Bringing diversity to the Ames hair community

Joe the Barber cuts Dominic Lee’s hair Feb. 10, 2017. Joe owns Campustown Cuts, located at 126 Welch Ave. 

Tyler Lewis

Hair, like people, comes in all shapes, sizes and styles. Hair, to many, can a be a firm part of their identity. Everyone wants to look good and feel good with a nice haircut, but in Ames, it is a challenge for students of color to find a place to get their haircut.

Joe the Barber, owner of Campustown Cuts, fills that vacancy for the Ames community. Joe has lived in Ames for 10 years. He originally came to Ames for family related reasons with the intention of attending Iowa State University, but he found a passion for cutting hair and decided to attend the American College of Hairstyling in Des Moines. 

The people, Joe said, have been a big reason why he has stuck around so long in Ames.

“They made me feel wanted,” Joe said. “They kept saying ‘if you leave, I’m going to leave.'”

The community members and students who frequently visit Campustown Cuts have rallied around him. They let him know he is a go-to person when it comes to important events in their lives. 

“They made me feel wanted. They kept saying ‘if you leave, I’m going to leave’”

With limited hair-grooming options in Ames for people of color, and a bigger market for multicultural people in Des Moines, the challenge has been getting barbers to Ames and keeping them around.

“Being that there is only two of us, we won’t be able to cut everybody’s hair here in Ames,” Joe said.

Joe has commissioned several barbers during his time owning Campustown Cuts, but it’s hard to keep them around. He explained that barbers in Des Moines do not realize the clientele they could have in Ames. 

“Being that there is only two of us, we won’t be able to cut everybody’s hair here in Ames”

Joe wants to change their attitude. His goal is to expand his business and have more barbers readily available to the Ames community so students and residents will not have to drive to Des Moines for their hair needs.

According to Joe, the other barbershops in Ames lack the ability to cater to people of color. Joe recalled a customer coming into his barbershop and telling him how another local shop told his customer that “they didn’t cut that type of hair”. Joe’s suggestion to other hair places in Ames is “To be more open to trying new things”.

While being one of the only barbers in Ames that can style ethnic hair may be a challenge, Joe takes it in stride. 

Hasan Dennis-Pickett is a student on campus who repeated the same sentiments that Joe did. Pickett is a senior in event management. He learned to cut his own hair at a young age and picked it up as a hobby to help out his friends and family.

Hasan hails from Lancaster, California, a community that has a multitude of barbershops that cater to underrepresented communities. The contrast between his hometown and Ames became apparent when he started attending Iowa State in 2013.

“The lack of diversity in the Ames’ [barbershops] is something I noticed when I first got here,” Pickett said.

Hasan and his friends didn’t know of many options in Ames. In turn, he started cutting his own hair, eventually cutting his friends’ hair as well. 

“The lack of diversity in the Ames’ [hair community] is something I noticed when I first got here” 

Pickett said he occasionally drives to Des Moines, like many students at ISU, to get a haircut. He believes the addition of barbers and salons to the Ames community as a solution will benefit students of color and local barbers.