Some of the students have been around hair design and hairstyling all their lives. But some come from other professions, other states and other life stories. Together, the students at Lincoln’s College of Hair Design seem to have a common thread. They pursue a dream for the future based on a love of customer service, friendly environments and, of course, hair.
But these loves do not always correspond to a professional career from the start.
Chuck Lahr, 57, had always wanted to pursue a career in hairdressing, but had never had the chance until now.
Lahr said that after returning to Lincoln from Los Angeles, he was happy to find a school that offered both cosmetology and hair design.
“Anything to do with hair, I love,” Lahr said. “I always wanted to do this, but I never pursued it, but now I’m here.”
Lahr said that throughout the process of learning the trade, there was a lot of information to take in, which is part of what drew him to the school and the profession.
“There are a lot of bits to learn,” Lahr said. “I didn’t know what to do with each piece; I had all this information, but I couldn’t do anything with it. I like to analyze things, so I thought I would look at it like a puzzle: take each piece, put it on the table and then put it all together.
An important part of Lahr’s job is to apply the craft of the school through hands-on practice. He said his favorite part of the job is meeting new people and getting to know their personalities.
After finishing his work at the College of Hair Design, Lahr plans to be part of an apprenticeship – having a guide to guide him and teach him more about hair. Lahr said he sees this learning process as absolutely essential to build on the fundamental principles taught by the school.
Lahr is just one of many CHD students who had put off their initial dreams of working in the hair design industry. Erin Benedict is also starting a new chapter in her life.
“I raised my kids, now I want to do something for myself, something I’ve always wanted to do,” Benedict said.
But pursuing your passion at school doesn’t mean leaving your family. On the contrary, Benoît’s family is his motivation.
“My four kids inspire me (and) I study hard and get good grades to show them they can do the same,” Benedict said.
Benedict said she particularly enjoys working with hair color. His goal is to make people feel good when they leave his chair. She dreams of working in a big city like New York or Los Angeles.
For some students, it was the trip to Lincoln that made the difference. Originally from Houston, Texas, Kaye Taylor entered the world of cosmetology at 23 years old.
“It’s always been my passion, it’s what I love to do,” Taylor said. “I like people to feel good about themselves.”
Taylor wants to be a platform artist, a hairstylist who educates an audience about new products and tries to explain new styling techniques to big companies, such as Matrix.
“The sky’s the limit in this industry,” Taylor said. “Maybe one day I will be a part-time instructor and teach students what I learn over the next 30 years.”
Taylor said the job outlook in cosmetology is good and the key is to be dedicated and work hard.
“Everyone thinks of beauty school as an easy career, but we really have to learn a lot,” Taylor said. “If you’re not passionate, don’t do it, because you’re just wasting your time. If you don’t want to constantly grow and learn for the rest of your life, then you’re just in the way.
Cassandra Kurtenbach of Columbus, Neb., has been around hair design all her life.
“I’ve always loved doing hair,” Kurtenbach said. “In high school, I used to do my friends’ hair and my aunt owns a salon.”
In the company of her aunt, Kurtenbach said she naturally learned some knowledge about hair. But she learned specific techniques and skills appropriate to CHD.
“There’s a lot more to it than I originally thought,” Kutenbach said. “You kind of think you’re going to go there just to do your hair, but actually there’s a lot of science behind it that I didn’t expect.”
Kurtenbach said the future for cosmetologists and barbers is bright.
“With this profession, the possibilities are endless,” Kurtenbach said. “You can pretty much do whatever you want, I’m just excited to try and come up with something; you can take so many paths with this degree, cosmetics, beautician, massage… the prospects for finding a job are really good.
The barber is by no means a static profession. Student Lewis Moore said barbering had taken a step back to its origins, so much so that Moore felt it was just as lucrative a profession as cosmetology is today.
“The traditional barber shop, real barber root, where you see a lot more haircuts that speak more than the shine of a place,” Moore said. “It’s less gimmicks and more cutting, shaving and proper tool use.”
Moore said the minimalist environment and focus on commerce helped the barber shop become a community place.
“I remember as a kid going to the hairdresser with my dad and grandpa,” Moore said. “It’s about the sense of community, the smells, the stories, the jokes that you’re not supposed to hear.”
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