A Bright take on old traditions

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Mitch Bright hated every barber shop he worked at.

After receiving formal training from St. Louis in Kitchener, the 24-year old worked at a couple of shops around the tri-cities and Guelph. But none of them seemed to fit.

“I knew what I wanted to do and I knew what shop I wanted, so when this space became available for me, I jumped on it and started doing my own thing.”

And so opened Bright’s shop, admirably named The Bright Barbershop Co. It is located on top of his mother’s salon, Shear Heaven Salon in uptown Waterloo.

The barbershop is small with just enough room for Bright’s chair, an antique armoire which houses his shears, buzzers and products as well as an array of taxidermy animals such as a large hawk, showcased at the entrance of the shop. Bright’s taste is eclectic, which is evident in both his work as a barber and his own personal style.

As a formal vocalist of a heavy metal band, Bright, covered in tattoos, is not what initially comes to mind when you think of a male hairdresser.

Bright found his beginnings on the road with his heavy metal band, Die Atlantic.

“It started about four or five years ago … playing in a band and being on tour, it started just for fun. [I would] cut hair on the road,” Bright said. “I really took a liking to it and after a couple years I decided I’m just going to do this full time.”

Despite his stereotypical persona, hair has been second nature to bright since a young age.

“Hair is a very feminine thing, but I grew up around it. My mom’s been doing hair for 30 years, so since the day I was born I’ve been around a hair salon … so I’m just very used to it and I’m very comfortable around it.”

Bright said he found salons to be intimidating for most men.

“Hair is a very feminine thing, but i grew up around it … since the day i was born i’ve been around a hair salon.”

This may be because men are still stigmatized by society for taking an interest in their outward appearance. Spending money on hair care products, or even a good haircut, is still traditionally associated with women.   

“I kind of decided I wanted to make a dude spot. Barbershops are cool; I was never really too familiar with barbershops, but a barbershop is kind of like a club. It’s kind of like an unspoken club that guys go to, or at least it should be,” Bright said.

Bright thinks his barbershop has created a space in Kitchener-Waterloo for people who otherwise did not have a comfortable environment to receive a proper haircut.

Bright and his business partner have also started their own line of products called Spearhead. So far, they only make a couple of products including beard oils, soaps and shampoo bars, but Bright’s vision is to one day create accessible products for anyone to purchase anywhere.

“We’re [also] working on formulating pomades. We’re making pretty much anything a girl could buy at Shoppers Drug Mart or a hair salon, but targeted towards men,” Bright said.

But Spearhead won’t just be limited to hair care products either.

“We’re going to be making stuff like face masks eventually,” Bright said. “I’ve done a face mask before and I don’t really care if people judge me for it. It’s fucking awesome. You feel really good after, so why not do that for men? Why do men need to feel like it’s taking a hit to their masculinity by using a face mask or pampering themselves?”

Bright’s line of products, the aesthetics of his shop and his attitude as a whole are reviving traditional barbering, while also removing any stigmas that men should feel ashamed for pampering themselves.

Aside from hair, Bright also offers beard trims and shaves. He explained that straight razors offer a closer shave and less irritation than a store-bought razor. Bright explained having someone else shave your facial hair offers not only a more precise shave, but a closer shave, as well.

This week, The Bright Barbershop Co. will celebrate its one-year anniversary. Appointments are set up about three to four weeks in advance and business is booming.

Although Bright is clearly good at what he does, the big question still remains: how does a guy who has been cutting hair for only five years go from 150 clients to 2000 clients in just one year?

Half of it is talent, offering excellent customer service, affordable prices and just all around word of mouth. But the other half is Bright’s notable presence on social media.

As a former band member, self-promotion through social media isn’t new to the 24-year old.

His two main social media outlets are Facebook and Instagram, but as a barber, Instagram seems to work best for sharing photos of his work.

With nearly 7,000 followers, a lot of Bright’s clients discover him through his Instagram page.

“The way I look at it is I have to sell myself. I don’t want to try too hard to sell myself. I’m not just focusing on taking photos of haircuts, I’m basically just showcasing my life,” he said.

While Bright does post photos of haircuts he does, he also posts photos of his dog and his family, making him seem more approachable and personable online.

“I’m just taking full advantage of it. I don’t pay for any other advertising. I just use social media and it works really well.”

He uses a lot of hashtags and is constantly liking photos from other barbers around the world to give himself exposure. So far it’s working.

Altogether, Bright is making traditional barbering more accessible for a new generation.

As for the future, Bright hopes to expand his space, incorporate more barbers and see Spearhead turn into something much bigger, all of which seem like attainable goals for this motivated young barber.

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