DANVILLE — Terry Gouard knew ever since he picked up a pair of clippers that the barber life was the life for him.
He believes there are plenty more out there just like him, and he’s going to help them try to realize their dream.
“I’ve been a licensed barber since 2014, but I’ve been cutting hair since my sophomore year in high school,” the 30-year-old Gouard said. “My senior year I was the barber to go to” for people who wanted to look their best for dances, football games and other social events.
He went to barber college in Peoria and worked under Danville barber Phil Davis while in high school and back home during barber college breaks.
“I pretty much knew I was going to be a barber as soon as I picked my clippers up,” he said. “It lets me express my creative abilities, talking to people, counseling people. You change a lot of lives. People might be having a bad day.”
He said a barber can be a good sounding board.
Gouard will help teach others his trade when he leads a new barber program at Danville Community College beginning in January.
In 2019, Gouard broached the idea to college President Stephen Nacco, according to Laura Hensgen, DACC director of community education. But the COVID-19 pandemic postponed implementation.
“I was thinking it would fall under a non-credit program. I researched it and other community colleges that have offered it,” Hensgen said.
But things changed. The college opted to give barber students an option of taking a certificate program (one year) or as an associate program (two years) with barber college in addition to courses in psychology, a business elective and two general education classes.
Hensgen said the barber school will be an all-day program with a 30-minute lunch. Classes and barber facilities will be set up at Village Mall in Danville.
Illinois statute requires that for students to earn their license they must complete 1,500 contact hours with an instructor, with 600 of those hours cutting hair. The public will be able to get free haircuts from students.
Hensgen said Gouard wants to offer free haircuts to veterans at the VA facility and at nursing homes “and provide our service to the public.”
Interviews of prospective students will begin in October. Twenty students will be accepted. Financial aid and scholarships will be offered.
Gouard, who has his own shop, A Plus Cutz in downtown Danville, said barbering is a good profession.
“The barber industry has grown a lot,” he said. “If you look at it now, anywhere you go you see barbering from movies to commercials to video games. Barbering is very essential. It’s been going on since 5000 B.C. — even in the pandemic, even though they said it wasn’t essential.
“Hair always grows, and people always need cuts.”
Gouard said barbers can take their business anywhere.
“I’ve got buddies who cut hair for celebrities in Hollywood and do shows all over the world,” Gouard said.
Barbering is a personal business. Customers often tell their barbers things they wouldn’t tell anyone else. Hence, the psychology course needed to earn an associate degree.
Gouard said he enjoys being in touch with people.
There’s also a competitive side to the job. There are barber competitions held across the country. Gouard has competed in his fair share.
The latest one in Danville — The Battle of Central Illinois Barbers — will be held Nov. 20. It will be the fifth annual one.
Gouard has seen the local competition grow from eight barbers the first year to 50 barbers and 300 people in attendance.
“Many of the best barbers in the country come to the show,” he said. “The winner gets a WWE-type belt.
“One guy who has won over 100 trophies, he’s won the last two years.”
Competitors will be there from Springfield, Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Texas.
Gouard said the competitions are good for networking and to inspire the next generation of barbers.
He plans to take students enrolled in the DACC program to the shows.
“It’s more than just cutting hair,” he said. “It’s being creative.”
The competitions feature three categories for difficulty of haircut, creativity and precision.
Gouard called becoming a barber the best decision he’s ever made.
In addition to himself, his shop has two other barbers and two braiders.
“I’m busy, but who doesn’t want to be busy?” he said. “But you can make your own schedule. If you want to be busy and successful, you’ve got to put in the time.”