The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday June 4th

Column: The buzz around student barbers

Kate Rice (right) is one of many UNC students who have had their hair cut by a friend. Photo courtesy of Kate Rice.
Buy Photos Kate Rice (right) is one of many UNC students who have had their hair cut by a friend. Photo courtesy of Kate Rice.

The line between a good haircut and a bad one is often as thin as the razor making the cut. So why do students entrust their hair to other students? 

This is the question which made me post to the UNC 2020 Facebook page looking for students who had participated in the phenomena.

The last time I checked, my post had 125 comments, most of which were students tagging other students. Some were prefaced by “remember that time” or “time for round 2.”

Luckily, some took it upon themselves to message me. One of the first was Selena Zhang, a senior computer science major. Zhang cuts hair, specifically men’s hair.

It started when she was 14 years old. She had a little brother who was 4 years old at the time, and her mom and grandma were giving him haircuts. In her words, because I don’t speak ill of grandmothers, “they were giving him horrible haircuts.” So, she said, “I’ll do it.” 

And she did.

The first time Zhang cut hair in college, it wasn’t with buzzers or haircutting scissors but with a pair of paper scissors they had in her suite at the time. It happened on a balcony at Hinton James and was a complete mess.

Zhang said she liked to cut hair because of the interaction she could have with the people whose hair she cut.

“Part of it is cool, I’m very artsy, and cutting hair is like art, but mainly it’s just getting to know people,” Zhang said. “Putting in the time and getting to know a person, I really get to form a relationship with the person whose hair I’m cutting because of the time we spend together.”

Zhang used the person who tagged her in my post as an example.

“Like the guy who tagged me, I just knew him through mutual friends,” Zhang said. “But then I got to know him a lot better. He studied abroad in China this past summer, and we mostly talked in Chinese while I cut his hair. It’s really the human interaction I enjoy.”

The other haircutter I talked to was Griffin Hazzard, a sophomore political science major who specialized in what he described as “Andrew Garfield” haircuts.

Hazzard said the first haircut he gave happened with very little planning.

“We were hanging out in Granville, and we were gonna go out that night and he said his hair looked mangy,” Hazzard said. “His roommate had these buzzers because he’s a cross-country runner. And he asked if I could clean (his hair) up, and I said, 'Yeah.'"

Hazzard only gives haircuts to his one friend but wasn’t opposed to giving other people haircuts.

Zhang and Hazzard helped me answer half of my question, but the other half was still unanswered — why students let other students cut their hair.

To answer this part of the question, I talked with two students: Maria Ochoa, a junior, and Kate Rice, a sophomore, both of whom have had their hair cut while at UNC by other students.

Ochoa’s story is from her first year at UNC. She said it was around this time, two years ago, during midterms when she had her hair cut.

“I felt like everything was out of control," Ochoa said. "And I thought, 'I can control my hair.' So (her roommate) was in her bed watching Netflix, and I was like, 'Sam, do you want to cut my hair right now?' and she was like, 'Really?' and I said, 'Yes.'”

They spent the next 30 minutes looking up haircuts on Pinterest before starting.

“Every time she would cut it, and we would be like, 'A little shorter, a little shorter,'” Ochoa said. “And she would mess it up, and we would have to go a little higher. So, we looked up on YouTube how to make it look like an actual haircut.”

When they finished, Ochoa said she was happy with the result. Her mom, however, was not.

Rice’s foray into having her hair cut by other students was more recent, just a weeks ago. She had been contemplating a change for a while but hadn’t considered going to an actual shop to get it done.

Then she decided she was going to do it herself. She biked to CVS and bought some hair dye. Rice was preparing to start when her suitemates intervened saying they would help her.

With her suitemates’ help, Rice put her hair in a ponytail and cut it (Zhang said cutting a ponytail is a very satisfying feeling).

Once cut, they then dyed her hair in the suite bathroom. Rice said one girl cut, one girl dyed and one girl filmed it.

After talking with these students, it seems the decision to have a friend or fellow student cut your hair is often times a spontaneous decision, but the decision to keep cutting hair is because it allows students a level of self-expression.


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