Pamela DeHaven didn’t set out to become a female barber. But after doing thousands of haircuts and giving straight-razor shaves, the 51-year-old can’t picture herself in any other role.
Initially, she thought she’d be a cosmetologist, a more traditional path for a woman. But a trip to the emergency room changed that plan.
“When I was going to (cosmetology) school, I had an allergic reaction to a perm,” DeHaven said. “It closed up my airways. I was heartbroken. I didn’t know what I was going to do because I’d been cutting hair since I was 14 years old.”
But the emergency room doctor had a suggestion: Become a barber, adding, “I don’t know a barber that does perms.”
So DeHaven started barber school. However, it wasn’t the easiest road to take.
“It wasn’t something women did back then,” she said. “It was difficult because the guys all made fun of me.”
They told her she was going into the wrong field and wouldn’t be able to make a living.
But she persisted.
“I didn’t have a choice. I wanted to do hair but I didn’t want to do chemicals,” DeHaven said. “You have to believe in yourself. So, I just kept on going.”
DeHaven would find jobs at barber shops on military bases in Nebraska and Alaska before coming to Tampa in the 1990s to work at MacDill Air Force Base. There she would do as many as 40 haircuts a day, at prices as low as $5 each.
When she went to work for private shops in Brandon, Apollo Beach and Land O’ Lakes, DeHaven was able to be more artistic and make better money, too. Then she opened Tops N Taper Barber Shop at 1907 Collier Parkway in Lutz.
At the moment, DeHaven is her shop’s only full-time barber. There’s also a part-time cosmetologist, who also adds some barbering services as well.
She’s looking for a full-time barber, who specializes in fades. Future plans call for adding someone to do manicures and pedicures for men, and a masseuse.
The shop specializes for services for men and boys, DeHaven said. “There won’t be any chemicals or perms.”
Chris Berger, a 35-yeaer-old Land O’ Lakes resident, recently gave the shop a try.
“I like the fact that you come from a military background,” Berger told DeHaven. “A military haircut, that’s what I’m working for.”
Afterward, taking a look at DeHaven’s handiwork, he was pleased with the results. “I’ll be back.”
Berger is not the only one who gives DeHaven high marks. A couple of customers followed her to her new shop.
Land O’ Lakes resident Harry Cooper, 70, said he prefers having a woman give him his haircuts.
“I used my wife’s hairdressers for years,” Cooper said. “They’d just come to the house. Then, I came across Pam. I’ve been dedicated to her for eight years.”
“She’s very good at what she does,” he said, adding he likes her personality, too. “The older guys, they line up for her.”
Jim Hoskins, another regular, has been seeing DeHaven for haircuts for four years.
“In my case, there’s not much to work with,” said Hoskins, who was poking fun at himself, despite having a healthy head of hair.
Apparently, Hoskins likes DeHaven’s style because he keeps coming back.
“She does a wonderful job on your hair,” Hoskins said.