Controversial state bill would change who's allowed to shave



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Lindsey Austin uses a straight edge razor to shave a customer's neck Monday V's Barbershop. In Indiana, only licensed barbers are legally allowed to use these tools on customers. Annie Garau and Annie Garau

Lindsey Austin said the difference between a barber and a cosmetologist is like the difference between a drawer and a painter.

As she spread a thin layer of shaving cream on a customer’s neck, she explained that barbers are more precise. They pay close attention to exact lines and careful shading. Cosmetologists, on the other hand, get more creative. They play with color and layers and care less about the minute details.

Another important difference between the two is that, under current Indiana law, barbers can use razors to shave a customer’s facial and neck hair, while cosmetologists cannot.

Last Thursday, members of the Indiana Senate spent two hours discussing if that should change.

House Bill 1172, authored by Rep. Donna Schaibley, R-Carmel, would make it legal for cosmetologists to use a straight edge razor to shave customers’ necks without the 60 hours of razor training required in barber school. This proposition caused some concern in the barbershop community.

After nearly two hours of questions and explanations, Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, said the voting would be postponed until this week so the expressed concerns might be addressed.

“Doing the sides and the necks and the faces, the skin there is soft and there’s a lot of angles,” said Mark Weibel, owner of V’s Barbershop in Bloomington. “So if you’re not handling the razor right and you’re not affectively trained, you can cut someone pretty severely.”

Gesturing to the “Now Hiring” sign outside his shop, Weibel speculated the bill was drafted, in part, as a response to the growing demand for trained barbers.

“The demand for barbers is skyrocketing while the women’s market is staying either flat or declining,” he said. “You have approximately ten cosmetologists for every licensed barber.”

Even though allowing untrained cosmetologists to use the traditional shaving methods would make the hiring process easier for him, he said he still feels that training is necessary for a safe and relaxing shave.

Weibel went to the courthouse last week to support the other barbers and barbershop owners as they presented their case to legislators.

The argument some barbershop owners made in favor of the bill was that many cosmetologists have been shaving illegally for so long that they might as well make it legal, Weibel said.

Weibel said the practice of barbershop shaving has always been appreciated by men who want to treat themselves. In his barbershop, the experience is accompanied by a facial, face massage, soothing hot towel and, sometimes, cigars.

Without proper training, he said, it would be much harder to navigate the tricky upper lips and occasional double chin.

“A razor is as sharp as a scalpel,” he said. “We require surgeons to have extensive training before using these tools on humans and we should expect the same with barbers.”

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