Holding up a pair of typical craft scissors, Natalie Marsh SC ’19 smiled and shrugged as she told me her hair cutting tool of choice is a stationary drawer staple. Several students within the 5Cs have adopted hair cutting as a side hobby, delivering everything from trims and layers to undercuts and bangs.
For 5C student stylists, hair cutting seemed to be a hobby that stemmed organically. Marsh, along with other student haircutters Minica Casbara PZ ’21 and Namrata Dev CM ’19, all developed their affinity for hair cutting before coming to college. Dev was put off by a bad haircut when she was about 12 years old, after which she promised herself, “‘I’m never going to the hairdresser again.’” Marsh, on the other hand, found inspiration from her mother, who would cut her bangs for her when she was younger.
Since then, both Dev and Marsh have taken their hair into their own hands, finding additional motivation along the way. Dev began cutting hair in Claremont in hopes of receiving enough tips for a tattoo removal procedure, while Marsh believes that “some things like [hair cutting] are just easy tasks that you can teach yourself in order to save a little money.”
Once, Marsh caught a friend of hers checking himself out in the reflection of the china cabinet at her house saying, “I look like I have a mullet!” Marsh instinctively offered her services, and since then she’s been cutting her friends’ hair.
For Casbara, a passion for art and customer interaction has led her to maintain hair cutting as a hobby. She radiated with pride as she explained what motivated her.
“I like making people feel confident in themselves and their bodies and [making] them feel beautiful,” Casbara said. “When that happens, it’s just a very gratifying feeling.” Dev agreed, commenting that her favourite haircuts are the drastic ones.
Technically, it is illegal to perform haircuts and receive compensation without a cosmetology or barber licence, so both haircutters simply receive tips. Dev receives tips of $5, inspired by the cheap hair cutting prices in her hometown of India, while Casbara generally receives tips of $10 for a full cut and $7 for bangs, trims, or other touch-ups.
“The dorm that I’m in really inspired the idea to cut hair here,” Casbara said of her single room at Pitzer College, where all her hair cutting takes place. “The space I have is perfect because it’s half-carpeted, and the other half is cement, with a sink and a big mirror. So, I just set the chair in front of [that area].”
Marsh has largely adopted a do-it-yourself approach. Like the stationary scissors, her setup is impromptu. She uses tapestries to protect her clients’ clothing and trashbags to cover the floor. While Marsh has cut short hair before, she prefers cutting long hair because she needs less equipment.
In contrast, Casbara finds that short-haired clients usually become her regulars since their style requires more maintenance. Her expertise also includes undercuts, fades, and even eyebrows.
According to Casbara, cutting one’s hair is a significant stylistic personal choice. “You can change up hair any way you want to,” Casbara said. “You can dye it, you can cut it, you can shave it.”
Casbara feels lucky to be the person who helps create that change and have such a good rapport with clients. Many of them leave her makeshift salon not only with a new haircut, but a new friend as well.
“To have people trust me enough to be able to cut their hair, to get them to that stage — I’m honored to be able to do that,” Casbara said.
Student feedback has also been overwhelmingly positive. Of a haircut done by Dev, another student Alice Chen CM ’19 said, “My hair was really long and I was in desperate need of a haircut. … It honestly looked like I went to a salon or something. Very well done; exactly what I wanted.”
For now, both Marsh and Casbara are happy with their skill set and don’t have plans to venture into other types of hair styling. Dev, on the other hand, hopes to take a proper cosmetology course and possibly a hair dyeing course in the future.
For aspiring hair cutters, both Dev and Marsh recommend watching YouTube tutorials and following Instagram pages. Casbara believes in just diving in, scissors-first.
“Don’t be afraid,” Casbara said. “You learn so much when you’re working with different people and their different hair, and I would definitely recommend it.”
Mabel Lui SC ’21 is a media studies and art major from Hong Kong. She previously served as TSL’s managing editor, life and style editor, life and style associate and life and style writer.