Ben Chen: My favorite part of giving haircuts are the conversations with my friends

Junior Ben Chen prepares to cut junior Devin Brogan’s hair. Chen converted a room off of his garage to his full-time barbershop area for his clients. The conversations and bonds with his clients are what make his time worth it. “Conversations with my clients can range from a local sports team to the state of our nation, so Im always getting a good conversation with my clients,” Chen said.

Courtesy of Ben Chen

Junior Ben Chen prepares to cut junior Devin Brogan’s hair. Chen converted a room off of his garage to his full-time barbershop area for his clients. The conversations and bonds with his clients are what make his time worth it. “Conversations with my clients can range from a local sports team to the state of our nation, so I’m always getting a good conversation with my clients,” Chen said.

By Haley Melvin, Wayland High School

Junior Ben Chen started a non-profit barber shop just over a year ago to provide some of his friends and peers with fresh haircuts without the expensive price. Chen worked through COVID-19, following safety guidelines so that his clients were able to get haircuts while the salons were temporarily shut down.

Chen has been giving haircuts for about a year now. He originally started cutting hair by practicing on himself, but eventually began learning how to cut others hair as well. The first haircut he gave was to his friend, senior Allen Zou, during the annual boys Maine soccer tournament in the summer of 2019.

Chen used to get haircuts from his barber every two weeks, and he started to feel bad about the amount of money his parents were spending on haircuts. This is what inspired him to begin his own small non-profit barbershop.

“I was inspired to start cutting hair because I used to always like to look fresh, so I would usually go to the barbershop every two weeks,” Chen said. “This was really expensive and my mom didn’t like it, so I stopped going so often and that’s when I started cutting my own hair.”

With a passion for quality haircuts and affordable prices, Chen gives haircuts for free in hopes of saving his friends both time and some cash.

“I started cutting hair seriously because I want to give my friends the chance to look as fresh as possible,” Chen said. “I give free haircuts because I don’t want them to worry about how much money they are spending.”

Although Chen doesn’t ask for money, he expresses that the conversations and bonds he forms with his clients are worth the time he takes out of his day to cut hair.

“I really enjoy the conversation from giving haircuts. I’m friends with everyone I give haircuts to, and the friendships have gotten a lot stronger since I’ve been giving them out,” Chen said. “The haircuts typically take around 45 minutes, which may seem like a long time, but half of the time we’re just chatting and talking about things that have been going on in our lives.”

Chen learned to cut hair from watching his barber work and also by watching informative Youtube videos, but he also had help from a few of his close friends. Two of his close friends allowed Chen to practice and experiment on their hair so Chen could become better.

“A lot of learning how to cut hair came from trial and error, so I thank Allen Zou and Billy Cossart for giving me my start,” Chen said.

Cossart was originally nervous about getting his hair cut by Chen, but allowed him to experiment on him despite a lack of experience.

“I was super nervous with him trying me out. I did know that Ben was artistic, so I was confident he wouldn’t mess up my hair,” Cossart said.

After Cossart’s first experience with Chen, he was satisfied with how it turned out and decided to continue going to Chen for future haircuts.

“After the first haircut, I learned that I should just go here instead of Supercuts because it’s free, and [Ben and I] get to catch up and gossip,” Cossart said. “I would definitely recommend Ben to people.”

Chen didn’t want COVID-19 to stop him from giving haircuts, so he decided to create a separate place in his house where he would run the business. He gives haircuts in a room that branches off his garage, so it is in a separate location from where the rest of his family is.

Many students and friends of Chen now go to him regularly for haircuts. Chen tends to get anywhere from 0-5 clients per week on average.

“A lot of guys kind of have the same schedule for haircuts, so I don’t see people every week, but when those schedules line up, I can see two or three guys in one day,” Chen says

Although giving out haircuts to his friends can be time consuming, Chen manages to delegate his time well.

“It’s honestly pretty easy to manage my time. I usually know my schedule pretty well, so it’s easy to have guys come to the shop throughout the week,” Chen says. “A lot of my sports and schoolwork gets done at night, so it’s really easy to get guys in for cuts during the day.”

Chen’s clients don’t have mindless small talk while getting their haircut, as Chen and his clients often get into long, in-depth conversations ranging from a variety of topics.

“My favorite part of giving haircuts are the conversations with my friends while I cut their hair,” Chen said.”They tell me funny stories and we can debate about different topics or talk about sports. Talking in the shop is like free therapy and I love getting to chop it up with my guys.”

This story was originally published on Wayland Student Press on March 22, 2021.