Anna Elliott our Cover Girl Female Barber
Anna Elliot gets put on the ‘Hotspot’ with Editor Ruby
Q. What or who Influenced you to enter the Hair Industry? Have you always been a Barber or did you train as a hairdresser?
A. After uni, I was at a bit of a loss of what to do with my future. My Art degree afforded me the security of an education but left me with little knowledge of myself or where I was heading. Having had an interest in hairdressing from a young age, and a best friend who was always eager to give me any haircut imaginable, I decided this was the journey I wanted to take. My family and my partner were all living in the US at the time so it only seemed logical to get my education there. I enrolled at the Aveda Institute in New York and began to learn the skills I needed for a career in hairdressing. I had visions of working on photo shoots and doing hair for runway shows, that is, until I learned how much work was involved and how little patience I had for that side of things. So, I finished my time in NYC with a basic understanding of hair but no knowledge of the industry or what would be required to survive in it, then I discovered barbering.
Q. You’re from Aberdeen In Scotland, U.K. yet you run a successful Barbershop In Shanghai, China, how did that happen?
A. My partner got a job offer in China in 2012. We were living in Glasgow at the time. She is a swimming coach and we both saw an amazing opportunity to travel, neither of us had ever been to Shanghai before but I had an old high school friend living here at the time who encouraged us to come and ensured us both that we would love it and my sister was also living in Hong Kong which made me feel secure knowing I had family close by. As there were no modern barbershops, at the time, and the local places wouldn’t be able to hire me due to visa regulations, I started working at an Italian owned salon. I worked there for a little over a year and, even though I had my visa, I was working 60hrs a week and earning less than £400p/m which just was not sustainable.
Q. How long have you been In China? How fluent are you? Did you find the language difficult to learn?
A. I’ve been in Shanghai for 8yrs now. My ‘barber’ Chinese is not bad so I rarely need help with translation for what customers want, but that’s about as far as it goes! It’s a very hard language to pick-up so it’s an ongoing battle. My biggest issue is communication with my staff but thankfully we have a great general manager who helps me a lot with that.
Q. Clients at first glance seeing a “Female barber” may want to deny your services. It’s very unfortunate but it happens, this is because men are used to going to other men for haircuts.
What have you done In your career to break that mold?
A. I think being the boss makes a big difference to how people perceive me here in China. Barbershops are still new here and generally most hairdressers are men, unlike the west. So for a lot of my customers, they are actually happy for me to cut their hair as its an experience many haven’t had before. We also have a big mix of local and foreign clientele and the foreigners just enjoy a bit of banter so never an issue there.
Q. What do you think about gender neutral pricing?
A. We have gender neutral pricing in our shop. In the beginning we openly said we did women’s haircuts but at the time, 6yrs ago, Barbershops were relatively unknown so we ran into some issues with women with long hair demanding blow drys and trims, which we just weren’t prepared to do. As we were a fairly new business, we wanted to maintain our presence as a Barbershop so we actually stopped cutting women’s hair for about 3-4yrs. I would cut some friends hair after hours which is actually where the idea for Lez Cut Club came about.
Q. You have a big LGBTQ presence at your shop, Docs Barbershop where you have a club named ‘Lez Cut Club’, tell us about this and what Inspired you to start this club?
A. Having been so stubborn about being a male barbershop for so long, I really wanted to bring women and queers back in to the shop but in a way that would avoid any hiccups as to what kind of haircuts we offered and to whom. In Shanghai, there is a salon on every street corner so once again, I wanted to make sure to attract the right type of customer….hence the name! I wanted a place where my fellow queers could get a good barber cut. I know myself how frustrating it can be when someone just doesn’t get the sort of cut you are looking for especially as a queer woman. So it actually grew quite naturally from there and we have a nice mix of queers and allies. My wife also hosts a queer club night called HTTP so we try to combine the two when we can and get people coming to both even if its just to hang out. It’s also just a small way to try and build a sense of community.
Q. How do others you work with react to the LGBTQ following you have?
A. As a foreigner, I’m already a little unusual to many of my staff so, thankfully, they just go with the flow!
Q. Why do you feel men push their profiles across social media and In the Industry more than women do?
A. In a lot of our Wahl training sessions we have focused on this issue. I think that men are just used to having a louder voice in most things so it comes naturally to many of them even in social media. I have had some honest conversations with some of our most vocal members of our Wahl China team and encouraged them to use their voice to help push the women in their lives to the front, instead of just pushing themselves. As women, I think it also comes naturally to us to let men step in front of us and its something we could all work on to let our voices be heard.
Q. You’re a WAHL Educator and have judged many events but why do you think women are still not as confident as men In entering competitions?
A. For me personally, I have never entered a competition because I am a team player and I believe many women are when it comes to the workplace. Men are often given opportunities that they will just go for even if they know they are maybe not qualified or ready, however women, we tend to hold back and reflect on things a little more, which isn’t always a bad thing.
Q. What’s your current tool line up?
A. As a Wahl Educator I am #allwahl! My go-to’s are Wahl Senior, Wahl 100yr, Wahl cordless Detailer Li and my Mizutani 6” Schorem scissors.
Q. If you could recommend 3 Lady Barbers worldwide to follow for tutorials, who would they be and why?
A. Kristi Faulkner (@kristiwhalclippers) my fellow Wahl Educator on the US team. We met at Salon International in London in 2018 and she came to Shanghai later that year and spent about a month on the road giving classes all across China. When it comes to clippers, this woman knows her shit! And she’s also just an amazing, kind and inspirational creature to be around.
@barber_linshuyun is a barber from Zongshan in China. Her cuts are flawless and a nice mix of modern and old school. She works in a small shop and doesn’t have a huge following but I really love what she is doing.
Magda Hairarri @lesbianhaircuts is the owner of Hairarri Barbershop in NYC which is a gender neutral shop. As a fellow owner, I really admire her sense of humor and the jovial way she runs such a successful business. I met her at her shop on my last trip to NYC and it’s such a fun place to go! They are soon to be opening one in LA with another female barber friend @hairbysogbg.
Q. What’s your go to Clipper and why?
A. My go to is always Wahl Senior for on-scalp fading/blending or Wahl 100yr for texture and off-scalp blending. I love the power and weight that these two have and they are just always the ones I reach for.
Q. What’s your favourite haircut and why?
A. I do love me a mullet! I love the diversity you can have with them and the different types of people that wear them. Even though they are becoming more mainstream, I still love cutting one.
Q. What advice would you give a Female looking at starting a career In barbering?
A. Educate yourself because knowledge truly is power but practice does make….better. I remember when I was new to the industry, there were MANY failed job interviews and my lack of experience really weighed on me and So instead of aiming for the high end salons that I thought I wanted to work in, I started applying to barbershops or salons that also provided barber services and it was here that I realized what I wanted to do. I was lucky enough to find the right shop with the right people who were willing to help me and I learned as much as I could from each of them but I would also say that it’s important to know when it’s time to move on and push yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s scary but 100% worth it in the long run.
Q. How many female clients do you have?
A. I probably only have about 5-10 female clients. Most of the women who come to Lez Cut Club know that they can come see me any time of the week but many of them just prefer to come to cut club! We often have my friend DJ Dopey playing and drinks flowing so always makes for a bit of a party.
Q. Anna, we all know about Coronavirus and that It originated In China and it seemed as a country It was dealt with quite effectively. How did the virus affect the people? Your business? And you? How are things now?
A. Thankfully, here in Shanghai anyways, we were only forced to lockdown for about 3wks. The lockdown was strict in the sense that literally everything except grocery stores and pharmacies were closed and all incoming travelers were put into immediate hotel quarantine or observed quarantine at home. The government did not mess around! As a result, they got quick control over the situation and things slowly started to return to normal. As a whole, most people still wear masks and are still required on public transport and all of our staff continue to wear them in the shops. We don’t require the customers to wear them but they are required to present a Green Health QR code which is provided by and regularly updated by the government through your phone and shows that you have not traveled to a high risk area within the last 14days. Despite knowing that we are essentially ‘locked’ in the country with no likelihood of seeing family even within the next year, I am grateful at how seriously the government and the general public have taken this pandemic. Business has been slow to build back up so I am happy that we can continue to stay open and we just have to try to bounce back as quickly as possible.
Q. Do you ever think you will return to the U.K.?
A. My parter and I would definitely like to return to see friends and family soon but I think it’s almost impossible to plan anything at the moment! So, for now, who knows what the future will bring.
Q. What message do you have for the readers of ZEROGapped?
A. Just that I hope you are all staying safe and being kind to one another. Oh, and support small businesses!
It was great to speak with Anna, truly a very talented Barber, Inspirational and ZEROGapped would like to thank you on behalf of our readers and wish you every success for the future.
FB: Anna ElliottIG: @annalooelliott