Thursday 22nd July 2021 – Vol 001 Edition 00002
Michael (Mick) O’Brien
By Jim Campbell
Early on Monday morning, I made the short journey to Peter Street in Wexford town to chat with Mick O’Brien about the ‘Day in the Life of a Barber’. Peter Street, a small narrow street that runs from St Peter’s Square to South Main Street is where the ‘Snip It Barber Shop’ is located.
Cutting hair is a form of art
From an early age, the Wexford man’s chosen career would have been photography. Back in 1977, at the age of 16, he was offered a job by well-known hairstylist Pat Murphy from the popular ‘Scissors Empire Hairdressing Salon’ which Mick was delighted to accept. Now forty-four years later, he is operating from his barbershop, a dream of every young barber starting today. Talking to the barber I could see the passion he has for the work he does. Describing cutting hair as a form of art, he commented “Jim, cutting hair is a form of art, we can style hair in any way the customer wants”.
“Hygiene is as important as your equipment”
The working day commences when Mick arrives at the barbershop at seven in the morning, the equipment must be checked, making sure every piece is clean and in working order. “Hygiene is as important as your equipment in this business”. Opening a drawer, he pointed to multiples selections of brushes and shavers commenting “A different brush and shaver is used on every customer.
After each customer, you brush off the comb, you wash it and then put it in Barbicide, a special disinfectant for combs, etc”. Pointing to a large jar on the counter, Michael explained “it takes ten minutes to disinfect combs in that jar”. While I am working on one client, the equipment used on the previous client is been cleaned and sterilised.”
“Long before COVID, we had an online booking system”
Once Mick was happy that all was in order, he locked up shop and headed for some breakfast. Returning to the premises at 8.30, just in time to open and welcome the clients. Every client receives thirty minutes.
Talking about the online system, “Long before COVID, we had an online booking system, which is much better than the old way of having people waiting around. You arrive at the time you have booked, and you are attended to immediately. It works well for everyone”.
No one likes waiting around. The good old days where customers were sitting around the back of the shop awaiting their turn. Nearly as bad as a doctor’s waiting room but not quiet.
All types of hairstyle catered for
The business is a family affair; Mick, his two sons Sean and Alan are joined by a fourth member of staff, Dahl. All four work well together, each one knows their job very well and clients get the best of attention. “We cater to all types of hairstyles and cuts. If the customer tells us what they want or bring a photo of their favourite hairstyle, we will cut to that style. Always good to get the barber to take a photo of your hair cut and then the next time we can repeat the same style for you”.
Mick believes that it is very important to take a lunch break. “We are continuously concentrating when cutting hair, so in a busy barbershop you must take your break”. Breaks are there for a reason, taking time out, resting the brain and then you return in the afternoon to meet more customers.
Banter with the customers
When I put the question to Mick about what he liked about his work. “I love working with people and giving them the hairstyle that they want. Meeting people, having a chat, and the bit of banter with the customer are great. We have so many customers coming here every week and it’s great to see them come back. You know then that you are doing a good job.
The shop closes at six in the evening, which is not the end of the day for the barber. Once closed: the shop needs to be cleaned, cash up must be done, a bit of book-keeping, the stock has to be ordered and, other bits and pieces. “I normally finish around seven, what hasn’t been done in the evenings, would have to be done during close on Monday”.
Advice from the barber:
Mick’s advice to anyone wishing to pursue a career in the barber or the hair salon trade is to do a course. “There are many courses out there, complete a course whether it is a long-term or short-term course. Use the course as a stepping stone to an apprenticeship”.
You would have to like working with people. Whatever troubles you have, if any, leave them outside the door when you come to work. Your client comes first and foremost. You must be able to concentrate on your work. “It is great to see a customer leaving with a smile”.
My thanks to Mick, Sean, Alan, Dahl and the customers of Snip It Barbershop for their co-operation.
barber, barbershop, hair, Wexford, Ireland, day, life, apprenticeship, course, scissors, shaver, brushes, cleaner, hygiene, business, hairdresser, hairdressing, salon, Barbicide, combs.
All Images and Originally Text © – All Rights Reserved Jim Campbell 2021
About the author
Jim Campbell is an Irish photographer, freelancer and photojournalist. Campbell has being contemporary photographer for more than two decades.
A native of Wexford town in the south-east of Ireland, Campbell studied photography in the Dublin Institute of Technology before going to work with a newspaper.
Since 1998 he has been working with local and national papers in Ireland and the UK. His work has appeared in publications globally including newspapers, magazines and online publications.
In 2013 Campbell made his first of what would become many trips to the conflict areas of the world. To observe more on Jim’s work vist the link to his website below.