When Rene Villa Gutierrez moved to Texas, he left more than 70 Goshen College students without a barber.
Gutierrez — who would have been a sophomore at Goshen College this year — left for Houston last May after living in Goshen for eight years. He got a job at a barber shop and decided to stay.
Gutierrez gave his first haircut when he was a freshman at Goshen High School. It was to his little brother.
“I learned how by watching videos on YouTube,” he said.
A few dozen more hours on YouTube, a hair-cutting kit and a $350 barber chair — which he ordered online — were all Gutierrez needed to transform the basement of his family’s home on Ashley Court into a barber shop.
By the time Gutierrez arrived at Goshen College as a nursing student in 2018, his clientele included residents of Goshen, Ligonier, South Bend, Elkhart and Bloomington, Indiana.
Gutierrez didn’t promote himself online or on social media, but word of his hair-cutting abilities spread quickly at Goshen College, thanks in large part to a high school friend, Irving Suarez.
When Suarez showed up at a fall kickoff with a freshly-cut fade, people wanted to know who had done it.
Suarez was eager to recommend his friend, Gutierrez.
Soon, Gutierrez was doing two dozen haircuts every weekend that he was wasn’t busy sprinting for the track team. He would cut hair from 10a.m. to 8p.m. both Saturdays and Sundays. Appointments lasted around 45 minutes and cost $15. Of course, friends — and there were a lot of them — received a discount.
Salvador Escamilla, a junior computer science major, met Gutierrez on the track team. He soon became a regular client.
“Rene treated you like a king or a queen when he was giving you a haircut,” Escamilla remembers. “It wasn’t just a haircut; it was a therapy session.”
It’s been five months since Gutierrez’s move, and Escamilla still notices his absence on campus.
“Now there isn’t one central barber to go to,” said Escamilla. “People are lost. People are going to Great Clips and other random places.”
Some clients of Gutierrez now go to Juan Ciudad, a physical education major who cuts mens’ hair in the bathroom of his on-campus apartment. Ciudad charges $10 and usually does one to two haircuts a week.
Unfortunately, he won’t be available to students much longer, as he will be graduating as soon as he finishes student teaching this fall.
Nasim Rasoulipour never got her hair cut by Gutierrez (he doesn’t usually cut long hair). But she can sympathize with his clients who now lack a stylist.
Her freshman year, Rasoulipour was “broke and didn’t have a car.”
When she needed a haircut, a student a year ahead of her did her the favor. “I realized that I could do the same thing,” she said.
Rasoulipour saw a lot of demand, especially in the dorms, so when she went home to Iran over the summer, she asked her mom’s hairstylist to give her some lessons. For now, she only feels comfortable cutting long hair.
Rasoulipour usually cuts hair about once or twice a semester. And she doesn’t charge. (She will accept tips, though, as long as she herself is satisfied with the result.)
Paige Renshaw cuts both long hair and short hair.
A fourth-year history major, with a license in cosmetology, Renshaw has been cutting hair for GC students in the kitchen of her apartment on campus since last year.
She attended beauty school in high school and worked as a full-time hair stylist before coming to Goshen.
Renshaw sees up to five clients per week and charges $6 for men and $8 for women.
As a full-time student and a varsity soccer player, Renshaw has a busy schedule.
“Cutting hair is a great way to make money but I try to not do it too much so it doesn’t distract me from homework,” she says.
Gutierrez didn’t appoint a successor when he left Goshen College, but Axel Brown, a first-year marine biology student, may become just that.
At 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 8, Axel stood at the center of a crowd of students in the third-floor connector with a razor in his hand. Seated in front of him was another freshman, Jackson Steinmetz.
Brown had never cut anyone’s hair before, but he grew up watching his mom cut his hair. “So I figured I at least knew enough about it,” he said.
Brown remembers the conversation in his dorm room that led to the endeavor. “
We were talking about options besides going to college and someone suggested cutting hair. Jackson said, ‘Well I need a haircut’…”
After a quick run to Walmart for a hair-cutting kit, and 30 minutes on YouTube, the guys were ready.
“We took a garbage bag and cut a hole in it,” Brown said. “We slipped it over Jackson and I proceeded to cut his hair.”
“It took about 50 minutes just to trim it nicely. Both Jackson and I were sweating profusely.” To their relief, the result was respectable.
When asked if he would cut more people’s hair, Brown answered: “Potentially, yes.”
Would he trust himself to cut his hair if he were another student?
“Yes,’ he said, “because [in the] worst case scenario, I just become bald.”
Brown may be optimistic about his hair-cutting abilities, but it will take a while before Escamilla, whose hair is now 4 inches in length, trusts him with his curly locks.
“I’m scared to try to get a fade from someone else other than Rene,” he said. “I won’t even let my own sister do it, and she’s a hair stylist.”