- April 11, 2012
Bradenton’s Aric Youmans might wield a pair of scissors, but part of his job is simply to listen.
When Manatee Technical College barbering student Sean Thornton agreed to be Youmans’ hair model for a hair-cutting contest, the pair began talking style. The category would be “creative cuts,” and Thornton had long, straight, dark-brown hair he parted on the side. He wanted something “crazy,” maybe bleaching his hair blond.
Youmans didn’t flinch.
“I could do that,” he’d said.
He bleached Thornton’s hair twice to get it the perfect color before heading to the Premiere Orlando International Beauty Event on May 30-June 1 for the contest. Youmans, a veteran in the barbering industry, would cut Thornton’s hair live in 40 minutes before a crowd in the “creative cuts” professional hairstyling competition.
He walked away with a 4-foot-tall trophy by taking first place for his cut — a comb-over with a part, bald fade (military-like cut) and a design of a barber pole etched on one side.
Thornton said watching his teacher compete was inspiring.
“To be the next-level barber, you have to put yourself out there a little bit and bet here with people who have the same goals as you,” Thornton said. “A lot of people speak very highly of Mr. Youmans. Even the crowd — people knew who he was. A lot of people were happy he won.”
Youmans, who won another contest in 2015, said he was proud of his accomplishment.
“To get to this level is gratifying,” he said.
Cutting hair has been a source of pride even since Youmans’ youth. At about 15 years old while attending Bayshore High School, he and a group of friends would take turns cutting each other’s hair to save money on haircuts. When they joked around while he was cutting their hair, Youmans protested and eventually stopped cutting their hair altogether. He took it seriously.
“They goofed around,” he said. “I felt like I wanted to do it right.”
He picked it up again at age 19 and later enrolled at Manatee Technical College’s barbering program. Youmans said having a good haircut changes people’s perspectives, and he likes delivering life change.
“It’s fun seeing the kids and them feeling good inside and out,” he said. “To see someone’s life changed is gratifying. It builds self-esteem. When you look good, you feel good.”
Youmans said barbering can be stressful. With one unsteady hand, you can botch an entire haircut, much like
he did in barbering school when the clipper guard fell off and he notched a bald spot on the side of a kid’s head.
Thankfully, the middle schooler had a good attitude. “Just go shorter,” the boy said. That calmed Youmans down and taught him a valuable lesson.
“If this kid could be patient with me, I can be patient with people,” Youmans said. “I still tell that story to my students. I’m still human.”
Dealing with people, keeping calm and making adjustments is an important part of the craft.
Over the years, Youmans’ skill and calm demeanor have even landed him regular customers, such as sports figures Jared Jeffries, Deion Sanders, Roy Jones Jr., Byron Leftwich, Jamaal Tinsley and Tyronn Lue, whom he barbered thanks to a connection at IMG Academy.
“Just to know someone that played in the NBA was interested in my services was a high point in my career,” Youmans said. “I got to know them.”
Youmans shook his head. He wasn’t starstruck, though he felt the pressure.
“Barbering is a profession,” he said. “I do take the word professional seriously.”
Thornton said Youmans is the epitome of calm, which is an important trait.
“Part of barbering is you have to keep your cool. You can’t have a panic attack or let your hands get shaky,” he said. “He’s a master.”
Youmans instructs barbering and cosmetology at MTC but still takes on customers before and after work. He said he loves entering competitions because he likes the travel, and more importantly, they help him stay atop industry trends, products and services his customers might desire.
“Competing keeps you active; it keeps you motivated,” he said. “You stand out from being an average barber. I’m willing to put my skills to the test. My clients also know I’m serious about what I do.”