Behind the Fade : Alvin Lam
“Similar to conceptual art, cutting hair is expressive in nature, it features historical and cultural traits, and it can be interpreted differently by others.”
Alvin Lam is a barber at The Fitting Room Toronto. For Lam, cutting hair is a passion that started at the age of 15. Originally, Lam pursued a degree in Business Technology at Ryerson University. He eventually dropped out to cut hair full time. Lam’s career choice was initially met with disapproval from his parents. However, Lam has since proved to his parents and others that cutting hair is a trade that can be aesthetically pleasing and self-fulfilling.
HA : When did you start cutting hair ? When did you notice that you had a “knack” for cutting hair ?
AL : I started cutting hair when I was 15 years old. I couldn’t afford to routinely get good haircuts, so I figured if I could learn how to cut my own hair, I could always have a clean look. Without a doubt, those early haircuts looked awful. My hair was uneven, the fading ( a type of haircut that causes hair on the sides and back of the head to be tapered in length until there is no hair left on the skin ) was improper, but I knew that if I kept practicing, I would eventually get the result I wanted. In time, I learned how to do a good haircut and this gave me the confidence to start cutting other people’s hair. This was the moment that I noticed that I had a knack for cutting hair. I had developed a skill and that skill created so many opportunities that I didn’t think were possible. I haven’t looked back since !
HA : Did your parents support your career of choice ?
AL : I have traditional parents that have always emphasized the importance of education. I have two older siblings, and they both have earned their masters degrees. I think that my parents expected me to go down the same path as well. So, when they heard about my career choice, they were not happy with my decision. But, since I put in the time and shown that I could do well for myself, my parents have started to feel differently about my career choice.
HA : Who are some barbers that you look up to ?
AL : Currently, I am inspired by a lot of UK barbers such as : Kevin Luchmun, the Beak brothers, Craig Nolan, etc. The UK hair scene is interesting to me because they have established an approach that merges aspects from barbering and hairstyling. I believe that UK barbers are blurring the lines between a barber and a hairstylist and that is quite intriguing to me. I also like looking at mug shots of old mobsters. For some reason, they always had cool hair.
HA : Would you consider cutting hair an art form, if so how ?
AL : My idea of art is that it is a platform for an idea. Whether that idea is a story, an expression, or even a feeling, I believe that art is the vehicle for that idea. In my opinion, cutting hair is a visual art in which hair is utilized to carry an artist’s idea of an aesthetic. Similar to conceptual art, cutting hair is expressive in nature, it features historical and cultural traits, and it can be interpreted differently by others. Therefore, I believe that cutting hair should be respected as an art.
HA : What’s important to you when establishing long-term relationships with clients ?
AL : The most important things are value and honesty. I think it is important to understand what you offer to your clients and how you can constantly improve upon that. I also believe that honesty is the basis for forming a long term relationship. When it comes to business, it is important to me that I establish a reputation of integrity. Furthermore, I think that different clients have different needs and as long as you have an approach that can cater to diverse groups of individuals, you will have a successful outcome.
HA : A piece of advice for someone who wants to become a barber.
AL : My advice for someone who wants to become a barber is to fall in love with the craft !
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