The Barber Project

A Movement to Empower Barbers

The barbering profession offers huge opportunities for talented, hard-working individuals.  By honing their skills, barbers have the chance to build fulfilling careers and achieve a lot of success, providing for their families and their communities.  Barbers can also foster a sense of community, and create spaces where people gather, share stories, and connect with one another.  

Despite the profession’s rich and important history, barbers often face serious regulatory barriers that make a fulfilling career difficult and expensive to achieve.  States force barbers to spend up to 2,100 hours in school – even if they already know how to perform the services, or can learn from a trusted mentor.  

Many barbers benefit from traditional barbering school—but we’ve heard from many that it can also be a waste of time, learning skills barbers already know, or spending many on course hours when you could be learning on the job and getting paid.

There are alternatives to the current way that states regulate barbers, that don’t force them to spend so much time and money on traditional programs.  Even just dropping hours would help save substantial time and money; New York only requires 291 hours in school.

We want to understand what barriers barbers are facing and what needs to change so that the craft can continue to thrive. We are the Institute for Justice, a national nonprofit that has worked to reduce barriers in the beauty industry for the last twenty years. We have been talking to barbers across the country and we want to hear your thoughts!

Complaints we have heard from barbers

Barbers have complained about the high cost and restrictive nature of licensing laws in the United States.

Too long

State-mandated training takes too long

Hiring is hard

It is difficult to find, hire, and retain skilled barbers

Poor quality

Training in barbering school is often poor quality

Too far

No nearby barbering schools

Difficult Licensing

Obtaining a license can be difficult

Legal issues

Unlicensed barbers must work illegally

Too expensive

High student debt

Lengthy Renewals

License renewals are expensive and can take a long time

Difficult to transfer

Licenses are difficult to transfer between states

We believe barbers deserve better.

While protecting health and safety is paramount, state laws should not keep talented and dedicated barbers from a fulfilling career cutting hair for arbitrary reasons, nor should they overburden existing barbers with pointless regulations and restrictions. Tell us your thoughts and let us know what you wish was different in your state!

Share Your Thoughts

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Did you know?

Despite the profession’s rich and important history, barbers often face pointless regulatory barriers that make a fulfilling career difficult and expensive to achieve.   


… just to legally cut hair for a living, barbers must undergo up to 2,100 hours of training in some states to get a license. This is true even if the barber has extensive experience. 


…. that only 18 states give new barbers the option to apprentice rather than attend school? This is true even in places where there is no viable way to obtain a quality education. 


…though barbers are required to obtain licenses in all 50 states, this requirement is actually fairly new? Alabama didn’t require licenses as recently as 2013. 


…that barber school programs often cost tens of thousands of dollars? Many barbers are forced to take on significant debt just to get through school. 


…that many other countries, including the United Kingdom, parts of Canada, Spain, and half of the member states of the European Union do not require any sort of formal barber license? Many rely solely on voluntary certification. 


…that only a very small portion of the required training for barbers has anything to do with health and safety? Some states have managed to boil this component down to a few hour long course.