In our next feature we catch up with barber on the rise, Isabelle Enei, popularly known as ThugCuts in the barbering world.
We connected with her to chat about her career path, barbering and her experiences as a young woman in a male-dominated field—here's what she had to say.
Before we dive in, could you give us a brief background about yourself and how you got into barbering?
Barbering kind of found me. I graduated college for hair styling in 2013. During that time I briefly worked as an assistant at a hair salon but quit after a month because I didn’t like the atmosphere. In 2016 I completed a treatment program for substance abuse. Realizing I needed a new direction I started applying for jobs. I had an interview to be a receptionist at a new barbershop that opened up. I bombed the interview and was surprised when the manager called me two weeks later. She asked if I wanted to come for a training class because they were looking for barbers. I went to the class and ended up working there for a couple months. It was a great place to start out and get comfortable cutting and talking to new people. Then I moved to House of Barons. I started out on the desk and did a lot of training after hours. I learned a lot from the guys that were there at that time. Not just about barbering, but about life and other people. Those guys always kept it real. They always accepted me and definitely made sure I had a thick skin.
As a barber, what would you say is your favorite thing about what you do, and the most challenging?
As barbers we have the power to inspire other people. I can inspire confidence through a haircut. I can inspire someone through conversation when they’re going through a hard time, sometimes it’s gassing them up when they’re already feeling good. The act of cutting hair is so intimate and I’m not much for small talk. I get deep in conversations with people. Creating positive feelings and connections with others is what I really love about barbering.
One of the more challenging things I’ve been working on is self criticism. My mind is always running in overdrive, so I set high goals and put a lot of pressure on myself to complete them fast. I’ve been listening to Sosa’s (@lxvesosa) podcasts Limited Availability and he said something that stuck with me. He was talking about other people’s opinions of your work and said your mom is always gonna think it’s a nice haircut cause it’s your mom and she loves you. And that’s why sometimes when someone we don’t even know comments negatively on a picture on Instagram we get upset. And he said at the end of day as long as you know you put your all into a haircut that’s all that matters. It sounds so simple, yet it’s so true. I feel like whenever there’s something weighing negatively on me it translates into my work. It can be as little as not eating all day to an argument with someone unrelated to work. We’ve all had that moment watching someone’s cut as they leave the shop thinking I could’ve done better. I’m working on keeping all aspects of my life balanced so that doesn’t happen and I can stay inspired and connected to why I love barbering.
Being a woman in the barbering space, could you describe how it's been like for you and have you been getting a lot of love from the community?
I definitely feel the love, I get a lot of support and encouragement from others in the community. Like anything in life though, you’ll also experience negativity at times. Any woman in a room of mostly men stands out, and I feel like sometimes we make judgments about people before even speaking to them. I try to remember everyone has different perspectives, but I think when someone takes the time to connect with me, my personality and energy speaks for itself.
Everyone has their own feel and style when it comes to their craft. How would you describe your style when it comes to cutting/styling hair? And what would be your favorite cut/style be and why?
I feel like my style is practical with a bit of edge. I always focus on giving my guests something that works for their lifestyle. I think the true test of a haircut is how it grows out as well. There’s no use in giving someone a style that is too much maintenance for them or that they don’t know how to style themselves. I believe educating people on how to properly style their hair and what products to use is also key.I feel like a lot of people just can’t envision a change and that’s why they might stick to what they’re used to. I like to try and get people outside of their comfort zone. I’ve had guys go from not even owning a comb to now blow drying their hair.
I’m really into bowl cuts and crops. That’s what I was rocking for a while before shaving my head. I think I like that style so much because although almost everyone’s experienced an 'at home bowl cut' as a kid, it’s a little more out there compared to your traditional cuts. People usually worry they’re going to look like Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber, so I feel it takes a certain kind of style and confidence to pull off. I love it with a clean skin fade on the sides and a lot of texture through the top for a lived in look. I’m always on the go, as I feel is also the case for a lot of others, so I tend to gravitate towards a look that can be worn a little disheveled rather than always perfectly in place.
As a barber & stylist on the rise, do you have any interesting plans coming up for the rest of 2019?
I competed at Barber Royale in July and it was such an exhilarating experience. The whole day was kind of a roller-coaster of emotions because it was my first time. I didn’t know what to expect, and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I’ll definitely be back on stage in the near future.
Music-wise, to give our audience a little more insight about you, what are your top 3 songs on your playlist right now?
If you hand me the aux cord all you’ll hear is hip hop. Right now the top 3 on my playlist would have to be
- Sleep Deprived, off Revenge of the Dreamers III
Hooked by Siimba Selassiie - the video for this song is a must watch
- Backin’ It Up by Pardison Fontaine ft. Cardi B
One last question before we close things off - what are some goals personal or professional, you would like to reach by 2020?
I didn’t have the opportunity to travel as a kid, so I'm doing more of that now. I’ve been traveling by myself and I feel it’s really helped me grow and get outside of my comfort zone. I’m really focused on continuing to learn and expand my skill set. Traveling has been an amazing way for me to connect with other artists that are like-minded and passionate. I want to continue to experience new places, people and cultures. I think it’s really interesting that different cities and countries have certain styles and seeing the factors that drive and motivate it.
You’ll be seeing a lot more Thug Cuts on the streets worldwide!
To connect with Isabelle hit her up on her social channels below.
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In the meantime groom well fellas. PEACE!