If you walk into a barbershop in the Fargo-Moorhead area of North Dakota there’s a good chance your barber will be female. Mary Cannon owns Moler Barber College in Fargo and has been a barber for almost 30 years. When she first started, men would come into her shop and ask for a male barber. In once incident, it took a 15-minute conversation to convince a man after that she was well equipped to cut his hair. Once he was convinced and had his haircut, he told Cannon it was the best haircut he’d ever received.
Barbering has been a male-dominated profession for about 6,000 years. In its current and most recognizable form (white and red pole outside, razors, etc), barbering has been around since the time the Barbers Protective Union was founded in 1886. Women have been making their rounds in the barbering world in significant numbers since the mid-1980s, and now account for a full 50 percent of barber students and practicing barbers across the US.
Cassandra Stevenson did her apprenticeship with Cannon because she preferred the simpler cuts that men sport rather than the detailed cuts women ask for. She adds that though the cuts are simpler, it does not mean that they are any easier, “It’s not a cookie-cutter field. You have to see the hair, feel it. Know which direction it’s going to go when you lie it down.”
In the Fargo area, Cannon explains that some men still have difficulty accepting that a woman has what it takes to cut their hair. However, Cannon said that it’s becoming almost unheard of anymore for male customers to tell her that they will wait for a male barber. Instead, male clients more often than not give her a chance, and end up very glad that they did.