Lesson Learned 3 - Nick Biggs “I promise It’ll pay off.”

Check out Nick’s DQYD episode here: https://dqydpodcast.com/episodes/2016/6/27/episode-14-with-hairstylist-nick-biggs?rq=nick%20biggs

Hello Daydreamers, this week I talked to Hairstylist Nick Biggs! Nick is another one of my good friends (and former roommate) who I’ve personally seen through some serious ups and downs. But most of my relationship to Nick came after he was already fairly well established in Evansville as one of the top hair stylists.Generally Nick is a pretty laid back guy, so hearing about him really grinding out the hours in the early stages of his hairstyling career was interesting. I’m someone who’s personally still in the early stages of grinding it out to learn and grow and try to establish myself as an expert in my field. It’s terrifying sometimes when you’re looking at the overwhelming odds in front of you, when you do something and it turns out to be terrible, when you feel way way more likely to have to pay people to check your stuff out then ever be able to earn a living. All while also trying to balance pressures and bills and responsibilities. It can be absolutely overwhelming. And to be honest, heading into the interview I was at a point where I was losing the fight to my doubts and falling into a deep slump.

Thinking back to living with Nick though, one of the things that’s incredible about him is the confidence he maintains in his work despite any and everything else going on outside. Strip his home from him, strip his relationships away (please don’t though I’m happy to see him happy), and strip away the happy days and leave him only in his deepest muk and he still has an absurd confidence that he can have you leave the chair looking more beautiful than when you came in. And that type of confidence can change everything on those days.

Alex: Okay so to start let's do a brief recap of who you are and what you do

Nick: My name is Nick Biggs, I do hair at the electric owl. I specialize in the edgier side of the hair world and men's cutting. I also enjoy fashion color jobs and women's cutting as well, especially the more obscure or alternative fashions.

Alex: What is it about the edgier side of the hair world that draws you so much?

Nick: I'd say the edgier side of hair is generally characterized by a few different elements of hair. Choppier layers, drastic fades, obscure movement, vivid colors, etc. Aside from general "cool" aesthetic, a lot of these kinds of cuts and colors have some pretty cool history rooted in rebellious subcultures (i.e. mohawks, mullets, mod crops, pixie cuts, flat tops, pompadours, psycho quiffs, etc.) and that's always been a big draw for me. Another thing that I love about that side of the hair world is the effect it has on the client. Some of these cuts take some balls just to get in the first place and I love being able to help draw that confidence out of people. Getting an edgy haircut or color really helps some people dive into their own image and express themselves in ways they maybe didn't previously see as possible.

Alex: First off that's beautiful, and every hair stylist interested in doing edgier styles should print this out and tape it to their mirror. But specializing in those styles themselves took some confidence to do as well. Did you always know that's the route you wanted to go or did you come to it over time?

Nick: To be perfectly honest, I actually never originally saw myself going into this industry at all. I went to art school for like a year and dropped out after realizing it just wasn't going to be a very marketable move for me. I also apprenticed as a tattoo artist for like 8 months in a shop that I'd rather not disclose. That whole experience was pretty shady and I was glad to put it behind me. I always joked with myself that if all else failed, I could go to hair school. Then all else did kinda fail and one day I was like, "Yeah fuck it, hair school it is". I knew from the jump that I had more of an interest in the edgier side of the hair world, but as I learned more technique, history, and what kind of work it takes to truly craft these cuts and colors, that's when I really fell in love with that side of the industry. In most cases, that side requires more skill and knowledge to pull off well.

Alex: Honestly that makes a lot of sense to me since i would describe you as more of a hair artist then a hair stylist. So given that these styles require a little more experience did you ever struggle when you were first starting out?

Nick: Oh absolutely. I look back at some of my work from when I first started hair school and it is downright abysmal in comparison to now. I was very fortunate to know a lot brave people from a pretty wide and colorful spectrum of backgrounds and interests. Meeting these people over the years really helped me out to broaden my skills early in my career because I simply just got more practice. As my skills progressed in school I found myself practicing for hours in my off time on mannequins. That's also where my love of pinup hair started as well. There's not a ton of people that come in and ask for those kind of updos so refining those skills can be a bit tricky.

Alex: Was there ever any doubt about your abilities or the value of it when you were spending all of those off hours practicing?/How did you deal with it if there was?

Nick: I'm not sure that "doubt" is exactly the right word. Hair school is very short in comparison to other more traditional types of school and there is SO much that you have to learn and cram into that time limit. A lot of people drop out because there's a pretty common misconception about hair school being an easier route and statistically about 70% of the people that do make it through school and get licensed stop doing hair within 2 years behind the chair professionally. It's a rigorous start to a profession and its certainly not easy. I absolutely had times where I got frustrated or discouraged because to put it plainly, there's just a shitload of challenging things crammed into a very short time and when you take it upon yourself to learn more advanced technique from an earlier stage it can be quite maddening because your muscle memory and dexterity aren't developed yet. On top of that, this is a very personal and social profession so those skills have to be refined as well. It sounds corny, but you really have to believe in yourself. Despite setbacks and struggles, you have to have almost an inhuman belief and confidence that you are in fact, gonna make it. Sometimes you gotta go in the back or the bathroom, take some deep breaths, wipe your eyes a little bit, and say to yourself, "Let's get this goddamn bread."

Alex: And now look at you, hauling in the loafs! So once you were set on your hair warpath any mess ups were just going to have to be hard lessons because you we're doing it regardless. Did you ever have any particularly bad cuts or experiences that you learned a lot from?

Nick: Oh yeah. Plenty. The first time I attempted a razor faded pompadour, it was for a mini barber competition we had at school. The competition was to see who could most accurately do one of the Schorem (a now famous barbershop in Rotterdam and a crucial part of my hair refining) signature cuts. I chose one of, if not the most difficult one. It was awful. Another one was for the Roger's hair show. I REALLY wanted do a seafoam green themed pinup do. My friend Ariana (who is now also a pretty great hairstylist with similar vision) drove all the way up from Tupelo, Mississippi to be my model. I hadn't gotten to the color portion of school yet, much less done a very advanced color like that. I spent literally all day trying to achieve that that color and still didn't quite pull it off. That was a serious reality check.

Alex: Oooff I imagine the pain when she had to make that drive was very real, damn. But that reality check ended up helping to create one of the most talented barbers in the city (and I imagine was part of the drive on all those extra hours practicing).

Nick: Man, she was a great sport about it, although she'll never let me forget it lol. That kind of patience, dedication, and perseverance is gonna make her one hell of a stylist one day.

Alex: I hope so! Okay last question, what advice would you give for someone starting out in the hair world, perhaps getting ready to face the rigours of hair school?

Nick: I'd say the biggest thing I'd recommend doing is invest in some if your own education. They teach you the basics in hair school, but to further yourself as a stylist or barber, there are resources you can utilize for specialization. Spend the money to go to hair shows, buy hair videos, and watch a shitload of YouTube. I promise it'll pay off. And post your work. More people will see it and want to come to you.

“It sounds corny, but you really have to believe in yourself. Despite setbacks and struggles, you have to have almost an inhuman belief and confidence that you are in fact, gonna make it.” Maybe an inhuman belief and confidence is what I need most. Pursuing a freelance career is full of extremely hard times. Times when I had to say no to hanging out with friends or doing things I’d like to do so I can do what I have to do. Times when it seems like everything I do is worth less than trash. Times when I’m paralyzed by the question of whether I’m wasting my life on dreams that will never turn into anything, and would be better off putting on a tie (or throwing on a safety vest) and getting to work in a nice stable job with health insurance, and plenty of money to take enough time away so that I don’t end it all on my way in.

But I can’t.

So I think again to Nick’s confidence on those hard days, and look at all that time he spent educating himself and practicing well beyond what he had to. Maybe some of us are born with that natural confidence that makes it so those sort of questions and doubts are just never the dominating forces in their lives. But for the rest of us, maybe we’d be well advised to take Nick’s advice. Invest in yourself. Invest in your own education. Invest your time. Invest your money. Invest your energy. And share what you can, even if it’s scary, even if you’re not sure. Then maybe if I do all of that, one day, I too will see it pay off.

Wishing you much love and big bread days to come,

Alex Earnest.

PS. Here’s a bonus bit of fashion advice from Nick:

Alex: What's a hairstyle that you wanna see go away, and what's one you either wanna see become big or you are seeing blow up?

Nick: I'd like to see the chunky played out, late 90's/early 00's highlights with a middle part go away. You look like a low budget Avril Lavigne. I do see a lot of updated, heavily textured mullets, shags, and crops coming back. The Brits have been doing all of those things for a while, but they're getting popular in the U.S. as of late and I'm all the way here for it.

Long live the mullet! Check out Nick’s haircuts at - https://www.instagram.com/nickbiggs_art/?hl=en