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Career Files: Phil Boss, Teacher and Salon Owner

Phil Boss was discouraged from embarking on the career he was passionate about, due to doubts from his parents about non-traditional routes to work. He went to uni, before finally following his passion, becoming a full-time teacher for London School of Barbering, as well as being a salon owner today.

What inspired you to do the career that you’re doing now?

It’s quite a long story! I initially went down the academic route, then later discovered that I wanted to be in charge of my own success and everything I put into it. It sounds strange to put the two together, but I grew up skating, and the thing I always adored about that was, every time I try a new trick, that’s me personally improving. So I wanted a job where I was in charge of that for myself. I’ve also studied marketing and fashion at uni, and I always liked the idea of being a business owner. So I wrote a list of all the qualities that I wanted in a career and it applied to them all.

I started being a hair model for a friend who worked at Trevor Sorbie. It was really cool and inspired me. My brother is a tattooist and I worked for him in my summer holidays from uni too. Watching how he works for himself, even though it’s not in the same industry, is really inspiring to me. It appeals to me that everything he puts into his career, he gets back.
I wasn’t interested in tattooing, but I went back to hairdressing, and found that barbering seemed a bit more suitable, but in hindsight I think I would have been quite happy doing both.
I knew I wanted to do this career from roughly around the age of 16. My Mum’s a very traditional academic woman, so she wasn’t happy with that at all. So embarking on a career in hairdressing kind of went against her wishes

And does she still feel that way? Do you think her opinion has changed at all since you went down that route?

It’s strange actually, I went into teaching, I became an assessor and then I became a full time teacher all of a sudden. Then she was really proud and she’d tell her friends I was a teacher, but she’d always leave out what I was teaching. I’d say it’s changed a little bit, but I think she’s still got a long way to go. She’s not properly against it, because she can see it’s made me happy and that I’m doing well in it. My Mum’s job was to sell education, but that’s not suitable for everyone, which I think is difficult for her to see. I think insecurity comes in, as people see someone who leaves school at 16 and does really well without going down a traditional route and spending lots of money. But I understand that the more people who go to uni, the better their score statistics look, so I can see how that attitude is being formed to a degree.

What did you want to do when you were younger?

So initially I wanted to be a chef, because I used to do a lot of catering at school. But my mum was really against that. She was saying you’ll have a horrible life. You’ll be working long hours, you’ll be getting low pay etc. So then I went to uni to study Marketing and Retail Management.

I think then I was clutching at straws with this one, as my best A Level was in Business Studies, but I was creative at the same time. So I was thinking of combining the two and I thought Marketing and Business Management would tick both boxes.
It wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do. It was more that I felt like I had to go to university.

And then obviously hairdressing was an interest, but it’s not something you can try out, is it really?

Do you think there’s one main influence that made you decide to do what you’re doing now?

I’d probably say my friend who works at Trevor Sorbie. I really enjoyed the way that she portrayed herself. I used to go to the salon quite a lot and she’d do creative haircuts on me and I had all sorts of mad mullets and things. I’d watch how she worked, and I could see myself working there. But there’s a few people that had an air about them, who I looked up to. I really enjoyed a social setting that wasn’t just sitting behind a desk.

How did you get to where you are now and would you encourage others to follow the same route?

So with me being a little bit older and also having had a degree I wasn’t really eligible for apprenticeship funding and so I was just clutching at straws and sending emails to as many people as I could, to pay for my own course. At the time there wasn’t many courses and definitely in Manchester there was none. So I was technically, I think if I’m right, I was the first to privately fund my qualifications.

It took roughly about six months. So it’s a bit faster than a traditional apprenticeship, but I’d definitely recommend it that way. I’ve taught apprenticeships and I’ve also taught private courses. I would say that those who have paid for it themselves tend to put a lot more into it. So I actually really enjoyed having done that route because I felt I couldn’t fail, because I’d invested a lot into it.

But I think if there’s something you’re passionate about, you can see your career and go for it. With Hairdressing and Barbering, there are so many different avenues you can take, which is something I really like. You’ll never be stuck and you don’t have to be behind the chair all the time. You could do session styling, teaching, have your own salon, or be freelance, you can travel…. It’s one of those careers where there are a lot more options than others.

What do you think the future for those embarking on a career in your industry looks like? And are there any skills you think are particularly important in the industry today?

I don’t necessarily like this side of it, but social media, photography and marketing is a vital skill today. When I was training, it wasn’t used in the way that it is today. So I feel like those that don’t learn those skills to market themselves might struggle a bit more.

When I first started working in a salon, you never really had to fight for appointments. Whereas now, there’s a lot more to it to get clients in the door. So, if you can demonstrate your work on TikTok, or take good photos it seems to make a difference. I think that’s probably a little bit more important for people getting in to this career today than maybe it necessarily was. But then this generation are growing up with social media, so that will come easier anyway. I’d also suggest being sociable, because that’s something I struggled with, where people would come for a course visit with a parent, and they will speak for them, and the potential student would just look at the floor. So I think if you can practise people skills, become a little bit more sociable, talk to strangers on a bus, whatever it may be growing up, you make a much better hairdresser than if you didn’t do those kind of things.

And what do you think you would tell your younger self?

If I could tell myself to do it sooner, I would. But having said that, I don’t know if I’d be successful at it if I’d got into at a young age because I learnt a lot of things along the way. For example, going to university where you have to move out and meet new people, I think that probably helped me.
I’d encourage others to allow themselves to explore working with the hands more rather than thinking academics is the only option.