Find out what it is like to make people look good for a living.
Who: Mohamad Alfian, 23
Occupation: Head barber at Neighbourhood Barbershop
Studied: Facility Technology at ITE Simei
Tell us more about yourself.
I am the head barber of Neighbourhood Barbershop. I have been cutting hair for at least five years.
HEAD BARBER ALFIAN
How and why did you become a barber?
It definitely was not planned. I began cutting hair when I was 16. I did it just for fun and used to give free haircuts to my friends. Soon after, I became more and more interested in cutting hair that I turned it into a hobby. I had a humble set up right outside my flat consisting of just a stool and some tools. I did not have a mirror for my customers either.
I had not thought of turning it into a full-fledged career until a friend suggested it, after pointing out how I have been cutting for quite some time. So I began thinking about the basics, including an identity for my 'barbershop'. I came up with the name Chop Shop and designed my own shop logo. My set up had become more elaborate and I began to charge customers for my haircuts.
ALFIAN'S 'CHOP SHOP'
Social media played a huge part in my career too. I had posted photos on Facebook and even had my 'barbershop' set up as my cover photo so it garnered lots of attention. One day, Alif (from local music duo SleeQ) approached me and told me how my DIY concept of barbering reminded him of how he began his career. He offered to give me the opportunity to turn what I was doing into something more, by opening a barbershop for me. I have been a barber of Neighbourhood Barbershop ever since.
THE GUYS OF NEIGHBOURHOOD BARBERSHOP (FROM LEFT): ALFIAN, MUHAMMAD, ALIF, DESMOND
Describe a typical day at work.
A typical day at work usually starts with me opening the store, handling appointments, cutting and then closing the store. Basically, I cut when there are customers, and I chill with the other barbers when our schedule is free. It is pretty straightforward.
What is your most memorable experience?
I do not have a specific one, but the best experience as a barber is when my first-time customers become regulars, and when they start recommending the barbershop to their friends. It tells me that they are satisfied with my service.
LOCATED AT ICON @ CHANGI
What difficulties do you face?
Currently, the shop has been popular only among the Malay community, although we have had a few Caucasian customers. I guess the difficulty is trying to reach more customers.
How long have you been doing this and how has the industry changed?
Five years ago, there was no difference in the kinds of barbershops that existed in Singapore. Barbershops were just barbershops. Now, however, there is a rise in the number of new age barbershops that provide specific kinds of cuts and services, namely classic cuts (pompadours, fades, etc.) and beard shaving. These kinds of barbershops appeal more to youths. Therefore, you can see that old school barbershops with barbers from the older generation are stepping up their game. They are slowly adapting and providing the services that we do, and are even increasing their prices to match ours.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
What motivates you in your work?
I have a passion for making people look and feel good, and barbering allows me to do just that. The people who sit in my chair trust me to make them look clean and fresh, and if at the end of the day they are happy then I am happy as well.
Do you have any advice for youths considering this job?
The advice I usually give is that if you want to be a barber, do not do it for the money. Have a passion for what you do.
You do not require any certificate qualifications to become a barber in Singapore. Barbering does not necessarily have to be learnt in school.
Precise, conscientious, patient, sociable, orderly
Mondays to Thursdays 11am to 8pm, Fridays to Sundays – 10am to 9pm
Salary range: starts from $1,000.