Whitney VerMeer (@whitneyvermeer) is a Minneapolis-based educator, entrepreneur, and global award-winning artist. As a barber she’s best known for her architecturally-inspired designs. She’s also the first woman to design a line of haircutting scissors. The line, a collaboration with Mizutani, was specifically designed for women’s smaller hands, allowing for more precise cutting and creative freedom. Whitney is an outspoken advocate for gender and LGBTQ+ equality within the professional beauty industry.
SC: Which barbers have inspired you the most throughout your career?
Whitney VerMeer: There are so many talented barbers and hairdressers out there that inspire me, but truthfully, I tend to look outside the industry to find inspiration. Our industry can be stagnant and I believe in order to push the envelope and evolve, you have to think outside the box. Creatives that I really look up to are generally very controversial people like Kanye West, Rick Owens, Jesse Draxler, and so many more!
SC: What have been some of the big challenges you’ve faced as a female barber?
WV: I have, of course, faced some challenges as being a female barber early on in my career, but it was rarely because o] other artists. It was generally corporations that would want to put me in a specific box. I have always narrowed my focus to being the best that I could be as an artist, Not as a female artist. I believe that mindset made the box disappear in most instances, and I choose to align myself with male barbers that see me as an equal because I simply refuse to accept less.
SC: When doing research for this article, I came across a lot of “Can I trust a female barber?” What is your immediate response to reading that?
WV: I feel like I can’t even dignify that with an answer. If someone questions that, I don’t want them in my chair.
SC: True or false: You’ve had to work twice as hard to be perceived half as good as your male counterparts. If so, in what ways?
WV: True, especially as a gay individual that works with both barbers and hairdressers. However, I have always felt like a bit of a lone wolf, so I think in general I have always fought to prove myself.
SC: In what ways are you trying to eliminate gender stereotypes within the barbering industry?
WV: Eliminate gender. Period. I don’t refer to anything as a men’s haircut or women’s haircut. I don’t do gender pricing. I actually don’t discuss it at all unless the individual in my chair wants to.
I also stay away from terms like “female barber or lady barber. We don’t include gender for doctors out of respect and I think our industry should follow suit.
SC: Hopefully in the future when you get interviewed, you will not be asked any questions relating to gender within your field. What can other barbers, salon/barbershop owners, and stylists do now to be allies, help break down gender barriers and create a more level playing field in barbering today?
WV: Be inclusive! That means having a gender-neutral space, getting rid of gendered pricing, changing the language in your chair, and also outside of it. I think we, as humans, need to toss this idea of gender out the window. Quite frankly, it’s silly and has literally nothing to do with hair.
SC: How are you going to change the industry for up-and-coming female barbers?
WV: By leading by example. A few years ago, I made history by creating the first ever scissors made ergonomically for “women’s” (smaller) hands. I also was the first ever woman to have a scissor line. And I put the first transgender model in a barber magazine. Things like that—my goal is to continue to make history and inspire others.
SC: Are there any up-and-coming or next generation female barbers that are on your radar that we should know about?
WV: This one is a little harder to answer. I think it’s been really hard to access the skill set through social media with all the editing software that is out there. I look forward to the day where I can see some talent in person.
SC: What has been your proudest moment as a barber?
WV: Either winning NAHA Men’s Hairstylist of the Year and BTC #ONESHOT for Men’s Cut of the Year in the same year, or creating the Whitney Vermeer X Mizutani Scissors Crossover.
SC: What are you most proud of about yourself outside of your profession?
WV: While I haven’t been able to travel and teach, I rescued a new puppy and have been training her to become a s Service Dog and perhaps even do Search and Rescue. She was found in a landfill and I rescued her after losing my pup of 14 years. Helping her grow and become the dog she is today has been incredibly rewarding and it was exactly what I needed during the pandemic.
SC: What’s your signature barbering technique?
WV: Blades only. I love to sculpt hair without using clipper guards