Photo credit: Melanie L. Brown for Steed Media Service
Kenny Williams is the co-owner of Silk N Classy Barber College, along with his wife, Toni. The couple founded the school in 1999, but Kenny opened his first salon in 1991 in Riverdale, Illinois, and later opened a second salon in 1997 in Dolton, Illinois. Kenny holds both a cosmetology license and a cosmetology teaching license.
What is the mission of a barber?
The mission for a barber is to enhance one’s appearance through hair cutting and different grooming techniques such as beard trimming, hair cutting, facials … things of that nature.
How important is it for a man to have a distinctive look?
As you can see today in today’s society men are pampering themselves more. In the past men didn’t have that desire to be like movie stars. Now today everybody is trying to be a star with their looks, the colored hair those things use to be taboo long time ago now men have no problem with coloring their hair, cutting it, growing it, spiking it…so men are more into themselves now then ever before.
Name three ways that a barber stays abreast of styles and trends.
The ways that a barber stays informed: One would be through magazines. Second would be through networking, shows, competitions and conventions and the third one would be probably be through social media, which is a very popular thing today.
Name two types of advice you give to your clients.
Basically take care of themselves keep a fresh look make sure you are looking your best at all times that’s just basically it when you talk to clients.
What type of resource is your barbershop to your clients and community?
The barbershop and the school itself have been a community based resource to the community that we reside in. We’re here in Dolton and the barber shop and the barber school have performed many activities, a lot of free services with the seniors. Basically the school itself and the shop it is a piece of the community that’s very important because it brings people together on different socioeconomic levels that can be those that are middle class, low, to average, high end. It brings people together where they can communicate, collaborate, have conversation and socialize.
Name four of your most famous clients.
There’s been quite a few professional people I’ve served from R. Kelly to Regina King to Angela Bassett, Courtney Vance, Jason Alexander, Kathleen Turner. Those are the individuals that I’ve worked in movie sets where I had to work cosmetology service and also barbering services.
What movie sets have you worked on?
[I was] hired to work on the first Barbershop movie as a assistant hair stylist and the movie that I worked on full-time was called Love and Action in Chicago.
What students are you proud of?
And as far as students we are always proud of any students that complete 1,500 hours of schooling. Marcus Davis got his start working at Silk N Classy. Joe Flanno, Bacari Atman, Devin Thomas and Chris all own their own shops now.
How much are classes?
The basic course $5,000 to $18,000, and it can go $5,000 to $18,000 based on the school they attend.
What is the student-teacher ratio?
For each teacher they are able to teach 25 students based on state law.
What type of community outreach do you provide?
In 2001 we started the first back-to-school event, which is very popular now over the whole United States. We went to Kennedy-King College, we transported 25 barber chairs. We bused in four buses of low income boys from the Robert Taylor homes and brought them in and gave them free hair cut services and that was the initial back to school ground breaking event that we started. Seventeen years now we’ve been doing it and everyone else has caught on. Even free haircuts we average about 300 to 500 hair cuts every event every year.
What is the method, time and commitment required to become a licensed barber?
Well, to become a licensed barber you have to have training, of course, and that would consist of theory and practical assignments so in the state of Illinois we require 1500 hours. Those are clock hours that they have to perform hands on services and they also have to do theory which is classroom work.
Texturizers and different other enhancement products are important because …
They enhance and add definition and things like that to the hair.
What are the three most important things to know about being a new barber in the business?
Three most important things…One would be patience. You have to have patience because you’re not going to walk out of a school immediately as a new barber and be a millionaire so they need to have patience knowing it’s a process. Secondly… They need to promote themselves either by which is common today…social media, by pluggers, fliers, any kind of physical material that they can pass out also by word of mouth and by getting out making sure that their visible in the community that they’re working in. They have to get out and those are the top three things that they have to do.
Three favorite brand of barber products?
There aren’t any favorite brands or items that I use. Basically I like to inform the students on using different tools and different equipment. I’m familiar with every brand on the market. I’ve used every brand, every tool and in school there’s particular brands that I’ll ask my students to use only because of the fact of when you’re training someone you want them to be comfortable with the tool that they have. If someone is advanced or a student that has somewhat of a gift of cutting you may use a different brand or a different technique brand … but for basic students you like to stick with tools that are going to be easy for them to use, easy for them to maintain which is maintenance and easy fpr them to be able to learn from.
Two books that you would recommend anyone read.
Think and Grow Rich and Ask Kenny — my own book.