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Quit your job, become a… braider

By Michael Curle
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Joel Benjamin, 29, freelance hairstylist and braider explains how he got into the braiding business

How did you make the braid? I mean, grade.

'I met a guy at a house party who worked for Cut, a cult hair salon in Soho that's been around since the '80s - Boy George and lots of famous people went there. Cut [subsequently rechristened We Are Cuts] offered me a job and that's where I first trained. I worked there for three years.'

Sounds like a fun place to work. Why did you move on?

'I wanted to pursue styling rather than cutting. It's more creative. So I went to the Aveda Institute in Holborn. It was more corporate than Cuts! Then I got a job as an assistant with [world-famous hairdresser] Johnnie Sapong. By industry standards that was a big break, but being a permanent assistant isn't really my thing. I have a bit of an ego!'

Okay, so you love yourself. Do you love your job?

'I like the freedom it gives me to do what I want, when I want. I get to create hairstyles that make people look and feel good, and I get paid quite well for what I do. I also get to venture into different parts of London and see different things. It doesn't feel like work.'

You specialise in braiding, right?

'Yeah, I describe it as creative tangling! My latest project is 100 Braids of Happy. Every day for 100 days, I'm posting a different type of plait or braid I've done on social media. The response has been epic! I love it because it gives people the chance to wear hair that's on-trend, and me the chance to practise.'

I have to ask: any haircutting disasters?

'When I was a junior stylist, a girl with really long hair asked for a very short graduated bob. I did advise her against going that short, but the client is always right! When I showed her the back she broke down in tears. I thought it looked pretty amazing. She grew to love it too - after a while.'

Joel will be at Barber & Parlour, 64 Redchurch St, E2 7DP, until mid-July.

Hours: ‘From when I wake up to when I close my eyes!’

Starting salary: £19K-£20K p/a

Qualifications: NVQ or experience on the job

Or why not become a bladesmith?

Photo: Rob Greig

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