Inspired by his hometown of Chicago, known for Second City, Nieves Almaraz, owner of How to Fade Hair Barbering School Inc, is second to none when it comes to the 2021 North American Hairstyling Award. Almaraz’s Chicago Hair Graffiti collection earned him the Men’s Hairstylist of the Year.

In 2022 the NAHA Men’s Hairstyling category will be renamed Barbering, which gives Almaraz some extra pride in his win. “Barbers typically don’t enter men’s styling categories, but I’m the first barber to ever win this category,” mused Almaraz. “Before it seemed hairstyling was the focus, but now the barbering precision is being recognized. I feel like my win helped change the category name for next year.”

For his collection, Almaraz wanted to stay true to the roots of Chicago and street style. “I wanted to bring different styles, texture and hair art that this category hasn’t seen before.”

Our hispanic model had thick, straight hair. This finish required an expert level of cutting and styling to achieve the shape and precision. 


Photographer: Joseph Casselberry /Make up artist: Jen Gerstner /Wardrobe stylist: Lisa Finucane 


Our second model had natural dreadlocks he was growing for awhile. I freshened up the dreads and paired a hair design and simple beard shape to complement his overall look.


Photographer: Joseph Casselberry /Make up artist: Jen Gerstner /Wardrobe stylist: Lisa Finucane 

Our third model had a bald fade with a hair design and precision hairline. To bring the look to the next level, I incorporated a precision beard design.


Photographer: Joseph Casselberry /Make up artist: Jen Gerstner /Wardrobe stylist: Lisa Finucane 

Q: How did you get started in barbering?

A: In 2000, I was trying to find a good barber who could do a precision cut and line up. I went to a barbershop that had 15 chairs. At the time I was in parking enforcement, but I went to the shop twice a week—a fade and lineup on Wednesday and touch ups on the weekend. I asked my barber how much he made a week, and his response was twice what I was making! That was an incentive to change careers. An older barber in the shop sold me a ‘barber starter kit’ with clippers, trimmer, cape, brush, everything I needed to get started. I noticed they really didn’t use shears though and I wanted to learn scissor cutting as well. I looked in the yellow pages and found a cosmetology school.

Q: You’re a cosmetologist?

A: Yes! At first I didn’t know there was a difference in the licensing and requirements of cosmetologists and barbers. I have my cosmetology license, and I'm also licensed as a cosmetology instructor. Since the requirements are different for a barber, I got my barber license and barber instructor credentials.

Q: What interested you in becoming a teacher?

A: A lot of the cosmetologists I met didn't know how to use clippers and wanted to learn. In 2009, I made an instructional video ‘How to Fade Hair’ that received a lot of attention from stylists here and in other countries like Spain, Chile and Australia, who wanted to learn barbering techniques. I am licensed in the state of Illinois to provide credit hours for continuing education requirements for renewing cosmetology licenses. I ended up doing a statewide tour teaching cosmetologists my independent education curriculum. Currently I’m going through the process of getting certified in states that require continuing education. It varies from state to state.


Q: Now there’s a How to Fade Hair Barber School Inc?

A: We just opened the school in May of this year in Cicero, Illinois. In 2005, I opened Jacob’s Barbershop at the same location, just a smaller space. I’ve always leaned toward teaching, so I felt acquiring the additional space next door and converting Jacob’s into a school made the most sense. I want to leave a legacy behind, for my family and for other barbers. The first student enrolled was my 19-year-old son Jacob, who I named my shop after. He will learn barbering skills and hopefully make an impact in the industry. In my opinion, barbers are in need of a louder voice in the hair industry. Cosmetologists are kept up-to-date on trends through continuing education organized by associations and it's a requirement of various state regulations, but for barbers, typically no continuing education is required after licensing. Continuing education is a personal choice, however today’s barber influencers and educators are starting to express the importance of continued learning, whether it’s required or not, and the new generation of barbers is responding well with interest.

Q: Tell me more about the school.

A: Our curriculum provides advanced learning on sanitation, nails, perms, color, facials, scalp treatments, shaving, cutting long and short hair, and of course, how to fade hair. I’m investing in more backdrops for video and photo shoots to teach content creation for students’ marketing portfolios. There has been much interest from licensed cosmetologists who are seeking barbering education, which is great because Illinois, as well as other states, is now making it easier with shorter crossover programs for cosmetologists to become licensed barbers. Perhaps with more cosmetologists becoming barbers, this may help bring new perspectives to the barbering world.

Q: Anything else to add?

A: Through Wahl, I had the privilege to work with Great Clips on their men's education curriculum that will be launched nationwide throughout their salons. This is an exciting project for the hair industry because it mixes men's grooming and cosmetology together on a grand scale.           

For more information go to www.howtofadehairbarberschool.com

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