Man wants to change law requiring diploma, GED to become barber

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - New requirements for barbers require them to have a high school diploma or GED to enroll in cosmetology school.

However, one Memphis father said it's unjust and hopes his struggle will spark the state to change that new law.

This self-taught barber is fighting to change a new law that hiked schooling standards for barbers.

Three credit hours is all that stands in the way of Elias Zarate from being a high school graduate. But it's those three hours that are keeping him from doing what he loves, which is cutting hair.

"Barbering just came as a gift, something I started when I was really young," Zarate said. "I was about 9 years old when I started getting interested in it."

Up until last year, Zarate worked at a Front Street barbershop. Then, an inspector with the Board of Cosmetology and Barbers spotted his fake license.

You can only get a license from a barber school, and a requirement to get into barber school is a high school degree or GED.

With help from a friend, Zarate gave the owner of the Front Street barbershop a phony license, so he could continue to work and support his family.

"It was just a mistake I made," Zarate said. "It all came...it was just a great opportunity at the time so it's like I had to."

"The state board inspector brought it to my attention," said Lugene Bishop, owner of Revolution Salon. "So actually, the shop had to get shut down for a minute until everything could get resolved."

Zarate was fined and fired.

Now the Tennessee government watchdog group, the Beacon Center, is working to change state law to drop the high school diploma requirement to become a barber.

Bishop said he opposes that idea.

"Barbering is not just something, it's a real important skill," Bishop said. "It's not just about cutting hair but it's also about sanitation and other things."

But Zarate believes his missing degree doesn't take away his ability and talent of cutting hair.

Only 13 other states require completion of high school as a prerequisite to getting a barber license.

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.