HARLINGEN — Local barber Jay Espy is passionate about his career and is devoted to save the integrity of his trade.

While Espy obtained his barber’s license after completing 1,500 hours of coursework from the South Texas Barber College in his hometown of Corpus Christi, not everyone who works as a barber has a license or the intent to obtain one.

Espy, other barbers and shop owners say there are a lot of people who are calling themselves barbers but are not making an attempt to obtain their license.

He explained their actions have begun affecting barbers and schools because people are cutting hair illegally, without a license and are getting paid for it when they’re not supposed to.

“Barber is a trade and a certification by the state of Texas,” he said. “If you don’t have your certification, you cannot call yourself a barber.”

Espy believes there’s nothing better than being a barber.

“I love it when a person tells me they’re going to change their plans for the night and leaves my chair feeling like a million bucks,” Espy said. “That in itself is a tip alone.”

But some just aren’t following the rules.

In order to obtain a class A barber certificate in a private or public post-secondary barber school, students must complete 1,500 hours in a course that is no fewer than nine months long. After completing the course, students must pass a class A barber license examination.

Espy and barber school owners are working toward publishing a petition titled “PANEL”

The acronym stands for “Petition Against Non-Earned Licenses.”

According to Espy, this issue had been under investigation for a couple of years already.

Espy believes it is very important for people who want to operate as a barber to obtain their licenses and receive proper training.

“There are a lot of things that come with being a barber,” he said. “It’s not only learning how to cut hair. They need to learn about barber laws, sanitation, skin types, hair types, etc.”

He also explained that there are many sacrifices that barbers make while they work toward obtaining their license.

“Some people had to move to different towns to attend a certain barber college. They took time away from their families and while doing this, they’re not getting paid. So, there are huge sacrifices, but it’s all rewarding in the end,” he said. “Kudos everyone who went to school, finished and learned what they needed to learn to get their license.”

Texas Department of License and Regulation Chairman Ron Jemison Jr. is the fourth generation in his family to pursue the barber and cosmetology business and continued his family’s tradition that began 103 years ago.

“I think that people who don’t go to school or follow the beauty and barber industry don’t really understand in-depth how much that’s involved with it,” he said. “If you go get your hair done every other week or once a month, you’re putting your trust in someone that they know what they’re doing.”

He used hair coloring and sanitation as an example of what could go wrong while operating as a barber without a license.

“Let’s say someone walks in and needs to color their beard or hair because they have gray and don’t want it to show,” he said. “We do this thing called a patch test to make sure that their skin is even going to accept the chemical because if they break out then they could have a lawsuit on their hands. So, there’s a lot that’s involved with this career.”

Last weekend, Espy organized a Barber Games Expo competition on the Island that had about 1,800 people in attendance and more than 160 competing barbers, making it the largest barber competition in the state of Texas.

During the event, Espy hosted a seminar that allowed barbers and school owners the opportunity to express their concerns about people operating as barbers with non-earned licenses.

Jemison attended the Barber Games Expo and listened to several of their concerns.

He said he understands their frustration and that the board is seeking to find out what’s going on.

“If there are people out there who are doing it the wrong way, I think it will weed itself out and I guarantee that those people who are doing stuff the wrong way will have it catch up to them at some time,” he said. “My family has been doing this for a long time and those who are doing shortcuts and cutting corners, they’ve never seen them last.”

The beginning of Espy’s path toward becoming a barber began when he was 14 years old.

“My mom couldn’t send me to a barbershop to get a haircut so she bought me a pair of clippers from Wal-Mart, and I started practicing on myself,” he explained.

After hours of practicing on himself, he and others began to notice he was getting better at styling hair.

Eventually, the hairstyles he created on himself attracted the attention of his neighbors and classmates, who then asked him to style their hair, too.

“As I got older, I thought, ‘You know what, I need to make this my career,”‘ he explained. “I had a rough childhood, so when I did decided to go to barber college, it was one of the best decisions I ever could have made in my life because it changed it.”


Barber penalties and sanctions

Class C: Practicing without proper license or inspection

First violation: $300

Second violation: $500 to $800

Third violation: $1,000 to $1,300 and/or up to 6-month full suspension.

The curriculum for the class A barber certificate in a private or public post-secondary barber school consists of 1,500 hours, to be completed in a course of not less than nine months.

License Requirements

(a) To be eligible for a Class A Barber Certificate, Barber Instructor License, Barber Technician License, Barber Technician/Manicurist License and Barber Technician/Hair Weaving License Certificate of Registration, an applicant must:

• Submit the completed application on a department-approved form.

• Pass the applicable examination.

• Pay the fee required under §82.80.

• Meet other applicable requirements of the Act, this section, and the applicable curriculum set forth in §82.120.

Source: Texas Department of License and Regulation