On February 5th of 2019, I made an appointment to have a haircut and an interview with Elizabeth Stoutimore of Henniker Barbershop.
Q: Who are you?
A: Heh, that’s an interesting question. I’m still trying to figure that one out hahaha. My name is Elizabeth. What else do you want to know?
Q: What made you want to become a barber?
A: Oh god, it’s like opening a can of worms when people ask me this question, overall I just wanted a job where I can shoot the shit with people, do art projects all day and not have anyone telling me what to do.
Q: What challenges have you faced so far working as a barber?
A: Umm . . . dealing with racists, sexists, and having to kick people out of this shop. Ahh well, I don’t know if that’s really hard for me. Yeah, I would scrap that hahaha. I say the hardest thing is feigning interest in conversations that have no value like the weather. When people want to talk about that, I’d rather zone out and listen to music or have a real conversation.
Q: So basically if a conversation is pretty weak you’ll just vibe with your music and work?
A: Yeah I’d rather vibe with my art. I love connecting with people, like anyone, where I can shoot the shit about anything interesting but it has to be meaningful or else I have to zone out and get lost in my music . . . so I guess trying to stay engaged and focus while thinking and listening.
Q: What made you want to set up here in Henniker and how did the locals react to you?
A: So I originally was going to open up a shop in Manchester, but my previous boss also owned this place and it was actually a vindictive move. I bought this shop out from underneath this guy that was really mean to me. He had paid 50% of it (the barbershop) from my previous boss, but technically it was still owned by him, he sent me up here to essentially help teach this guy and he didn’t wanna listen to me, got really angry at me one day, bullied me and so I called my boss to see if there were loopholes in the contract. They existed, and I usurped [the space] from him. It was really impulsive but . . . on top of the great demographic with the college, and with the townies and just the location, it is honestly a little golden.
Q: Any personal rituals you do before, during, or after work?
A: I’m all about setting, almost feeling like I’m in my apartment, so I like to have candles burning, good music, books around. As far as rituals go, smoking marijuana before and after and sometimes during, but I have my medical card. It helps with my energy, helps calm my anxiety, to stay focused to tap more into the art of cutting.
Q: What’s the most “interesting” haircut you’ve done?
A: Um, I mean I honestly find all of it interesting. I think what I enjoy most sometimes is when people come in with really messed up hair because then it’s a challenge to try to see how you can create a great haircut off a palette that’s unpredictable and you know, just like more difficult. Right? I like doing that and dealing with really tough hair textures. A lot of those people never had like a really good haircut. I like the challenge of that. It’s a blast. But then just any really trendy haircuts are fun to do.
Q: What type of experiences have you had with your customers?
A: I think a lot of people come in here just for an escape. Talk sports, drink beer, and have a good time. And then some people want to dive into an existential dilemma with me and talk philosophy. Then you have people who are experiencing a death that come in going through difficult times because a lot of people get haircuts for those things. So really, I enjoy the personal connection that can come out of it, that’s why a lot of my clients are friends and family. I just love people and human connection. Here we get super real, silly, and inappropriate. We created that environment here intentionally. I think it’s an extension of my personality as well as what I need to do, where people are comfortable to just talk and be real outside of their home and work.
Q: What is the one thing you want to show people when they walk into their shop?
A: I just want them to smell marijuana and hear good music; no, haha, I think just a sense of trust in our cutting. Usually, they walk in and we’re in the middle of hair cuts and I think it should be really evident that we know what we’re doing. So when they sit in a chair they’re confident. For us to do our best work, typically people need to say just do your thing cause we get hair and head shape. So when people watch you that’s the first thing they see as well, our maneuvering with our tools with finesse and confidence in what we do. I think that’s the number one thing to do.
Q: Any plans for the future for your business?
A: Definitely, plans for designs, stuff like that, marketing up my game in terms of promoting and apparel, all that jazz. So mostly just projects and things that I’ve sort of had to put aside longer than I liked to.
Q: Pet peeve as a barber?
A: Grown adults who move their head a lot and can’t sit still. For us, it’s like an art project trying to have the best range of motion to do your work. When people are constantly asking, “Oh are you going to cut the top?” like 15 minutes into the haircut. Basically, people trying to rush us and trying to tell us how to do our craft.
Q: What should people know about this job that they don’t?
A: Our job is incredibly physically demanding. So when we have people come in and we’ve been cutting for nine hours without a break, without eating, and then you have someone come in and be like, “Well, I have a wedding in the morning!” and we say, I’m so sorry man, I’m booked out and they slam the door. That pisses me off because they get a lunch break and they sit on their ass and we’ll cut for 10 hours without stopping. We enjoy it and we won’t complain, but to have people be rude, it’s just stupid.
Q: Do you feel you’re in step with the right direction of your life?
A: My day-to-day life is going to be to live in a way that I enjoy it, you know? I enjoy this craft so much and I found being myself to be the path to success, it draws the right people in. So I’m not trying to be a machine that cuts hair. Now that I’ve been in the barbershop I can’t ever imagine me outside of it. It’s just this whole world, like a subculture, super cool tight-knit community. I get to work and I have a blast every day and I don’t think a lot of people could say that about their lives. So I think I’m exactly where I want to be. The coolest thing about this job is it allows for a lot of time to explore other interests as well. So I can still take classes and study German. I can still invest my time in other interests because of this job and not writing law reports.