There’s always some trepidation when someone new cuts one’s hair, so it’s a masterstroke by stylist Ken Hiebert that his formidable trophy case is the first thing patrons see when passing through his door. Newcomers to Upper Cuts Hair Studio at 2090 Corydon Ave., of which he’s owner, should be immediately set at ease.
"The inspiring thing about competition is to see people upping their game more and more," says Hiebert, whose own competitive spirit seems inexhaustible. "I aspire to that."
It’s a further measure of the recognition Hiebert has garnered that colleagues he’s long looked up to are now asking him for training for the "Hair Olympics" — the OMC HairWorld Championship of Beauty in Frankfurt, Germany in 2014.
Hiebert has taken part on three separate occasions, most recently as a 2010 member of Team Canada in Paris, France. He was joined on that occasion by one of his employees, stylist Lindsay Lecker, and the pair placed sixth.
While official competition is stressful, time-consuming and high in overhead, Hiebert still has the energy for it at a youthful-looking 54. ("Thank God for hair colour," he jokes.) He’s got another competition coming up in Toronto next month, put on by the Allied Beauty Association; he’ll be returning as a defending champ, having taken first place in the creative technical blow dry category last year.
What it comes down to is that Hiebert’s the sort of creative type who can’t stand still.
"I would be kind of bored doing the same thing over and over," he explains. If there’s one thing he’s discovered in his 27 years as a stylist, it’s that there’s seemingly endless creative possibilities for a head of hair.
His inspiration was his mother, who did her own hair: "I’d watch her and be in awe." And there’s always so much more to learn, he insists.
When it came to competing, Hiebert started at while attending what’s now Scientific Marvel School of Hairstyling and Esthetics in Winnipeg, at age 26.
His spirit would seem to run in the family: his children Jason, 32, and Jasmine, 29, are not only his business partners but are now competing themselves. As for Upper Cuts, Hiebert’s expecting to keep it going "forever and ever.
"Hairdressers don’t have good pension plans. You basically work until you can’t."
Fortunately then, "I love coming to work," Hiebert beams. Lately he’s been at the salon every day lately until almost midnight, preparing for Toronto. "What am I going to do at home anyway, watch TV?"
Kenton Smith is a community correspondent for Tuxedo. You can reach him at email@example.com