Since meeting up with the charismatic Sofie Pok in April, I’ve been on high alert for chances to talk with women in barbering. So I was all over the opportunity to meet Manhattan-based Master Barber Cassie Kurtz. Her popular ‘Her Chair, His Hair’ blog is celebrating talented women barbers everywhere, and her budding philanthropy is changing the lives of the less fortunate.
Cassie works out of a shared private studio space called ‘The Master Suite’ in Uptown Manhattan near Columbus Circle. “It’s a prime location for artists who really want to be their own boss,” she tells me in my exclusive interview. “People set their own prices, set their own schedules but still have that feeling of working with a team,” she says.
In other words, it’s a great gig at one of the planet’s best locations, right? So what prompted Cassie to start up ‘Her Chair, His Hair’?
“I thought I needed to do something to better our industry, so I decided: I love to travel, I love to meet new people, I love to write, and I actually like coding,” she says with a laugh.
The result: “I created a platform for women who specialize in men’s hair; they do the beard trims, they do the shaves, and quite frankly they get a lot of pushback.”
From experience, Cassie finds the water can be a little rough for women barbers. She saw the icebergs looming on her very first job.
“Clients were walking in saying, ‘I need a haircut,’ and when the manager said, ‘Cassie is available,’ they would say, ‘Oh, no. I’d rather wait.’ Some of them looked at me like as if I didn’t belong in the same space. That really hurt, and I could only think of how many women must feel discouraged trying to pursue this.”
‘Her Chair, His Hair’ features high-quality video interviews, workplace photos and snappy write-ups about women barbers around the US and in other countries. Last time I visited the site, Cassie was featuring more than a dozen barbers and displaying some amazing cuts, beautifully photographed.
It’s also a supportive space, where barbers find much-needed encouragement and positivity.
From a woman’s perspective, does barbering need to change? “Any woman watching this video will scream out a loud, ‘Yes!’” Cassis replied.
She wants it to start with language. “A lot of women would like to be no longer called ‘female barbers.’ We are barbers, and we happen to be women. I’m not a women’s hair stylist; I’m not even licensed to do women’s color. So when I say I’m a barber, I’m a barber.”
Pricing is also a challenge for Cassie and other women, she said. “Some people think my gender affects my ability to cut hair! Now and then I get a gentleman who walks in and says, ‘Yeah, but you’re a woman. You’re not as experienced with men’s hair. How do you feel capable or qualified to charge this much?’ It just throws me off every single time.”
So which women in barbering inspire Cassie to keep going? She immediately mentions Mariela Perez (Instagram @mariela_the_barber) as a favorite, but hastens to add most of her energy comes from barbers she meets through Her Chair, His Hair.
“Mariela has to fight for everything she has,” Cassie told me “She supports her family and now owns her own house and her own car. She is a spectacular barber. I don’t think she’s given the credit she’s due; she is very talented. You know, I’m an only child taking care of my family, and it gets hard, you know. We’re human. We say, ‘I need a break.’ Then I think of Mariela, and I’m like, ’This is easy!’”
Whenever you feel overworked, I recommend you think of Cassie. Besides her successful business and busy website, she also manages to organize an annual ‘Her Chair, His Hair’ Showcase in NYC.
“I started it because you didn’t see enough women on flyers, as educators, as guest judges at showcases, so I said ‘There’s a need,’ and I want to fulfill it in my own hometown in New York City,” she said.
Finding a good cause proved a great way to rally women barbers, and the Showcase is now readying for its third year. The first year was a funder for breast cancer research, the second year supported domestic violence shelters.
Cassie: “This October we aim to helpThe Door, a safe place for gay and transgendered youth from as young as twelve. If they were kicked out, if they have nowhere to go, if they are beaten up at school and don’t feel safe, The Door is there for them.”
“They’re right down the street from where we’re going to have the (Manhattan) event,” she continued. “They now offer services to immigrant children, so they have a legal department working very hard on multiple cases a day. They also have one or two floors where these kids can learn about cooking or computers. It’s a spectacular and inspiring place.”
And does she have inspiring advice for women either in barbering or thinking of getting into barbering?
“Don’t be afraid!” she told me. “You’ve done scarier things in your life than being a barber.”
“Don’t let people get in your head,” she added. “That’s your space, where you get to cheer yourself on. You are already your biggest critic, and if you let people get in your head, you will never succeed.”
“If you see something wrong with your skills, be honest with yourself and take that class or go to that event and ask that person, ‘How do you get your fade so smooth?’ or ‘How do you get your scissor cuts so clean?’”
“Surround yourself with like-minded individuals whether they are men or women because at the end of the day (critics) are not the ones putting money in your pocket. You are going to be the reason why there is money is in your pocket! There’s no stopping if you do that.”
Obviously, there is no stopping Cassie Kurtz.
I hope you SEE and SHARE the entire interview on my YouTube @larrythebarberman. Then head over to ‘Her Chai, His Hair’ for some serious enlightenment, interesting profiles, and beautiful cuts. It’s a valuable web stop for all barbers, women AND men!
Until next time, happy barbering!