Debbie Goble Shows the Boys How It’s Done
Crossing barriers is an act of courage. Debbie Goble broke a barrier by being one of the Northland’s first female barbers in an all-male barbershop in the 1970s. Some customers decided to wait for a male barber to become available while others loved the idea of a lady cutting their hair. Today this persistent redhead has a large cliental accumulated from her 38-year career, including me.
Goble, best known by her sense of humor and striking red hair, graduated from Park Hill High School in 1974 and was disappointed to find that female students were not allowed in barber school, a rule that changed in 1978. There simply were few if any female barbers in America until the late 1970s, early 1980s. Male barbers were an American symbol as depicted in Norman Rockwell paintings and other venues. An episode of the Andy Griffith Show featured a beautiful lady manicurist in Floyd's Barber Shop and displayed how uncomfortable the male customers became over her presence. America believed a woman didn’t belong in a barbershop as art accurately imitated life.
Goble learned how some men felt about her presence in the shop at the beginning of her career.
“Older clients assumed I was a beautician, and they always asked if I knew how to cut a man’s hair,” Goble says. “My favorite answer was, ‘I’ve always wanted to learn, so let’s give it a try.’”
Goble discovered early there were more techniques required for creating men’s hair styles. Tapering, razor shaves and other techniques make each head a challenge. Changing hair-style fads require occasionally attending classes to keep up on new trends. Go to a movie this weekend and you might see the most recent men’s hair style. Learning the changing fads means return customers. So attending classes starts at the beginning of each barbers career and continues until retirement.
“I attended barber school on Noland Road in Independence, Mo., and worked with three men,” Goble says. “We had fun but barber school was six-months long in 1978 and you only learned the basics. Then we did an apprenticeship for 18 months before taking our state board tests.”
The young barber made her first mistake on a customer in barber school, a lesson she has never forgotten.
“I was cutting an African-American boy’s hair and his father was mute,” Goble says. “He was showing me with his hand how much hair he wanted cut off. I misinterpreted his hand signals were showing how much hair he wanted left on the boys head. So the first streak with the clippers brought the dad to his feet. I really felt bad. My barber instructor finished the hair cut while I went outside to calm down.”
That was Goble’s one and only major mistake as a barber. Today she relies on communication to make sure she gives each customer exactly what they want. After all, one mistake is a customer lost forever. Goble eventually moved back to the Northland for work at Barbers Plus in Platte Woods, Mo. for 15 years with veteran barbers Jim Sackman and Dwayne Rodecap, the original “Big Daddy” of Barber’s Plus. She knew most of the barbers from years past and they treated her very well.
“Problem was, I had kids and a traveling husband, so I had to juggle time to be a mother and a full-time barber,” Goble says. “Football, cheerleading practice and all the other activities created some serious time management issues. The other barbers eventually became understanding of my situation and were supportive.”
New opportunities eventually surfaced for the talented barber and she reluctantly left Barber’s Plus to teach at her old barber’s school after taking more state board tests to be certified as a teacher. She loved teaching and stayed for two years until a great opportunity at Kansas City’s Crown Center became available with her close friend, Lynne Ryan.
“My former instructor told me an opportunity was opening at the barbershop in the Weston Hotel at Crown Center,” Goble says. “Lynne and I worked together and had a lot fun. Baseball players like Wade Boggs, Kenny Rogers and others from the Yankees came in. I once had an out of town phone call from Wade Boggs to set up an appointment so he could get a good flat top since they were playing Kansas City. The hotel eventually shut our barbershop down and I moved back to Barber’s Plus at Platte Woods where I am today.”
The men at Barber’s Plus love to tease Goble, but they know to back off when she gives them the look that says: “Don’t mess with this redhead, I’m here to stay!” Want a Debbie Goble haircut? Call Barber’s Plus at 816.741.5555.