Learning to cut hair - and grow fellowship

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By David Pierini

Staff photographer

You can request the latest hairstyles from any of the student barbers at the His & Hers Barber School at 5355 W. Madison Street, but the view from the chair can seem timeless.

Barbers-in-training wear short coats, practice the fine art of the straight-razor shave and dust off their customer's faces with brushes sprinkled with talcum powder.

Those in the chairs hold still, eyes closed, while the waiting customers banter with the barbers, sharing jokes, talking politics and neighborhood news over the music of James Brown.

A sign reminds all that cursing is forbidden.

Elaine Sappington, who had a shop at this location for 18 years before turning it into a barber school in 1999, employs certified instructors and assistants to teach up to 25 students at a time with 900 hours in the classroom and 600 hours on the floor.

The school prepares them to take the state exam, but the social life of the shop teaches them about relationships.

"They learn to interact with their clients," she said. "It's important to learn how to build a clientele. Relationships are built in barbershops. People come for the fellowship."

Email: david@austinweeklynews.com

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