Very early in the morning that fateful Thursday, the open ground of Hi-Tech Field, Orisunmbare, in Alimosho area of Lagos was already bustling. Canopies were being erected, chairs arranged and cleaners worked tirelessly to ensure that everywhere was spick-and-span. Somewhere around the corner, the finalists of the Lagos State Barbers, Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Association (LABHCA) competition were unpacking their tools for the contest.
A combined fair and competition for barbers, hairdressers and cosmetologists, the contest was an interesting journey for the finalists who emerged from the monthly contest that kicked off in January. For the barbers, the tension was very high. Representing different zones of Lagos state, the barbers sized each other up coyly. Their models who had groomed their hair for the contest tried to make light of the mood with jokes yet, the tension was still palpable. One could tell from theor apprehensive stares that they were eager to be through with the contest and probably wondered who would take home the cash prize, courtesy of Wahl Clippers and J.Green Mbadiwe and Sons Ltd.
As the sole distributor of Wahl Clippers in Nigeria and West Africa, J.Green Mbadiwe and Sons Ltd has been a staunch supporter of LABHCA’s Barbers competition. For the past 24 years, the company rewarded barbers who are often regarded as mere artisans. But at the 25th annual event, the chairman of the company, Chief Victor Mbadiwe urged the barbers not to despair. He encouraged them to be proud of their profession because it is an important skill.
“I want you to be proud of your profession because your work is very important. Anyone who wants to look good comes to you irrespective of their profession, be it the president or a senator, they all need the services of a barber. The head is the most important part of the body and before you can appreciate the beauty and style of a person, you start from the head. So never look down on yourself. This competition is what you should be proud of. You all look good. This is an art. The Wahl product is what you can be proud of to ease your skills. We are always here for you,” he told the finalists.
Mbadiwe introduced the premium clipper to the Nigerian market 35 years ago. Since then, Wahl clippers have dominated the market. However, he decried the influx of fake and substandard clippers in the market. According to him, this has disrupted sales and increased complaints from those who have fallen victims to the fraudulent act. However, he is on his toes to ensure that the perpetrators face the music with the help of law enforcement agents.
“It’s been a fight. We keep doing our best to curb the situation. It’s not been easy but we have to protect our market. We look out where the perpetrators have their warehouses and we call on law enforcers to ensure that they are brought to book. It’s been a fight, I must say.”
Apart from rewarding the winners with cash prizes, he also offered 40% price discount for all Wahl clippers sold at the event.
By the time the contest kicked off, some of the barbers had gotten rid of the ants in their pants. They remained focused as they tackled the task ahead with renewed vigour and confidence.
For the first round, the barbers were asked to give a classic undercut within 20 minutes. They were judged based on their professionalism, creativity, finishing and handling of tool. This particular round did not see much creativity from the barbers but for the second round called avant-garde, they were asked to give a unique undercut with the words, ‘Wahl Clippers’. This saw the barbers sweating while carving the letters on the head of the models. Spectators cheered their favourite contestant while the judges moved around, taking down notes.
Right from his first design, Lukman Shodiya from Shomolu zone was a crowd favourite. Those who were familiar with his works boasted of his creativity and even swore that he would emerge the winner. It didn’t come as a surprise when he was adjudged the winner. The dark-skinned contestant couldn’t hide his joy when he received the cash prize and Wahl clippers.
It was not the first time that Wahl Clippers put a smile on face of barbers. Apart from supporting the barbers association with finance and tools of their trade, Wahl has also promoted its own signature barbers contest in the past 24 years.