Section: Features

Student Barbers: A new approach

Student Barbers: A new approach

Hair: It’s a part of everyday life for many people. It’s there. It grows. Occasionally, it needs to be cut.

Gambier is a small town filled with a large number of college students. In other words, Gambier contains very busy young adults who lack the financial means that come from full-time jobs, unless their living is generously stipended by a parent. Time and money constraints, coupled with the fact that only one full-time, professional barber operates a shop within the village limits, means that the accessibility to haircuts can pose as a problem for everyday college life. Where do you go? How do you afford it? How can you know that the haircut you get here will be as good as the one you get back home? Enter campus barbers.

Teddy Hannah-Drullard ’20 and Ben Stillions ’22 are two such campus barbers, well-versed in haircuts and styles ranging from buzzes, fades, deep conditions and bleaching.

For both Hannah-Drullard and Stillions, cutting hair started out of necessity.

Hannah-Drullard started cutting their own hair after the senior student they relied on for haircuts graduated in 2017.

“It’s difficult to arrange transportation for haircuts,” Hannah-Drullard said, “and rare to find someone who knows how to cut black hair.” Hannah-Drullard, with the help of WikiHow and YouTube videos, is self-taught. What began as a solution for an individual need soon evolved into a service that Hannah-Drullard now provides to a growing base of clientele, having up to 10 appointments in a given week.

Like Hannah-Dullard, Stillions’ barbering skills arose from a practical beginning.

“I cut a couple of people’s hair in high school because they wanted haircuts and they didn’t want to spend the money for an actual barber,” he said.

Both have since developed regular clientele on campus, in part because their business practices embody the practical concerns that brought them into the craft in the first place.

Neither Stillions nor Hannah-Drullard have an established price for their haircuts. Originally, Hannah-Drullard gave them for free, since they felt odd about charging people for a hobby of theirs. Over time, they came to use a bartering system, where clients choose how to repay Hannah-Drullard for their services.

“My favorite payments so far have been a homemade Chinese dinner, a gorgeous old album full of photos of Mississippi juke joints by Birney Imes and a ripe mango,” Hannah-Drullard said. “Money is also acceptable, though not as exciting. I won’t accept more than $15.”

Stillions likewise is not deeply concerned with money. He mentioned that as he establishes a relationship with a client, he hopes to be paid for his services, but also believes that a haircut on campus should fall within the $5 to $15 range.

“Right now, I’m giving free first haircuts to anyone who is interested in that,” Stillions said.

Both of these campus barbers bring a strong sense of enthusiasm to their craft. When Hannah-Drullard meets a new potential client, they always say yes. Similarly, Stillions has staked out a status in the campus barber market as a connoisseur of creative cuts.

“I’ve been contracted multiple times to do special-case haircuts. Mullets, for example. Another time [that same person] asked me to give them a rat-tail haircut like Anakin from Star Wars,” Stillions said. He said that he simply enjoys giving people what they want.

Hannah-Drullard echoed this sentiment. “The way you look has a profound effect on your sense of ownership over your body,” they said. “For me, maintaining a short haircut is as much about looking fresh as it was about settling into my gender identity and self-expression.”

For Hannah-Drullard, the trust placed in a barber’s hands makes a haircut an intimate affair. Sometimes mid-cut conversations get very deep, they said, and there is something special in being able to provide people with comfort.

“Kenyon can be a really lonely place sometimes, and the grind can wear you down, so this time to just sit and reflect together is invaluable. Plus you look great afterwards. There are literally no downsides,” Hannah-Drullard said.

Stillions says that his first few haircuts “started off a little rocky,” but he echoed the desire to help others look and feel good.

“Haircutting to me is more than just slicing a couple follicles off the top of someone’s head. It’s establishing a relationship with that person. It’s that person trusting you with not only their hair, but the perception that is put upon them by all their classmates. They’re trusting me to not only make them look good, but make them look fabulous and I have largely succeeded in that path,” he said. “I really just want to make people hot.”


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