even see myself where I am now, let alone in 5/10 years time. I hope to still be winging life daily with a bit more savvy in my shop with a couple of employees but who know. Anyway stuff like that is for grown-up’s right?
What advice would you give someone starting up as a barber?
Another good question, what advice would I give?
- Don’t take life so seriously.
- Never give up learning, everyday is a learning curve.
- Your never gonna be the best but if you keep learning you’ll be one of the best.
- There are always courses for you to expand knowledge.
- Not every barber cuts the same way, don’t expect to be exactly the same.
- Listen to what your instructor is telling you, and above all practice.
- Your family are there, they’re never gonna go to a different barber, so use them.
- Work comes second in life, I promise, if you die tomorrow they’ll have you replaced by the end of the week. Family is the most important thing.
- Have fun, you spend so long in work you need to be in an enjoyable environment the day you wake up and dread going in is the day you should look for a new job.
And finally what you do to unwind at the end of a long busy day?
My hobbies are pretty girly really like, make-up, hot-tub, shopping, 5 D art, crafts, and reading.