The Barber College that Inspired Mr. Official to Open His Own School
In the barbering world, Yahia Jaber is an industry giant with a long list of accomplishments. Better known as Mr. Official, this Booksy Ambassador, Level 3 brand ambassador, platform artist, educator, mentor, and online influencer has already opened five barbershops that all share the same name—Official Cuts.
Since Mr. Official has achieved so much in the barbering industry, his next move had to be an entirely new challenge. As an effort to give back to his community, Mr. Official is ready to open his own barber college in Chicago, Illinois.
At this stage, the school has already been built. Mr. Official is simply waiting for the state license to be able to welcome 30 new students. Then industry newcomers will be able to learn the intricacies of grooming clients from a man with a reputation for sculpting beards like a fine artist.
Whenever this gifted barber is asked where he earned his appreciation for the industry and his characteristic love for old school barbershop charm, he humbly talks about McCoy Barber College—the school where he gained confidence and first learned the skills he uses today.
Take a moment to learn about McCoy Barber College, which is owned and operated by Bernadine Rideau. Students affectionately call her Ms. B. And it's no secret that her family has run this school for over half a century. Over the years, South Side residents have deemed this space to be a Chicago staple. And that's because it's where local legends like Mr. Official earned their stripes.
Because of her commitment to teaching the highest level of technique to people who want to grow and give back to others, we selected Ms. B for the Women’s History Month campaign, which is dedicated to honoring female pioneers who truly contribute to the industry.
Honoring a Family Tradition
McCoy Barber College is located in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago, which is mainly home to middle class African Americans. This barber college first opened in 1947. But it’s been in the Rideau family since 1965. Ms. B started running the school with the help of her mother in 1986. When her mother died about ten years ago, Ms. B began independently running the school.
Students like Mr. Official know and love Ms. B for her firm yet dedicated approach to education. They speak highly about her commitment to helping young men of Color gain focus, since there's no denying the fact that there’s a number of distractions available to youths living in a major city.
“I think it became important to me because everybody isn’t meant to go to a traditional college. And unfortunately for young Black men, their choices have been really narrowed over the years. I’m glad that I was getting the young men who wanted to do something better with their lives—they wanted to find a way to make themselves better. And I was there to help,” she said.
Ms. B. acknowledges that she has been asked to work with students who had to wear ankle bracelets, during their time in the classroom. But as long as each student had the desire to finish the program, she was ready and willing to help them do just that. Along the way, she has been able to help them learn much more than they may have expected.
“I’ve come to find out several of our graduates have incorporated a lot of community services at their barbershops. And I think they learned the importance of looking out for their communities during their time here. It’s like an African tradition that we've been able to pass along,” she said.
Mastering the Basics
Before students are able to share their gifts with the world, they must complete the rigorous program that Ms. B holds to a high standard. “McCoy develops a positive, professional attitude for a successful career and personal growth. We provide the instruction to enable students to qualify to become licensed barbers and become productive professionals. One success at a time builds a community of wealth,” she said, quoting the school’s mission statement from memory.
In regards to costs, tuition is $3,000. Equipment, books, uniform, the application fee, and a downpayment brings the total to just under $4,000. And the entire 1,500 hour program lasts for about 10 months to one year. Ms. B proudly comments on the affordability of the program and the ability for her students to start a career, debt-free within less than a year.
According to her, McCoy Barber College is one of the oldest barber schools in Illinois. And over the decades, the school has built a number of long-lasting traditions designed to help students succeed. For example, Ms. B insists that her students become totally acclimated to using their equipment without any additional support.
“You have to learn to use the equipment the way it was meant to be used. That means we won’t be relying on guards here. Because what happens if a guard comes off or the teeth break, and you never learned how to use your equipment properly?” she said.
Showing Students the Road to Success
An important part of the charm that Ms. B exudes comes in the form of her style. According to Mr. Official, students at McCoy Barber College learned a lot of character building skills, while mastering the art of cutting hair.
“A lot of people like to keep information to themselves because they deem it as personal. And then there’s people who are willing to share their experiences, because they just genuinely want to see other people succeed—Ms. B is one of those types of people. She knows that if you’ve been blessed to climb the ladder, it’s important to share that knowledge,” said Mr. Official.
Upon hearing such positive feedback, Ms. B keeps composure but admits to being touched very deeply. Running the school over the course of four decades has given her the opportunity to touch hundreds of lives. And more recently, she has been able to keep in contact with her graduates with ease, due to the accessibility of social media.
“It’s always made my heart warm when my students give me some acknowledgement. They will always post online and thank me. I never thought about it as much as I do now. But it feels good to know that you can just help somebody and to know that you have helped a few people grow, who are putting their kids through college because of what they learned here,” Ms. B said.
Transitioning from Student to Teacher
As Mr. Official gears up to open his own barber school, he still thinks back on the lessons that he learned at McCoy Barber College. Those very same lessons have helped him achieve a level of success that many professionals pursue their entire career.
Today, Mr. Official has over 233,000 Instagram followers. His work as an educator and a platform artist has been featured on stages across the country and in different parts of the world. And the size of the crowds who have seen his work range between 300 - 1,000 people.
Despite the fact that it’s been almost 20 years since he’s been a student at McCoy Barber College, Mr. Official fondly remembers the lessons he learned inside the classroom and the impression Ms. B left on him.
“Everybody knew that when Mrs. B was around, you’d have to focus. There was no messing around. A lot of those barbers were young and just coming out of high school. You can say that not many of us were used to that type of structure—but that’s what we needed. And she was able to not only teach the craft. But she was able to help her students develop strong character traits. And that’s something I want to be able to bring to my school,” said Mr. Official.