Barber industry’s growing toxicity mirrors the NBA’s troubles

Tampering and disrespect wide scale in the business, barbers say

Barbershop scene
Karl Adriene Boco, cutting hair for a client, says he finds the barbering business similar to how the NBA is seen in the media. (Photo courtesy Karl Adriane Boco) 

The barber industry is evolving every day like its athletic counterpart, the NBA, at least in terms of a developing toxicity, some barbers say.

“The barbershop is like the NBA,” says Karl Adriane Boco, a professional barber and Marca College graduate, “When you’ve been in the business, you’ll see how similar it is to how the NBA is being displayed on the media.”

Barbers at various shops have complained about inconsistent payment and with owners making the them stay overtime even when there are known events happening after their scheduled time, and with behind-the-scenes influence and pricing.

NBA players similarly have drama outside and inside their work with disagreements between players, management and contracts.

In contrast, barbers don’t have to worry about being nitpicked by every little thing that they do, as basketball players do.

Barbers upset over late pay

Boco says a combination of wages and unprofessionalism from shops is one of the main things that creates a toxic environment.

Barbers get upset when they aren’t paid on time and it’s all on the owners for not paying them when the paycheque is due, he says.

For new barbers it’s difficult if the shop doesn’t see much traffic if they are paid on commission or rent a chair.

“Some barbers can go a whole day without cutting a single person’s head,” Boco said.

In contrast to the NBA, it’s the two-way contracts that have the most risk in terms of pay for players. Two-way contracts are partially guaranteed making it high risk for the players and creates a mentality of whether or not they’ll have a job or not for their next paycheque cycle.

Disrespectful environment charged

Another thing that makes barbers frustrated about their work environment is the lack of respect.

Professional barber, Dave Jethro Adriano expresses that “judgmental barbers are something else.” When he cuts a client’s hair and wants it a certain way, he hears “I wouldn’t get that if I were you bro” from other laughing barbers. 

“The disrespect also doesn’t just happen towards clients, it also can go towards co-workers,” Adriano said. “Sometimes other barbers will just take your equipment without asking and it will always be from someone you barely know.”

It may seem the toxicity is only coming from the barbers and owners, but Adriano and Boco say that customers play a factor as well. The biggest toxic traits that are displayed by customers are the no-shows and latecomers.

Boco says they fail to remember that the barbers have schedules. It not only affects the barber but it can also affect fellow customers who have to wait longer after the client that is late and creates a whole series of inconveniences.

“Coming over 10 minutes late may cause cancellation of their appointment to avoid the next client’s appointment being delayed,” he said. “But the cancellation creates an unfortunate event for us because we could be losing money and they don’t get a haircut. It’s a lose-lose situation.”

The NBA also can be very disrespectful and has been more disrespectful this 2023-2024 season. Whether its fights on the court like between the Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves, or off the court like Daryl Morey and James Harden.

Fans can also contribute to a disrespectful environment by booing a player for leaving their team, with Kawhi Leonard being boo’d for leaving over five years ago, or chanting “Refs you suck,” towards referees if a bad foul call is made.

Tampering accused

Something that isn’t very known in the industry that makes it similar to the NBA is tampering. Tampering means that someone is sneakily trying to influence someone else’s actions.

In the NBA, reports happen a lot about star players being tampered with by other stars or other representatives from other teams. Some of the biggest stars, are Anthony Davis, LeBron James and even Kyle Lowry. In the barber industry, it happens all the time.

Barbers who are already employed or renting at barbershops will often receive direct messages on their social media platforms from owners or managers from different shops.

“It often starts with barbershops complimenting our work,” Boco said. “But then they start promoting themselves and try and show us what type of opportunities they have.”

Barbers don’t deny that it works sometimes, but it does create issues when contracts are involved. 

When barbers wish to move on from the place they are contractually tied to, a buyout or an agreement has to be made. If not, the owners of the shop can fine the barber for not completing their contract. This can also prevent the barber from working at a new shop for 90 days.

Cost of fades, tapers and lineups

Pricing of haircuts is determined by the barbers and sometimes the shop owners. In most barbershops, the three main services are fades, tapers and lineups. Making an appointment for a specific cut will help make the process easier for the barber and client to get mutual understanding.

The problem lies in the pricing. It can range from $45 to $60. Compared to 5 years ago, most places cut hair for only $20. Now, barbers can be known to charge for over $80 a haircut. 

“Compared to what I used to pay, it has gotten ridiculous,” says Jireh Pellazar, a customer who has been to various different shops. “Since the raising in pricing, I started to learn how to cut my own hair.”

Boco says that barbers even change the prices depending on the client’s status.

“Some barbers who are known on social media charge celebrities way more than normal,” Boco said. “I’ve seen some charge celebrities over $100. Even as a barber, I wouldn’t even pay over $80.”

For the NBA, players have different ideas of their on value which creates conflict when dealing with their contracts.

Players get upset if they become under valued or feel like they are under paid or if the team is not liking what is going on with the team. This is currently happening with Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson as both team and player have different ideas of what their paycheque looks like.

Easy fixes proposed

Adriano says that it’ll have to start with baby steps. Barbers have to come together in their own shops and get along and respect one another. Boco says owners will have to be involved more by being on the floor, getting to know their employees and interacting with clients more. Pellazar says customers have to play their part by being on time.

All three people agree that it can be fixed very easily, and for some barbershops, it’s not always a problem. However, the industry as a whole has to acknowledge that it is an ongoing problem first and start those steps.

About this article

Posted: Nov 13 2023 11:25 am
Filed under: News