Gemma Willock-Smith

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BarberNV last featured Gemma Willock-Smith back in 2016 as part of our Rising Stars series. Originally from Brixton, Gemma worked with Rebel Rebel for little under eight years—even managing the Glasgow barbers for two-and-a-half years.

Now Gemma has gone out on her own, recognising that everyone, eventually, needs to spread their wings—Gemma’s being an ambition you cannot falter. At the start of December 2018, she opened Frequency on Maryhill road, with a second shop already planned to open in Glasgow’s west end later this year.

Gemma has been part of the hair industry for 18 years, starting as a hairdresser before becoming a barber. Having such an impact in a male-dominated industry, we asked Gemma if she had faced adversity for being a female barber, she said:

“No, never. I don’t really see boundaries, I never have. My focus is on my clients and how I can be creative for them, and how I can be better at what I do for them. I don’t focus on anybody else or anything else in the industry. I don’t look at other people, I look at me and the people around me, and how I can help them. Which now, opening a business, I’m going to have to a little bit more.”

However, Gemma believes industry awards should have more diversity in their categories; stripping away the gendered awards for Best Barber making the categories inclusive of all competitors.

“When you’re winning Best Female Barber it doesn’t make you feel like you’ve won because you’re only up against one gender. I think there should just be a Best Barber because between our hands there’s nothing different. And I know a lot of male friends who would like to get put up against women because it’s a real challenge. I would like to walk away with Best Barber period.”

Prolific with her stage work Gemma told us she is at crossroads, looking to start spending more time with her clients.   

“It’s great for your social media, it’s great for your profile but really it doesn’t put a roof over my kids’ head. But I do enjoy doing stage work, so I think I’ll maybe do it as a hobby every now and then and push my team.

“Photo shoots are the part I’ll be focusing on because that’s the best content you can put on your social media. A photo’s worth a thousand words.”   

This year, as Gemma told BarberNV, she intends to enter both the American Crew All-Star Challenge and the Scottish Hair & Beauty Awards—pushing her team to enter as many categories in the latter as they want. For these illustrious competitions, Gemma has organised two photo shoots this month, opting to showcase the styles she wants to see gain a rise in popularity.    

“I started in hairdressing and only really started tapping into barbering a couple of years before I started at Rebel. I think in the time since I started everything has already swung around. I remember when I was a kid my mum had a mullet, then they were back in fashion when I started barbering, and now they’re back in again.   

“For me, I’d like to see shorter scissor cuts. Long scissor cuts came in and they’re already on their way back out again. Not so much the taper fades people are showing, more like old school crops like Stefan from Vampire Diaries. You know my main wage is fades and I fade all day every day, but I’d like to see more of those styles come out of the box.”

2019 is going to be a very busy and exciting year for Gemma, and we can’t wait to see the results of all the hard work—not just for herself but for everyone around her.