Just a little off the top

Psychology major Israel Dudley carefully styles a student's hair at his dorm in Ellis Hall. Photo by Ian Shalek. 

Castleton University is looking fresh, thanks to one student running his own barbershop in Ellis Hall.

Israel Dudley operates this dorm room barber shop, kind of in secret. But through word of mouth, and his own website, he has customers coming back again and again. He charges $10 a haircut, which he says is really cheap in the barbershop industry and perfect for college student budgets.

He has invested $500 into his shop to buy all the tools a barber needs, although his barber chair was actually given to him. His favorite tool is the Envy Li, a white clipper that he first started out with. He said he’s pretty sure he has made his $500 investment back.

And yes, he takes Paypal.

Cutting hair is just a side job for Dudley, a psychology major, who might be on his way to grad school. His hair-cutting operation started four years ago when he moved from Brooklyn to Middlebury, and was having trouble getting a haircut at local salons.

“I was told they don’t have a lot of experience with cutting African-American hair, which makes sense, not a big thing here. It started when I went to Walmart and bought a pair of clippers and started cutting my own hair. Then I started cutting my brother’s hair, and just got better at it,” he said.

During his first years working in Middlebury, Dudley made some beginner mistakes. He left a few dark lines and a couple short patches, but nothing worse than what the customer walked in with, he said.

Then he started taking more time with his appointments, some going for three hours, and as time went on he kept improving.

“People have left unsatisfied, but they didn’t look worse. These days I don’t have that challenge or problems as much. Most cuts now are the same people and cuts I’ve done already so I’ve had enough practice,” he said.

Despite being busy with his own school work and a life of his own, Dudley said he finds time to take customers.

“There are days where I have four to five haircuts a day. It mainly works by my schedule. Because I am a full-time student, I try to not take on too much, maybe 15 cuts to 20 cuts a week,” he said.

Fidele Rutayisire, one of Dudley’s earliest customers, is a huge fan of his work and his shop.

“I always want to feel fresh, so I go to Israel. I go to Super Cuts, and they mess up my head. I’ve never seen anyone go from all right at cutting hair to being so perfect at it. My favorite thing about him is his set up, especially the city picture he has on the wall,” Rutayisire said.

Clients say Dudley is like your friendly neighborhood barber, one you go and end up talking about your life like a therapist.

Rutayisire said Dudley puts basketball on TV during the cut and bonds over sports.

Just the other day, Dudley was seen giving Adnane Adossama the fade of his life.

“Fades, I am proud of my fades. Honestly those are my favorites. The process from going from a lot of hair to a little hair is an interesting process,” Dudley said.

He said his craziest haircut was crafting a hair tattoo of the clients name onto his head, which took a lot of fine lines and precision to do.

Another of Israel’s customers, Adnane Adossama , is equally impressed with Dudley and said he enjoys going to him for more than the haircut.

“I feel like, not only am I getting a good haircut, Israel is pretty knowledgeable and I can always ask him for some advice. I feel as if he is kind of a leader in the community and I always come out looking good so I’m not worried,” Adossama said.

When asked if Israel is the best barber he has ever had, he said, “Easily, easily. I’ve had four barbers and no one is as versatile as Israel. Israel is always ready to try something new.”

Dudley likes watching his clients return. One of his favorite frequent clients is Ben Mrowka, an Australian exchange student who plays on the Basketball team and always gets a classy haircut.

“He is one of the top favorites of mine, but I don’t want to reveal my number one customer,” he said.

Dudley said he will continue to cut hair back home and at Castleton University, but his future plans at the moment are to follow his psychology education. But if he were to continue with barbering, he states he would open a barbershop and eventually own multiple barbershops.

“Business ownership would be my goal with barbery,” he said.

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