It’s rare to find Amelia Herb without a pair of hair cutting scissors. Since graduating highschool in 2002 where she worked toward earning her diploma and getting her hair styling license, the Indiana native has now been cutting hair for 19 years.
After earning her license, Herb was able to travel anywhere from New York to Paris to take hair styling classes. After highschool, she took advantage of this opportunity and based her years off of traveling to take classes and observe peoples’ hairstyles throughout the globe.
“I would travel, and then curate looks and styles and different contours for people just based on what I saw on my traveling,” Herb said.
Herb’s ultimate goal is to teach hair styling classes, which she got a taste of while conducting a bang-trimming class in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, last March. However, after returning home to a completely shut down Athens, Herb was forced to take her longest break ever since receiving her hair styling license back in 2002.
Herb owned a salon, Tangerine Dream, for eight years in Rabun County. Being no stranger to hair styling business operations, Herb came up with a make-shift solution to performing her craft during shutdown — cutting hair on clients’ front porches.
“Legally, you cannot do hair out of your house, but you can cut hair in a yard. So I would go to people's houses and cut in on their porches. I would bring Georgie, my daughter, with me, and she would sit in the car and read,” Herb said.
While adapting to Georgia’s hair styling safety regulations, Herb said the biggest challenge was not being allowed to blow dry hair. This led her to adjust her cuts to be extremely customized to each client, specially by using a technique she refers to as precision cutting.
“[Precision cutting] is based on the skull’s shape. So, I can do the same haircut on two people and it looks completely different," Herb said. "I'm not basing the cut off of (a type) of hair cut so much as off of that individual's face shape.”
Client Jena Jibreen, a junior international affairs and psychology double major at the University of Georgia, said that Herb’s technique is what made her haircut experience so unique. After her visit with Herb, Jibreen said that she received the first haircut in her life that she really loved.
“I genuinely had always been frustrated with the fact that nobody really cared to cut my hair correctly and I always hated my hair,” Jibreen said. “[Herb] hears you out with all your concerns for your hair and how you wish it would look like.”
Herb also places emphasis on assisting her clients in managing the upkeep of their hair once their hair cut and styling is complete. She said she ideally wants clients to manage their hair on their own for four to six months, as that is how long her cuts typically take to grow out.
“It goes beyond just the cut. ... [It’s about] letting them see how to manipulate the hair on their own and teaching people how to touch their hair differently," Herb said.
Kalia Henry, UGA senior animal science major and another client of Herb’s, said this aspect of Herb’s cuts is what makes Herb stand out from other stylists.
“On her Instagram there’s a bang trimming tutorial to do it yourself. I think most hairstyles kind of guilt you into never doing anything at home, but [Herb] said I could trim my bangs once or twice on my own and when I want a more extreme shape up I can come in,” Henry said.
For Herb, cutting hair is the kind of passion that follows her in every aspect of her life, whether that be in a salon, on a porch or even in a grocery store.
“I find myself grocery shopping and (mentally) cutting hair of the people in line,” Herb said. “It's not that what they have in that moment is wrong. … But slight asymmetrical angles will bring out their eyes, or they'll smile in such a way that I think, ‘How are you walking on this planet right now with a beautiful face hiding behind your hair?’ It's just a compliment to an already complimentary aesthetic.”
Though Herb may find herself having the urge to enhance the preexisting beauty of those around her, Herb also takes the notion of respecting other hair stylists’ work very seriously and champions the community she is a part of.
“I'm not the only one out here doing this. There are other people out there finding hairstyles, out there finding alternative ways to keep people feeling safe,” Herb said. “The amount of effort they've put forward in protecting the community is pretty amazing.”