The young, cool and creative 20-somethings that are giving the barber trade a fresh look

The young, cool and creative 20-somethings that are giving the barber trade a fresh look
PHOTO: Facebook/The 'A' Street Barber Shop

​If your image of a barber still evokes the picture of the friendly neighbourhood uncle - it's about time you venture out a little.

Aside from an impressive selection of spiffy barbershops that have set up businesses here in recent years, Singapore has also got some pretty cool millennial and Gen-Z barbers: They're young and passionate about what they do, with a snazzy sense of style and include a handful of female practitioners too.

They've also got a keen sense of understanding about the trade, and explain that the experience of visiting a barber isn't like going to your regular hair stylist.

"A barber has a set of rules to follow and specific services that we offer such as haircuts, beard sculpting and hot towel shaves," says Faz Ismail, founder of DeepCuts barbershop at Kampong Bahru Road.

"Hairdressers' services can go down a long list, and usually they tend to be more 'creative' and less textbook."

"The overall haircut from a barber is usually sharper and cleaner, and the haircut by a hairdresser is softer and more moveable," adds Alif Sianipar, a barber apprentice at Telok Ayer Street establishment, Rogue and Beyond.

And no - visiting a barber isn't just for men.

"There are women who visit barber shops. Those who come usually have hair above the shoulders or shorter," says Sianipar.

Here are the young barbers to sit up and take notice of.

The young, cool and Creative 20-Somethings that are giving the barber trade a fresh look

Bella Chow

Who: Bella Chow, 22. An apprentice barber for the past eight months, Chow used to work with Queenswealth barbershop, and is now apprenticing with Grey Manor on her off days from her full-time job.

The talented artist also occasionally works on graphic design projects. Follow her on IG at @kyllla.b.

How it all started: "I had no prior experience whatsoever and learnt barbering from the owner of the last barbershop I worked with. I didn't practice on wigs − my first cut was on a friend's friend."

Why she became a barber: "I've always been someone who enjoys and appreciates all kinds of crafts so when the opportunity came to be a barber, I said yes without any hesitation. At that point, I really needed a change in my life too so it was perfect."

Her sense of style: "I would say chic and sultry with a whole lot of black. I rarely wear colours and on the rare occasion that I do, it's white, blue or green. My signature outfit would be black with an amazing pair of boots."

Her signature haircuts: "A zero or 0.5 taper fade."

What people do not know about the trade: "As much as it is fun, it is also very tiring because you are on your feet most times, especially where you have back-to-back clients Also, it's not as easy as it looks.

"I came into this industry thinking I'll get the hang of it fairly quickly but to be honest, it took me a while."

You always have to think on your feet - like how to rectify the situation quickly if any unfortunate mishaps happens."

Alif Sianipar

Who: Alif Sianipar, 23, a full-time apprentice barber with Rogue and Beyond for the past six months. Follow him on IG at @alifsianipar.

How it all started: "I started learning barbering through YouTube around seven years ago, and right now I'm under my boss' guidance in the shop."

Why he became a barber: "I'm obsessed about hair, like it's texture and style. So by cutting hair, I'm creating something that'll benefit someone else (by giving them a good haircut) and fulfil my interest.

As a barber, I'm constantly learning about hair and the technicalities of a haircut. Also, I view haircuts as sculpting a piece of artwork, with every head being a different set of canvas."

His sense of style: "My style gravitates towards a '70s-esque look. I always try to wear something that'll elongate my legs and make me look leaner in general."

"Style from the decade usually involves a beautiful pair of trousers that fits nicely. The most important thing to me is how functional the whole outfit is as I move a lot throughout the day and usually the barbershop is cold."

His signature haircuts: "At Rogue and Beyond, our signature haircuts are a crop and side part. For crop, think Brad Pitt when he had short, textured, messy and effortless hair. For side parts, we follow the natural parting of the hair."

What people do not know about the trade: "We as barbers do men's medium to long hair lengths too. Secondly, the hair industry is pretty small in Singapore, especially barbering. Lastly, we know a lot about our regular clients more than even their close ones."

Dzakirin Zharfan

Who: This 21-year-old is a part-time barber with DeepCuts. Dzak, as he is more commonly known by, is also a full-time Communication Design student at Temasek Polytechnic and models under Misc Management and does stage branding for musicians on the side.⁠ Follow him on IG at @trumanhitam.

How it all started: "I've been cutting hair since I was 14. One of my friends brought a clipper to my place asking for a trim. Eventually, there were about five shirtless boys in a closet-sized utility toilet not knowing what to do with the clipper".

"For some reason, I stepped in and said I knew how to cut hair (when I didn't) and went on to butcher the boy's hair. It didn't look too bad, to be frank, but the thrill kept me going."

When I was 16, I went to the regular uncle that used to cut my hair and asked whether he could take me under his wing as his apprentice, and he didn't hesitate to help me out".

ALSO READ: Cheap haircuts Singapore - 10 best barber shops & hair salons for no-frills haircuts

"I did that until I was 18 when I got offered a position at The 'A' Street barbershop which was located at Haji Lane at that time. I picked up a couple of things from there and now I'm in the journey of mastering the craft under Dr Faz at DeepCuts."

Why he became a barber: "Barbering bridges people together. I've met so many people from different walks of life. Becoming a barber can literally take you around the world while being stationary behind the chair".

"Recently, I had the pleasure of serving a patron who's been to the craziest parts of Indonesia and told me that the people in a certain town hunt for witches. How insane is that!"

I also get moments where people start sharing emotional things with me and I think that alone is special. To be vulnerable with someone you just met for that hour. I can go on and on about how sentimental this craft is to me along with the memories and people I've met along the way."

His sense of style: "I guess it's a mixture of my personality and the content I excessively take in and enjoy. At the moment I'm extremely into the whole flamboyant glam rock era. I've also never been the 'manliest' man."

His signature haircuts: "One of the haircuts that I have been trying to master is the Flattop Boogie (please if you're going to shave your head let me try to do this on you first)."

"But most of my friends or patrons come to me asking for a mullet - the possibilities of the mullet are endless."

What people do not know about the trade: "Mastering the craft is extremely tough. I've been in the game for a while and honestly, I'm still not always content with my haircuts."

"Lastly, there are a lot more haircuts out there than what you may know. Most barbers would love to change it up every now and then instead of the constant crowds coming in asking for a side part or a high fade."

Negar Iwana

Who: This 21-year-old has been a barber at Queenswealth for the last two years. Iwana is also a full-time Lasalle College Of The Arts student studying design communication and a part-time bartender at the newly opened cocktail bar Foxtail. Follow her on IG at @_negrette_.

How it all started: "I started off as a receptionist at Renaissance Barber more than three years ago. I very quickly got bored sitting behind the table so I suggested that I learn how to barber and started an apprenticeship under the style director at that time."

Why she became a barber: "I'm a risk-taker and like to experiment. I like putting my creativity into my haircuts. It's another kind of pleasure being able to make my clients happy and confident."

"And when I get to do the final touch-ups and style their hair, it's the best satisfaction ever. Besides, being a female barber in Singapore is so cool."

Her sense of style: "My style really depends on my mood. Some days I like to dress like a boy, some days I dress to impress boys. Mostly I take my fashion inspiration from Katie Holmes in Dawson's Creek."

Her signature haircuts: "My personal favourites would be a taper fade, long trim and possibly a mullet."

What people do not know about the trade: "Some customers tend to bend their head forward or sideways thinking that they're making the barber's job easier."

"But they're wrong, it's harder for us. And barbers cannot be hand models because we have cuts and scars all over our hands, and get splinters almost every day."

Faz Ismail

Who: Also known as Dr Faz, the 29-year-old founded DeepCuts more than seven years ago after he left a job in chemical engineering. Follow him at @fazisml.

How it all started: "I was inspired by subcultures from the '20s to the '80s, and a barbershop named Schorem which originated from Rotterdam in The Netherlands."

"I picked up barbering while watching DVDs and of course YouTube. I eventually got myself accredited by their barber school, called The Old School Barber Academy by Schorem."

His sense of style: "Only classics, nothing less. The look of my shop and my work speaks for itself."

What are some of your signature haircuts for customers: "An executive contour, pompadour and scumbag boogie."

What people do not know about the trade: "Barbers are the 'cheapest' psychologists."

This article was first published in Female.

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