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“Why Hair?” By Michael Kelley

I’ve been cutting hair since I was 17 years old.
People always ask, “How did you decide to start cutting hair?”
and honestly, I don’t feel like I discovered it- I feel as if it found me.

One day, I instinctually picked up a pair of clippers and cut my little brother’s hair without a second thought. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and purpose at a time when I was searching for my “calling”.

Why Hair

Even though I wasn’t very good in the beginning, everything about it felt right. The hum of the clippers, the conversation, the transformation, the smell of aftershave, the art…

My father was a pastor. Our home was religious and strict. I never felt as if I could fully be who I wanted to be in that environment, but I found a way to express myself through hair unlike anything else I did in church or in school. It was simultaneously freedom and a personal challenge. I tried skateboarding, basketball, music and nothing hit quite like cutting hair.

At first, I used hair cutting to “reach” others.

I thought because of my up bringing I could influence people with the gospel while giving them the best cut of their lives. I thought I could “save” them and their hair…this was my excuse and justification for diving head first into barbering.

When I first picked up barbering, it wasn’t near as cool or respected as it is now.

Back then, barbers were humble, quiet, craftsmen that provided a service to their community at an affordable rate. No online booking, no Instagram, no flashy cars and kicks, not many trade shows, no celebrity barbers- well maybe a few but no one knew who they were.

Back then, it was all about the love of the art and relationships.

I would try my best on every haircut just to see my art walk out the door never to be seen again…

But then the industry changed.

Why Hair?

Why?

Social media.

When I first heard about Instagram and barbers posting their work on their pages, I thought, “wow that’s strange, what’s the point?”

Then the “Celebrity Barbers” or “Instagram Barbers” started to pop up. I heard rumblings of Barber Battles, Followers, Sponsorships, etc.

My brain was still wired to be overly humble, religious, quiet, meek, insecurely talented AF, Michael Kelley, the pastors son. The boy who should be a pastor or should have gone to college, but turned into a hair cutter.

I thought, this show boating and attention seeking social media stuff can’t be good for our soul…so even though, deep down I was curious, I dodged it for a while.

Until one day the most talented and respected barber in my city came to me and gave me an encouraging word… “People need to know who you are.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like one day, I woke up and just had an epiphany, jumped on Instagram went to barber events and blew up.

This shit took time. It took WORK.

Around the age of 26 I had a dramatic paradigm shift in my life. I realized many things about society, religion, organizations and authority that I did not agree with…I started questioning my roots. I started questioning my life. After all I was married and my son was a toddler and I wanted to be the best husband/father I could be.

Needless to say, this was the best thing I have done for my life and career.

I dropped all religious and social obligations and decided to take that time to double down on my favorite thing to do in my life:

Cut Hair.

Show people what I can do.

Why Hair?

And I did just that. I treated Instagram like a part time job. Every day for years, posting every 2-3 hours…middle of family time? Posting. Lunch break? Engaging with followers. Brunch? Answering DMs. There was never a time I was not outputting and interacting unless I was asleep!

This was huge. It took me to places I never imagined. Ireland, Russia, Canada, Spain, all over the USA. I met not just barbers but people from all walks of life.

My mind became open. I was starting to look at the world entirely different.

This is what I never knew I needed. This is what made me not just a better “hair cutter” but a better human…

See what I learned is that no one can “save” anyone. Nobody can bring someone to a place of real change. Why? Because most people haven’t even saved themselves. We are all making our best attempt with what we have.

We are all a work in progress. Much like hair, we are the crafters of it. We get to choose the style. Some times our hair and lives are messy. Sometimes we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, sometimes we have “bad hair days”, sometimes we look amazing, sometimes we look like we need a trim…some people love clean cuts and clean lives, others love long flowing hair and flowing lives.

We are all working our way through this process.

The barber does not have purpose if it wasn’t for someone who needs a haircut.

So why hair?

Because it is my anchor. It is my passion. It is always there. It’s constantly changing and teaching.

Why hair?

Because in some ways, it saved me.

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