By any measure, Landon Garrett is a committed 17-year-old.
That much is clear just by taking a look at his schedule. The Sarasota native spends his weekdays attending Sarasota High School and keeping to his studies.
But when the bell rings, and his many classmates leave the halls for home or fun, Garrett has spent his nights and weekends practicing a wholly different kind of discipline.
Although he’s still a high school student, Garrett makes his way to the ManKind Barber Lounge in downtown Sarasota for his other occupation: cutting and styling people’s hair as a licensed barber.
He has been at ManKind for the past year and is only going to grow from here. It’s Garrett’s plan to be working at the barbershop full time starting in January.
The Sarasota senior’s burgeoning barber career started — as occupations sometimes do — somewhat by chance. Garrett has had his hair cut by Dennis Ford, the owner of the ManKind Barber Lounge, since he was 10.
The haircuts have differed from time to time but what’s stayed the same was the quiet interactions with Ford. That’s been the case until this past April when Ford — better known as Hootie — came up with a unique opportunity for Garrett.
“One day I’m just sitting down into (the chair) and he asks me if I want to learn to cut hair,” Garrett. “At first I didn’t know what to think, I’d never thought about cutting hair.”
That was on a Wednesday, by the time that Saturday rolled around, Garrett had purchased his first pair of clippers and was watching how Hootie went about crafting hairstyles for a variety of customers. After practicing with his first haircut with his friend under Hootie’s watchful eye, Garrett said he knew what he wanted to do.
“After that, I just knew I wanted to do this,” Garrett. “I started to go to (barber) school and just fell in love with it.”
There’s been plenty to learn ever since, much of that at barber school. Garrett has been taking classes at the school since May and finished his courses in September. He’s been testing out what he learns after school with Hootie and the other staff at ManKind, slowly but surely.
The only way he feels to improve is to consistently work on it, so he’s made it his mantra to never turn down a haircut no matter the style.
“Hair is the most important thing about a person,” Garrett said. “That’s what people see first. (I try) to make sure everyone leaves with a great haircut so people can see them a little differently.”
Barbering is a profession made of countless specific details that Garrett has committed to learning, from understanding how people’s hair is patterned and spread differently to knowing what’s hot in the industry and how to innovate in his own way.
It helps that Ford is usually in the barbershop with him, giving advice.
“I ask Hootie what he thinks because he’s always going to be honest with me,” Garrett said. “I can also tell (how it was) by the client’s faces.”
Hair is a critical form of expression for Garrett, who has grown out his own look into a manbun and recently cut it all off for a fade. He always wants to improve himself and look a little better.
His current specialty is cutting bald fades for his slowly growing clientele. Garrett says it’s all about properly approaching the person’s hair from the get-go and figuring out how to get lines out of the fade early so it looks smoother.
There’s physical and mental considerations Garrett has had to work on as well. A big part of a haircut is the time it takes, and Garrett has been working hard to deliver a quality cut at more efficient times. He’s proud to say his hands now feel much steadier and in control than when he started.
Something he’s had to really grow into during cuts is knowing how to make conversations with his clients — Garrett is the first to admit he isn’t the most talkative person. Getting out of his comfort zone and learning about the people in his barber chair has been a growing experience.
“Breaking out of my shell is a challenge but I know I can do it,” Garrett said. “I like to learn about each person I’m cutting.”
The barber school he attended has also taught him to be more up close and cut hair at a local homeless shelter each week. Garrett and other barbers with ManKind now go out and help cut hair and give food and water to local homeless once or twice a month.
“We’re blessed to be in the positions we’re in, we try to help the community more than just haircuts,” Garrett said. “I took it as a learning experience. Being able to communicate is very important.”
There’s a ways to go. Garrett feels comfortable working on hair styles like fades and wants to start learning how to braid and color hair next. There's always something new to learn and while Garrett's very much at the start of his journey, he says he's ready to keep growing.
“I go with the flow,” Garrett said. “I know where I want to be in life so I try to take every opportunity I can.”
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