Everyone has got their own story, and some of the most interesting tales come from the least suspecting of places. Take Yago Sajonetti Maistrello, for instance, a tattooed Brazilian immigrant to Canada who cuts all kinds of hair to perfection. Aside from the actual physical labour of cutting and styling hair and beards, not to mention the need for an unrivalled work ethic, their job can involve a lot of chatting.
With a barber, at times, someone in whom you can confide, it’s no wonder they can have some serious stories. We recently connected with Maistrello to find out more about his tale as a Brazilian immigrant coming to Canada, finding his own way, and navigating his career forward, one day, and one client at a time.
Yago, you’re originally from Brazil. Tell us about your time/life in Brazil before you came to Canada?
Yago Sajonetti Maistrello: “Well, I was born in a small city in Brazil, of around 50,000 people, called Mirassol, around 800 km from the coast. During my childhood and when I was a teenager, I worked on a farm. After a few years, I worked in a factory, which was a hard time in my life. I used to work twelve hours a day for a minimum wage. Then I went to barber school, opened my own barbershop and renovated it twice in five years. I always tried to be unique to gather people’s attention to my business. For example, I used to sell beer and rock band t-shirts in my barbershop; I had a projector for clients to watch soccer games, I had video games for clients to play while they waited for our services, and also a pool table. Everything for free!”
This said, what made you come to Canada?
“That’s actually a fun question! My girlfriend at that time (now she’s my wife) wanted to travel to Italy, but she had been there before with an ex-boyfriend, so I had to choose a new location, a neutral location! The funny part is that we bought the flight tickets to Vancouver even before we got our visitor permit, thank god everything worked out, and we could come to Canada, just on vacation that year. One year after that trip, I decided to move to Vancouver; I had fallen in love with the gorgeous city!”
How did you get into this line of work? What was it that put you on this path?
“My father is a barber in Brazil, and he said that I should do the barber course, that I’d work less and get more money, so I did. He wasn’t 100 percent accurate, I am making good money, but I am working my ass off. After my basic course, I worked with him for one year (he has been a barber for more than 30 years now), and he taught me all his techniques. After that, I felt confident enough to open my own barbershop and to be honest, with my father’s techniques and my young vision of the business, I launched like a rocket in a small city.”
Where do you currently work; where can people find you?
“People can find me on Instagram @yago_barberbr where I give advice to Brazilian barbers, post about my work and my days.”
What’s the best and/or your favourite part about being a barber?
“I love the challenge of the new clients. Don’t get me wrong here, I love it when my clients come back to me again and again, it means that I did a great job the last time, but what keeps me motivated is the fact that I have to figure out about the unique preferences of every client, the type of hair, cowlicks, texture, and give them a great haircut. I love when I finish my work, and they seem to be surprised at how good they look.”
What’s the single hardest thing about cutting hair and/or trimming facial hair?
“Cowlicks on fine hair. Even when it’s long, it will spike out everywhere, and it is not easy to do a good job under the circumstance. For facial hair, sometimes clients show us photos of straight full beards and they want the same as the photo despite the fact that they have a beard that’s curly, full of gaps, and/or short.”
I’m sure you’ve got some funny/crazy stories from your years of work. Share one with us.
“There was this guy, who was trying to ruin my career in Canada, he left a one-star review on Google, saying that ‘Yago is a nice guy but has no skills.’ Then I asked the shop owner to talk to him about it, but he did not. And then the guy updated his review to ‘Nice guy, but no skills. I’d have done a better job using a butter knife with my eyes closed.’ I got pissed and decided to Google his name, then I found out that he is actually a motivational speaker, and I decided to reply to his review on Google, so I left a comment saying, “To Mr….., You said that you were not happy with your haircut at the barbershop, let me know how I can fix it up for you. By the way, as a motivational speaker, you suck!’ After a few hours, he deleted his review from Google, and I have never heard from him again.”
Do you do all of your own hair cutting, or do you get to trade favours with other barbers?
“I usually do my own hair. I use a 0.5 all over, and for the beard, I am very picky about it, I don’t want to be an annoying client, and I don’t trust anyone to do it, so I do it by myself. Sometimes my coworkers ask me to cut their hair, and when we have some free time, I always do it for them, for free, because they helped me before with English tips, Canadian culture, or bringing me some food to try.”
What’s the best piece of advice you can share with people who maintain their own facial hair?
“If you are trying to grow out your beard, you must know that you will look worse before you look good. It takes time to look great. If you are just trying to maintain your beard, short or long, put some beard oil on it to keep it hydrated and soft, wash it every day with proper beard products, and keep it looking fresh line it up at least once a month to every other week (or every week, depending on how fast your beard grows out.)”
If someone is considering a career as a barber, what advice would you share with them?
“Don’t ever stop learning. Don’t ever think that you know everything. There are new hair tendencies every year, and you must learn about them. It doesn’t matter if you have cut hair for two or 20 years, you will never know everything. There’s no right way to cut hair or do a beard trim, there’s the way you do, and there’s the way the other barber does; what matters is if the client is happy when it’s done.”
What’s the craziest thing a customer has asked you to do for them?
“After so many years working with clients, I have had a few nonsense requests. Every time I triple-check if they really want to do that, and after I am done, I just think, ‘please, do not tell anyone that you got this haircut from me.’ A couple of weeks ago, there was this client with long hair on his eyebrows, so asked him if he wanted me to trim it. But instead of trimming them, he asked me to put some hair product on them!”
Where do you see your career in ten years?
“That’s a trick question. If you had asked me five years ago where I would see myself in five years, I would never say Canada. In ten years, I would say that my best shot would be with my own second or third barbershop, training new barbers for my shops, and taking care of the bureaucratic stuff. I am getting old to be on my feet six days a week for ten hours a day (laughs).”