By Josephine Agbonkhese & Anino Aganbi
WHEN you think hairdressing, you naturally think women and nothing more. But that isn’t the case anymore as more and more young men continue to give female hairstylists a real run for their money. A visit by Woman’s Own to major hairdressing hubs around town proved this—and we’re sure you’ve got proofs in your neighbourhood too.
Interestingly, these men do not require luxurious shops to steal the hearts of customers. With a make-shift salon of any kind, any female hairstylist who has got a shop near one of them either folds up in no time or branches into other trades to stay relevant and earn a living.
It however still remains a mystery how men would become better at dressing a woman’s hair—a business that was traditionally female, than women themselves.
Attention to detail: But are they (men) actually better at hair making or is it all in the mind of women who are perhaps thrilled about having the opposite sex touch their hair? Why do customers swarm around them like bees to honey? “I think they pay more attention to detail.
That’s where they beat female hairstylists. Women around me prefer them too. If you go to prominent hairstylists in Surulere in Lagos for example, you’ll find that they are owned by men and also attract A-list artists and celebrities from across the country. In fact, one of the best hairstylists in Nigeria today is Ugo Igbokwe and he is male.
“One thing you also notice when you visit these salons owned by men is that women would prefer to queue up and wait for their male workers to make their hair rather than let their female workers who are probably less busy, make their hair,” said Christie Anyanwu, a Lagos-based professional who resides in Surulere, an area of Lagos renowned for hair-making. Mubo Alade, a front-desk officer in a telecommunication firm in Lagos, also finds male hairdressers very intriguing.
“Sometimes when they fix your hair, you’ll think you’re wearing a wig because the weavings underneath isn’t pronounced. And then when you pack the hair upward, the whole thing just looks real. I think these guys have studied hair making and seen where female hairstylists are missing it.”
To Alade, the fact that these stylists are also of the opposite sex brings in a whole lot of advantages because “They imagine you’re a girlfriend whom they want to look beautiful and then they pick the best style and colour that suits your face. They tell you if a centre or side part will suit you better or not. In fact, they are practically more patient than female hairstylists.”
Like a couple of other women spoken with, Alade confessed that she went all the way to find a male stylist when the female stylist making her hair just could not stop getting on her nerves.
“People kept asking if it was a carpenter that did my hair. Her finishing was nothing to write home about. So, I decided to try a male stylist I came across in my area and I was wowed. It wasn’t just the fact that it was a guy who did my hair; he did the finishing in a way that by the time he was through with the closing, you would have thought I was wearing a wig if I didn’t tell you it was weave-on,” Alade said.
In all fairness, while most women spoken with spoke in favour of male stylists, we however ran into a young lady with a different opinion.
“There’s nothing special about them,” Margaret Odia, a banker by profession, averred. Her verdict, we soon gathered, was borne of the fact that she was grossly disappointed the two times she patronized one. Odia recounted: “This guy has a very beautiful shop close to my area and behaves as if he is a thorough professional. I actually had not met any of his clients before giving him a try.
But you need to see the hair he made for me. The stitches were already falling out in less than one week and the centre part was looking very wide.” Odia’s grouse was worsened by the fact that she had to pay twice the amount she spends usually on fixing her hair.
Pricing and male hairstylists: Without denying that they indeed charge higher service fees, Abuja-based male hairdresser, Adebowale Babatunde, popularly known as Wale Swagger, said that it is because women could be very problematic.
“We generally spend more time making each hair. Of course also, you know women will always want to dictate until they get exactly what they want. If we do not charge higher, we might lose the monetary value of hours put into making each hair. So, that’s how we make up for the extra attention and care we give to clients,” he told Woman’s Own in a telephone interview.
Also, the operator of one of the most popular hair salons in Ikotun area of Lagos, Bright Dread Hair Salon, who simply identified himself as Bright, attributed the high fee to the quality of their work. “We take our time. Beside, female hair dressers can hardly do what we do. When you talk of dread locks; whether natural or artificial, we beat them to that. Talk about short hair fixing and styling, we are by far different.
“We know what fits every face and we are also more accommodating. Unlike most female hairdressers who do not even care about building good relationships with or respecting their customers,” Bright boasted. True to his claim, Bukola, one of the female stylists working in Bright’s salon, said her experience with her former boss (female) was nothing compared with the months spent with her current male boss.
Bukola said: “I’ve noticed that male hairdressers strive to be trendy and perfect. They don’t stick to old school hairstyles like their female counterparts do.”
What makes them tick?
As Wale Swagger puts it, the ability to listen to customers and give them what they want is what makes him and his male colleagues special.
“We always follow trends to know exactly what is reigning and how to perfectly make them. Some customers come with styles they found on Instagram and Google, and they are always in search of a stylist who can give them exactly the same styles. I always try to do my best by making sure I follow trends as well.
“Another thing is that we tend to be more careful than most female hairstylists. For instance, if you come and tell me to make you the hairstyle called Rihanna, I will sit you down and show you the different types of Rihanna: Take a bow, Shut up and drive, Live your life, etc. If you are still confused, we Google the different styles and search until you find exactly what you want,” he explained.
Swagger who told Woman’s Own he never learned hair-making but only picked up the skill when he helped to manage his sister’s salon in Lagos, had worked in Ikeja in Lagos before relocating his trade to the Federal Capital Territory. Another male hairdresser who spoke from Benin City in Edo State, Prosper Amahwu, said he simply brings to play his natural love for beautiful things.
“Because I am a guy, I like good things. So when I see a girl who doesn’t look good, I don’t like it. I want her to look good, so, I give my best. Every day, I also try to improve on my techniques to be able to compete favourably in the field.
“I’m most particular about finishing. Some people do not understand how to close weave-ons properly. Thus, I focus on that part because it’s what people see first. I make sure that whenever I am closing a parting, I give it all of my time. I look at it as if I am the one who wants to wear that look. As a result, even when I am not around, you find customers waiting for me to come back,” Amahwu.
But things aren’t all rosy with male hair dressers; many of them suffer sexual harassments and are perceived as gay in extreme cases. It’s actually very common to hear cases of customers making sexual advances at them. Swagger however explained that such challenges depend largely on the location of one’s business and crop of customers.
“When I was in Ikeja, most of my customers were runs girls (commercial sex workers). Some of them can entice you when they don’t have money to pay for their hair. But if you have self-control, you can easily tell them to come pay when they have the money. Doing pedicure is even worse. You must have self-control to be able to ignore when a woman’s laps are exposed in the course of you treating her feet. I cannot mix work with pleasure. So, I just had to develop a thick skin.