TORRINGTON – When Ryelee Baros was a senior at Torrington High School, he’d see other guys coming to school looking less than their best.
“My friends actually came to school with some messed up designs in their hair,” he said. “I’d look at them and tell myself, ‘I could probably do that better.’”
Building on his interest in art, Baros ended up on a popular online video channel, wanting to learn. He ended up getting “really wrapped up in it and started trying it out for myself,” he said. Soon, he was cutting hair for his friends, who told him he should think about doing it professionally.
The only programs available at the time – Baros graduated from THS with the class of 2011 – were out of town. So, he worked a series of what he described as “odd jobs,” until he got a break – Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington was starting a barbering program to augment the existing Cosmetology Program at the school.
Today, Baros is the newest barber in town, working at one of the stations at the His and Hers Salon and Barbershop on East A Street. The shop opened in June and Baros hung up his shingle – or barber pole – in August.
He graduated from the EWC barbering program in June, with the first full class to complete the one-year certificate program. And, even while he was looking into different programs away from Torrington, the birth of the local program was a godsend.
“A few years before (the EWC) program was officially announced, I had a few friends in the cosmetology program were telling me it was going to start,” he said. “I was looking at my options. The only other programs were in Casper or Colorado, but I really didn’t want to go there.
“It was a no-brainer for me to stay home and do it,” Baros said.
That first day of barber school at EWC, Baros hit it off with his four barber-to-be classmates right away. They were a definite minority in a class of as many as 30 or so cosmetology students as their first weeks of class were spent learning the science of the different types of hair, skin types and more.
All the instructors in both the cosmetology and barbering programs are licensed in their fields by the state of Wyoming Board of Cosmetology Barber Examiners. And most, if not all, have been in the trenches, running their own salons and shops, a big advantage to the students, Baros said.
Even with his own experience, cutting hair for his friends in high school, Baros quickly learned one of the most important lessons – exactly what he didn’t know.
“I already knew a lot – well, I thought I knew a lot – about different cuts,” he said. “But it was good to get different points of view from people who have different styles.
“Their techniques were different from a lot of the stuff I was used to seeing,” Baros said. “Up to then, I’d never even been in a barber shop until I got to barber school. I’d always gotten my hair cut by family members or myself.”
One thing that attracted Baros to the EWC barber program was the “no chemicals” provisions in the curriculum – meaning he didn’t have to learn to color hair or do perms – which he said didn’t interest him anyway. The first weeks of the program were spent on the science, and working with hair mannequins – artificial heads with hair attached – as they learned the basics.
“We went through a lot of those, maybe more than we were supposed to,” Baros said. “The real difference (between cosmetology and barbering programs) was we learned shaving (techniques) while they learned their color and perm – the chemical stuff.”
The only time Baros was really nervous or uncertain was when he had to give his first haircut as part of the program.
“When you start out cutting hair, it’s on women’s haircuts,” he said. “I’d never cut a woman’s hair.
“It was a completely different ballgame. But once you get started, though, hair is hair.”
All-in-all, he thinks it was a worthwhile experience. He enjoyed the realistic atmosphere of the barbering program at EWC, learning about customer service in dealing with clients and carrying himself in a professional manner, in addition to new tricks for cutting and styling hair.
It’s actually a lot like the real world of working in a shop such as His and Hers, Baros said. Everything is set up the way he wants it to be, similarly to how he set up his station in the barbering program, where he treated the experience “like a job.
“Eventually, I do want to open my own business,” he said. “I don’t really have a time table set up right now, I’m just trying to get my name out there, perfect what I’m doing. I’m still learning.
“You’re always learning,” Baros said. “Here, I’m learning the business side. My goal is I want to have a shop – or maybe even a few shops – of my own.”