First barber academy opens in Odessa

March 31, 2019

There is money to be made in cutting hair in the Permian Basin, as Odessa barber Pete McGarity well knows, and he’s now running his own barber school in Odessa to help others learn the tricks of the trade.

McGarity is the co-owner of AnnGee’s Barber Academy in Odessa, the first barber school to open in the city located at 1304 N. West County Road. The school is an extension of the original academy opened in Midland, where McGarity first got his instructor’s license about two years ago.

“She was getting quite full over there, which I knew that would be the case because there’s just so much talent around here without the opportunity for school,” McGarity said. “She said ‘I’m getting full, I think we need to push on opening one in Odessa.’”

When the Odessa school opened in October, it was the fulfillment of a dream McGarity has had for more than 20 years to open up his own barber school.

“I really wasn’t quite ready mentally, because it takes a lot,” he said. “She said if we’re gonna do it, we need to do it now before somebody else does it.”

It takes a lot to run a barber school, but it also takes a lot to get through the school. The course is a 40-week program, or 10 months, and amounts to about 1,500 hours of training in total. Along with the course is a textbook they go through comprised of 22 chapters and about 800 pages going through not only the tools and techniques of barbering, but also covering human anatomy, and other practices like facials and manicures.

Students won’t even cut for the first four weeks of the course, McGarity said. They spend those four weeks being taught proper techniques for draping customers, and proper shampooing and shaving methods, before the students start working on the floor and cutting hair.

Once the students are on the floor is when the hands-on teaching begins. Anyone can walk into the school for a $5 haircut. Chairs and mirrors line the lengths of the room, with practice mannequins hanging about many of the stations. As the cuts get going, McGarity or student instructors will observe, and often come up to help students and show them proper techniques or give them tips on how to improve.

McGarity said the two keys to being a great barber are being able to cut hair well, which comes with the right training, and said the most important key was to be professional.

Raul Saucido is one of the student instructors at the school. He works at McGarity’s barber shop Headlines, 2501 N. Dixie Blvd., and was the first person to enroll and graduate from AnnGee’s Barber Academy in Midland. Saucido said he had originally wanted to go to medical school, and was barbering as a hobby, but he started to enjoy it so much it became his career.

Saucido said anyone can cut, but it takes some technique to master the technical aspects behind the practice.

“There’s technique behind it for sure,” Saucido said. “Anybody knows the steps, but when you get hands-on, you really see how it’s not as easy as it looks.”

Candice Aleman is one of 23 students currently enrolled in the school, and has been there since December.

“Ever since I was little, I used to always see my nephews go to the barber shops,” Aleman said. “It’s just something that always stuck with me since I was little.”

McGarity made national headlines recently in the Wall Street Journal. Three days a week, McGarity will go out to the oilfields in Pecos and give haircuts, and he said he can usually go home with $2,000 to $3,000.

“The demand is here, so we capitalize by giving out quality cuts and just supplying the demand,” McGarity said.

It’s different here than in big cities, he said, where there are barber shops on every corner. In Odessa, McGarity said there aren’t enough barbers.

“I have 18 barbers in my shop and we’re still turning away walk-ins every now and then because there’s just not enough of them,” he said.

There’s a bill in Texas Congress right now, HB 1705, which could make it easier for anyone to be a barber by abolishing the license required for the profession, but McGarity said he’s opposing the bill, and is one of about 169,000 people to sign a petition in opposition of making it easier for anyone to become a barber.

“Then let’s make it easier to be a state representative,” McGarity said. “Let’s go be a chiropractor, they just pop a few bones. It doesn’t make sense. Why would you want to tap into our career and open up that gate for anybody?”

The school is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, but McGarity said the first hour of the day is spent on teaching theory before the students start cutting hair.