Finding people who will let you cut their hair can take some work. Friends and family are where I started because they understood my level of inexperience.
At hair cutting course the teacher said he will talk to anyone about getting a free haircut to recruit for demonstrations. He then asked"Who doesn't need a free haircut?" To me this implied that there should be an endless supply of people.
I did look at homeless shelters and found some acceptance. I now go to two different men's shelters regularly once a week. There is another family shelter that calls from time to time.
In the shelters 100 % of the people are men. The ones requesting a haircut are 80% African American. This is a niche I had only limited experience with in cosmetology school. The other 20% are a mixture are Hispanic, Oriental, and Caucasian.
African American Haircuts
For the African American population a great deal of the work entails the use of clippers with some detailing with shear over comb techniques. A large number of the men request a balding haircut. For these I use a 00000 or a 50 replaceable clipper blade. These blades cut to .2 mm in length.
The work is frequently done pretty quickly for the first pass. This is followed by a dusting off of the head and going back to any areas of incomplete cutting. The men receiving these haircuts are universally thankful for the cut especially with such low cutting blades.
The next most frequently requested cuts are fades and general shaping of grow outs. I am going to write another note on fades later. For general shaping I use a number 000, A0, or number 1 blade either freehand or over comb. The aim is to give symmetry to the hair cut and to trim straggler hairs that distort the pattern.
For African American males who have hair on their heads after the haircut, lines are a commonly requested refinement.
I cut lines by using the T Outliner trimmer. People requesting lines frequently give me very specific instructions about where the lines are to be placed. Learning about lines has been an ongoing and rewarding process for me. When they are done well the client is very pleased.
Lines are cut along the hairline. The blade of the trimmer is just barely touched to the hairline. Special care is taken to take the minimal amount of hair while still leaving a line. The line should follow the hairline unless directed otherwise. For example many men will tell me not to go too deep into the recession area.
After cutting the initial line, I hand the client a mirror and get their appraisal. Frequent adjustments require going deeper into the hair line and cutting off bumps in the lines.
Lines extend down both sides of the sideburns and around the sides and back of the head. The client usually has some ideas about where these lines should be and whether the lines should be square or round in the back. A mirror for final client appraisal is useful.
A large number of African American males have facial hair that they want cut and shaped. For this I also use the trimmer to put lines above and under moustaches and around goatees. Moustaches and goatees frequently need to be thinned to look neat. Some are particularly pleased at picking out some of the prominent gray hairs individually with shears.
For larger areas of the face, I go back to the clipper and use the 00000 blade to take off beards and hair under the chin. For clients with razor bumps this has to be done with some care so the bumps are not riped by the blade edge. Using the 00000 blade is also useful for putting in lines around the head and over and under mustaches and beards.
Ears, Nose and Eyebrow hair
Finally an inspection of ear hairs and nose hairs and eyebrow hairs is done and they are trimmed. Trimming nose and ear hairs is done with a short pair of shears with rounded ends specially made for these tasks. I got mine at Cosmo Prof for about $12. These two services are universally appreciated. Shears are washed and disinfected after each use.
Eyebrows are not always requested. There seems to be some fear they will be disfigured. When they are requested I cut them with trimmer over comb or shear over comb. I first comb the hairs up and trim and then comb them down and trim again. Occasionally some wild hairs will escape this so I inspect the eyebrows from the side to try and get these in a more favorable light for cutting.
Non African American Haircuts
For the other non African American haircuts I typically try to follow one of the formats described in American Crew Menswork. This group of lessons does not address African American haircutting.
In trying to follow the Menswork patterns my results rarely are as consistent as the course demos, but their shear over comb and clipper over comb techniques help me make them passable.
Recently I have started to cut the start of these haircuts using clipper over comb in all phases of the haircuts. It speeds the cuts up a lot.
Concerns about health
When I have mentioned to people that I am cutting in homeless shelters they consistently raise a few concerns about cleanliness and infections. When men come into these shelters they are fed and cleaned up right at the start. By the time I see them they have been in the shelter for a while and are all well bathed and groomed and follow rules in the shelters about chores and education. They have also had medical exams and receive treatment as needed. I am cautious with them as with other clients about blood spills.
It is suprising to me how ordinary the people in the shelters are. They have generally all been working and most have some job skills. Many have alcohol and drug issues. Many are receiving training in job skills.
So far I have not had any problems with any of them. They all show lots of appreciation for the haircuts.
Like all other work, it is good to show up regularly and on time. Clients increase as they see what you can do and what you are willing to do.