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Standard Textbook of Professional Barber Styling – Jacob J. Yahm

Reviewed by Mary McConville

In 1977 the Milady Publishing Corporation put out the revised ‘Standard Textbook of Professional Barber Styling’, in America. Later, in 2015, it turned up in a Melbourne Op Shop. It covered a very wide range of subjects – styling, hygiene and business practices – as you would expect. With the help of this book you could give someone a “shave and a haircut – two bits”, a perm, a toupee, a facial massage or a manicure.

This a very practical book, there are no glamour shots but plenty of informative text and illustrations to show you how it’s all done. We learn the history of barbering, how to use the many types of equipment, how to keep things and people clean, etc., etc. The most fascinating aspect of this book for the reader in the 21st century is the hairstyles – and the cultural echoes they’ve picked up over the years. We have porn star moustaches, a moustache and beard for a natty Southern Colonel and even a hairdo that looks a bit like Tin Tin’s quiff. The beard styles range throughout the ages The Van Dyke beard dates back centuries to before the establishment of Colonial America. A younger and more specifically American style copies Abraham Lincoln’s characteristic square jawed beard. We can also find variations of the bushy mutton chops that Victorians and Edwardians favoured.

There is not a lot of information on “over curly hair” which is their euphemism for African – American hair and there is only one paragraph dealing with “Afro-natural” hair for men. This passes over the reality that the “Afro” was a very popular hairstyle in the Sixties and was a sign of increasing African – American pride. How do we describe the Afro hairstyle – frizzy? Fuzzy? Really BIG hair. When worn with flared jeans and bright colours it was really groovy, man. However, this chapter is illustrated with pictures of a rather sad looking Black man with very short and disciplined hair rather than with the spectacular “Afro”.

This book does show a modified “Afro” for women. This is a style that can be almost Egyptian in its elegance. Think of Nefertiti and the graceful lines of her fine, boned face. Unfortunately there are not a lot of female hairstyles. There are a few styles for girls, a few for women. This is a Barber’s book after all.

Amongst all the advice on hygiene and personal freshness is the curious fact that you cannot be a barber if you have a venereal disease. Hey, it doesn’t get THAT intimate.

Even though techniques, equipment and styles have changed over the years, this book will give the reader a very useful idea of the basic principles. Serious stylists will still have to go to school, learn the latest techniques and get the proper registration, but this book will serve as good research before you make the final decision to go into hairdressing.

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