Cheshire’s Lieanne Buckley (@lieanne_) doesn’t want to be pegged as just a female barber and never ever wants to be “someone that just does five, six days a week and goes home. I want to be more than that.”
A new face on the barbering scene, just three years ago Lieanne was an increasingly dissatisfied retail worker. At 27, this daughter of a hairdresser had taken some training in a perfunctory fashion, but felt uninspired. “I was disheartened, stuck in a rut and obviously getting older,” she told me at Barber Connect in Telford. “I was really envious of friends who had good careers, getting their own houses, and I’m like, “’I really don’t know what I want to be. I wish I knew.’”
A combination of desperation and inspiration pushed her into the direction of men’s barbering. Whilst working in a fitting room one day, it just hit her, she told me. “I want to cut men’s hair,” she says. “There was a girl at the shop who was a mobile hairdresser and I just went over to her and I said, “How I can get into barbering?”
At the beginning, “I used to go home and do my dad’s and brothers’ hair, so they got butchered,” she smiles.
Fast forward about three years and Lieanne is onstage at Barber Connect, earning an excellent reputation and building an online following.
A specialty is Afro-Caribbean hair, which makes her a rarity among Caucasian barbers, especially the relatively few females in the barbering world. Gaining acceptance was a challenge, she recalls.
“The shop I work in is very multicultural, we have a lot of Afro Caribbean hair, but I found being a white female, a lot of people would steer clear,” she said. Clients were understandably a bit surprised and somewhat reluctant to patronize someone who at first glance, seems likely inexperienced in cutting Afro-Caribbean hair.
“I didn’t see it as a big thing because I just do hair – Afro-Caribbean hair, Asian hair- in a multicultural shop, it’s just natural.”
Nevertheless, Lieanne says she shared some of her customer’s trepidation as she started her first Afro-Caribbean cut.
“I can remember going in with a trimmer, and I was really out my comfort zone. I was thinking to myself, ‘Can I do this or can’t I do this?’ The hair is so different from Caucasian hair, so I was like. ‘Right, just do it, try it. It’s got to work! It has to work!’”
“So I went in with a detailer back then – must have been because I use Andis now – and I remember thinking, ‘Right, what do I do next?!’
“But because I was around people that cut Afro-Caribbean, I sort of pick things up, so I was like, “Okay, so you need to go with the grain, not just against the grain.”
But the first-timer challenges continued.
“The customer just had a one on top and then a skin fade on the sides. I remember thinking, ‘How am I gonna get this hair that clogs together?’ I learned to comb against it and go with the grain. That was a big thing, trying to get the combing; going in, comb it down, going back in, and then getting the cutthroat on it.
She learned quickly, “You can’t always use a cutthroat on people with Afro-Caribbean hair because they’re prone to bumps, rashes (and keloids),” she says.
“I’d just say, ‘Are you okay with the razor?’ And if they are, they’re okay around the front but not around the neck area, also the same with a shaver. Never use a shaver with Afro-Caribbean hair. Ever. I don’t risk it. It’s just the way the hair grows out the follicle.”
Obviously spoken like someone who knows what she’s doing!
“As for people who think, ’You’re not cutting my hair because you’re a woman,’ I will say, ‘Just let me do! Let me do it and if you don’t like it, don’t pay for it.”
Very early, Lieanne brought her honesty, determination and talent to social media. Her YouTube success has many roots, including her emphasis on quality and her drive to self-brand.
“My goal (at the beginning) was always a quality haircut over quantity, I always had that in the back of my mind,’ she said.
“And I never want to be your standard barber that you go and see for ten minutes and that’s it, so I did a promo video to see if it takes me anywhere, opens any doors.”
After posting on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, Lieanne says her inbox was jammed with messages from people “saying they wished my video was longer,” she remembers. “They said they wanted to see how I work. So I was like, ‘OK, this can open doors!’”
She began posting Instagram cell phone photos taken in her kitchen. “This was just around the time Instagram was taking off” three years ago, she recalls. “I was uploading onto Instagram, and I was getting people saying, ‘Why don’t you come work for us?’ when I hadn’t even worked in a barber shop before. It’s actually really overwhelming.”
Today, her video style remains focused on brevity. “People get bored,” she says. “I do just short bursts of process on a taper or scissor-cut styling, what products I use.” She still shoots most of them on her Samsung 7.
I suggested making a video of Lieanne cutting Afro-Caribbean hair to prove the doubters wrong, a definite smash hit!
“I know!” she agrees. “I wanted to bring someone with Afro-Caribbean hair today (to Barber Connect) and I couldn’t get anyone.’
This made for an easy transition to her first major stage appearance. How did it go?
“Rather nerve-wracking,” she allows. “You’re trying to work and it’s really hot, and you can’t see what you’re doing. I was trying to prep my model and I was just stressing out! Then Alan (Beak) came over and he was like, ‘Lieanne, just say a few words, like where you’re from. You’ll get a head mic.’ But my heart was definitely going a little bit when you can hear the crowd behind the curtains.”
“Then the next minute it was over!” she said. “It went so quick and I was like, ‘Get me back on there! I want to go back on now!’ Once I was up there I felt really comfortable.”
Clearly Lianne is growing more confident all the time. Already a proven success as a “late bloomer,” a woman in a male-donate field, and an expert in Afro Caribbean hair when so many though it couldn’t be done, who does this inspiring figure look to for inspiration?
Her choices say a lot about Lieanne’s eye for quality.
“Nay; she’s @nayqueenoffades,” she says. “She’s from Amsterdam with Mokum Barbers. She is absolutely amazing. Her fades look as though they’re actually filtered. They’re just so blurry. How does she do that?”
Also from the start I would have to say Dani Lewis @toastiestyles, she’s a cool barber. She’s done some really nice work.
@StayGold31 from America,’ she adds “Sofie Pok is brilliant! She’s killing it. She’s next level. She’s different. American barbers are, because they use different clippers. So I’m always learning from her work and seeing what she’s doing on social media.”
“Sean from @seanbryancutandsew is a really cool guy. He’s so good not just cutting hair but the business side of it. He’s got something like four shops, he deejays, he looks after God knows how many members of staff. His branding and what-not is brilliant as well; his apparel.”
As part of her brand building, Lianne is also getting into the apparel line with distinctive T shirts. As for closing thoughts from this motivated and talented woman, she says something I hear more and more barbers say – there is too much negativity, especially in social media.
“I really don’t understand people bashing each other on social media. ‘That cut is not good,’ and ‘Look at that blend,’ and ‘I can do better than that.’ I just don’t understand some people’s mentality towards each other. We all need to look after one another and help each other.”
I’ve always believe tiny gestures and little steps can lead to big change. Lieanne agrees, saying she’s offered to help a young barber in Cheshire improve his Afro-Caribbean cuts, just as a service to a colleague. We definitely need more of that!
My thanks to Lieanne Buckley, another source of inspiration for me and I certainly hope you feel the same way. If you want to see my entire interview with Lieanne, please visit my YouTube @larrythebarberman.
‘Til next time, happy barbering!