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Welcome to the fresh between the ears podcast. You may have noticed there have been developing sub cultures in men’s style particularly around facial hair (where the clean shaven metrosexual look of the 90s has been replaced with an era of anything goes, with beards & moustaches being extremely popular) & also barbering. You may have noticed that the barber you went to as a kid is very different to the modern day barber shop. Back in the day, the barber shop was an uninspiring place. These days barber shops use booking technology, custom fit outs, shelves filled with grooming gear & an army of very cool, creative people who express their art through sculpting hair.

This podcast is designed to be a collection of minisodes where we explore these topics in detail. If you’re into men’s fashion or barbering then we’re sure to have something for you. Today we have a special episode for you. We sit down with Collette, who runs the Australian Female Barbers Instagram page, whilst working as a barber at The Cutting Edge barber shop in Queensland. She also helps out with the Jack Reed mobile barbershop, which is dedicated to restoring people’s sense of dignity via The Jack Reed Foundation.

We cover all sorts of topics from how barbering has changed over the years, women in barbering & tips for young aspiring barbers coming up through the ranks. We hope you enjoy.

Collette Saunders from Cutting Edge Barbers

BEN: First off, can you tell us how you got into barbering and what it was that interested you to join the industry?

COLLETTE: I’m pretty much an accidental barber, I started in 1989 opening up a barber shop and did my own apprenticeship in that shop. I kind of just fell into it, it was a business decision and I was a single-mum at that time raising three children, working six days a week. In 2011 I semi-retired, moved to WA before coming back to Brisbane again. I am now at the ‘Cutting Edge Barbers’ working three days a week, I love it and wouldn’t give it up for anything. 

BEN: I also see that you are involved with 'Jack Reed’, can you tell us a little bit about what they do and what you do with them?

COLLETTE: I became acquainted with Danielle and Theresa who work with Jack Reed through a page called ‘Australian Female Barbers’, they were looking for someone to come on board to go and do weddings in their mobile barbershop van. I also do charity work with them, cutting hair, they do around 1500 homeless, or at dis-advantage youth haircuts every single year. 

BEN: It looks like a mobile van which has been customised for this purpose, can you tell us how this came to fruition?

COLLETTE: Danielle, who comes from a social work background had this vision, and while she has been barbering for around ten years now her passion for people was still there. She wanted to create a charity where she could do things for people, this charity is evolving more now into education. The vision for the Jack Reed Foundation is not just to complete 1000 haircuts a year, but additionally they have started a ’99 New Beginnings Project’ which is going to be a fitted out shipping container which provides training and apprenticeships for at risk and disadvantaged youths. 

BEN: How did you meet Danielle?

COLLETTE: Through Instagram actually, I did a post for her on Australian Female Barbers and it just went from there. She asked me if I knew anyone willing and available to help out with some barber charity work and I just suggested myself. 

BEN: The Australian Female Barbers Instagram page which you run has just blown up locally, I know a lot of barberettes who follow it throughout Australia. Can you tell me how that started?

COLLETTE: A year ago I just started the page, there is nothing out there in Australia for women specifically. The British association for female barbers which I have a few connections in suggested I start something similar in Australia. I have used the page to promote barbers and run little competitions. It is not aimed to segregate the industry but to promote the little girl down the road in the shop who thinks she is not particularly that good. The girls often draw a lot of inspiration from each other and gain confidence through the page. 

BEN: Barbers when I was a child tended to be a very male dominated industry, the shops weren’t that well kept, the haircut wouldn’t be that great, however in the last couple of years barbershops have just evolved. Do you see the industry evolving to having more females involved?

COLLETTE: When I first opened my shop, over three decades ago I was the only female run barbershop in my town. I was a bit of a novelty in a sense, it was said that I wouldn’t make it. I do see it changing, it is already a lot different than it used to be. You now have barber training courses in which you can receive up to a cert 3. A lady I know who was in leathering, with an eye for detail has decided to join barbering, she travels two hours three days a week to go to MIG to learn. The evolution is across the board, we have little girls coming out of school and joining, a lot of hairdressers are coming across into barbering. The best thing I like is communicating with people all day long, barbering has been a therapy for me really, when you concentrate on your cut the outside world isn’t there anymore. 

BEN: As a business owner I find therapy in my work too, I am a scientist and spend a lot of time in the lab developing products which is very isolating and then I will go out and find myself with slight social anxiety. However, when I am out and about like this weekend visiting hair expo and barber shops I feel happier being more social. Being a barber allows you these social interactions every day you spend in the shop. 

COLLETTE: I agree, being a barber you create your own identity, people come to the shop to see you, they like you they come back for both a good haircut and to further enjoy interactions with your character and personality. I liken it to working on the floor to doing a little show, involvement through the day shows off your personality to all customers. 

BEN: What advice do you have for young people that are thinking about becoming barbers?

COLLETTE: I would advise anyone thinking about it to take the step and jump into barbering but remember to be you, don’t try to be somebody else. Be yourself for the person sitting in the chair in front of you. It is important to focus on the day to day as well as the big picture. It’s a grind, a lot of people drop out, typically in an apprenticeship which is approximately three or four years your biggest dropout rate occurs in second year. That is mainly because they suddenly realise that it is quite tough, you have to be fit and capable mentally and physically to get out on the floor and do your job well. 

BEN: Thank you very much Colette for being on the show, if people want to get a hold of you and help out with the things your doing whats the best way to do that?

COLLETTE: Direct message me on Australian Female Barbers, I am always active (almost to the point of obsession and it is taking over my life).

Here's all the Instagrams for Collette's work in the industry

  1. @australianfemalebarbers
  2. @collettecuthroats
  3. @thecuttingedgebarbers_
  4. @jackereedfoundation | https://www.jackreedbarbershop.com/jack-reed-foundation

Other articles that might interest you:

1.  Fresh Between The Ears Podcast (Ep 01) Lefty's Barber Shop

2.  Fresh Between The Ears Podcast (Ep 02) The Barber Club

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4.  How to trim sculpt and shape your beard

5.  Top 5 dishes every guy should know

6.  Optimise your daily potential

7.  10 Beard Mistakes you Should Avoid

8.  Tips for Patchy Beards

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