Are female barbers the key to a modern man’s haircut?

Man buns may come and go, but the recent resurgence in men’s grooming could be here to stay. If a new Google report is any indication, 2015 marked the first year on record that guys are more interested in their hair than women are in theirs—by nearly 6%.

“For men, it is just in style to have a style, and that hasn’t always been the case,” says Kirby Guidry, one of several stylists who’ve mastered the art of barbering at Rigsby Frederick Salon & Gallery. “Men simply care more now, so you’re seeing a real tapered and groomed look. A little bit of the 1940s and ’50s with the fades, but there are lots of different cuts happening.”

Some of these trending looks may be vintage, but they are not coming out of your grandfather’s barbershop. One of Baton Rouge’s hottest trends just might be the female barber.

At work, Guidry is surrounded by her boss’s mystical nature sculptures and outdoors photography. The setting is part high-end fashion expo, part-paean to worldly bounty. She is one of several young women who are helping local men navigate this modern era of hair care that has exploded along with the interest in small-batch, artisan and USA-made products with fewer chemicals.

Meghan Rolfs, a stylist at Gaudet Bros.
Meghan Rolfs, a stylist at Gaudet Bros.

“Men aren’t used to products like women are, so it can be a little intimidating for some, but as soon as I show them that all a paste does really is take out their frizz, they love it,” Guidry says. “When they’re given what works for them, men actually are very brand-loyal, both to specific products and to their salon.”

As opposed to a traditional hair stylist, a barber is trained to not only cut hair, but also shave and trims beards.

With Instagram accounts like @hairandbeards as well-groomed as the follicles in their photos racking up hundreds of thousands of followers in a relatively short amount of time, social media is pushing more images of well-styled men, be they roguish or refined, in front of eyeballs than ever before.

“A well-groomed man is undeniable. It’s so attractive,” says stylist Meghan Rolfs, whose clientele at Mid City’s Gaudet Bros. is largely male. “And for them, having a great haircut is a confidence-builder for sure. You see them walk out, changed.”

These social media images speak to an environment other than a feminine salon, a cheesy sports-themed joint or even an old-school barbershop with its candy-stripe pole and a waft of whatever Marlboros smelled like in the 1970s.

A man’s cut in 2016 is all about an energized mix of new ideas, old traditions—beards, if you hadn’t noticed, are back—and now, more than ever, a little bit of pampering.

RyAn Wilson embraces the care aspect of hair care more than most and relishes pushing barbering beyond a monthly necessity. She became a barber after 12 years as a massage therapist, and she views every detail of a wash, cut and style from start to finish as an integral part of a man’s experience in her chair. She happened to work next door to Mercer Studio off Highland Road, and brothers Dewayne and Troy Mercer gave her an apprenticeship. When their more masculine salon and mercantile called Mercer Supply Co. opened at 1010 Nic last summer, Wilson made the move, focusing largely on shaves, fades and men’s clean-ups while still offering coloring services and women’s cuts, too.

“To razor-shave a head? That’s my favorite thing to do,” Wilson says. “Real close. Because if your hair is thinning, why not just own it? That close shave looks great.”

Wilson attributes the newfound openmindedness of her male clients in part to the vintage workshop-turned-clubhouse vibe that Mercer Supply Co. purveys.

Kirby Guidry, a stylist at Rigsby Frederick Salon & Gallery
Kirby Guidry, a stylist at Rigsby Frederick Salon & Gallery

“It’s a more comforting atmosphere for men,” says Wilson, who wears a hand-hewn leather apron and boots while cutting. “It’s real laid-back, more like a hangout. I mean, we have whiskey every day.”

Gaudet Bros is betting this male grooming trend will only grow. In May, the salon, owned by stylist and entrepreneur Micah Nickens, will open a downtown barbershop that will feature a throwback, artful aesthetic for men on the go. Rolfs will be there once a week giving shaves and changing the heads of some of Baton Rouge’s top business leaders and young creatives.

“Quick, efficient and consistent—those are keys to any good cut,” Rolfs says. “But they’re essential for men’s cuts, in particular.”

After many years in New Orleans, Rolfs relocated to Baton Rouge, where she immediately noticed the high density of hair salons. Transitioning from a traditionally female-dominated salon to Gaudet Bros. has been the best thing for her career and the versatility of her craft, she says.

“This feels natural to me, and that’s what fires me up,” Rolfs says. “It’s labor-intensive and physically demanding. It’s a labor of love. You have to have a passion for it, or you won’t make it.”

While Guidry, Wilson and Rolfs all maintain a high volume of male clients—whom they say tend to be more consistent and loyal than many female ones—Rolfs says Gaudet’s aesthetic stems from intentionally avoiding tired gender stereotypes.

“It’s unisex,” Rolfs says of Gaudet Bros. “Guys don’t feel like they are walking into an extremely feminine salon. And there’s nothing that screams ‘I’m in a barbershop,’ either.’ There’s thoughtfulness, even down to the furniture, the magazines, the old books. And that sparks interest.”

225 Ryan Wilson, Collin Richie Photo, 3.3.16

Three men’s hairstyles barbers say can’t fade fast enough

casual young man standing next to a brick wall with a cigarette in his mouth

The hard part

“I’ve definitely seen enough of the ‘hard part,’ where the part isn’t combed—it is actually shaved into the head,” Wilson says. “That can go away. I mean, it’s a classic look in a way, but now with the flop-over top, it’s been so overdone.”

iStock_000018441535_LargeThe frat ’do

“It’s really great to see young guys, or even grown men, who come in with that ‘frat ‘do,’” Guidry says. “We get rid of the big misshapen poof on top, and they walk out feeling great, feeling cared for, and ready to look more professional.”

iStock_000062810096_LargeThe ‘Jesus’ look

“I’m over what I call ‘the Jesus,’ [shoulder-scraping hair, considerable beard], and it can work, depending on the overall style of the guy, but often it can be incredibly bad,” Rolfs says. “If your hair is thinning, and you’re losing it, then no. Do not try this. Cut it.”