You need talent and drive to stand above the crowd in the barbering industry. Sophie “Stay Gold” Pok certainly stands out, she’s spent the last decade rising to the top of the pack. We sat down with the clipper wielding superstar to learn why she leaned into a career as a barber, how travel has made an impact on her role as a teacher and what’s to come in 2020.
When did you develop an interest in becoming a barber and how did you go about entering this industry?
I joined the industry out of pure luck. I was heavily involved in academic classes for business administration and psychology courses, but I wanted to try a creative outlet for once. I took a break that year and never turned back after that. I went to a local college to take cosmetology and I was like “Ok, lets see where this goes.” I had no idea what was ahead of me, but purely the fact that I enjoyed what I was learning which was color and long hair at the time. It wasn’t until two years after being licensed that I jumped into working at a barbershop. Time flies and here we are now, going on 10 years.
How did you develop your style as a barber and what separates a good barber from a great barber?
My style for cutting evolved as time went on and it was influenced by the types of shops I was working in. I started off in a more traditional shop and eventually started to move to modern styles and free form cutting once I started traveling the world. To me, the difference between good and great is being able to take what the client wants, plus your recommendations, and create something that they are excited about. Also, what’s important to me is the detailing of each cut and I’m talking down to each individual STRANDS. I know that may sound crazy, but it really matters. Haircuts can create an emotion for people to walk out with their heads held high. It can build their confidence and enhance their overall look. Everyone looks at your face and hair first.
What role does education play in your work and what have you learned from teaching around the world?
Education plays a huge role for me because once I started traveling, I was exposed to so much more that I could take back with me home. It helped me to understand more of what I was doing as I was teaching. It’s crazy how that process works. Traveling has taught me how to live in uncomfortable spaces and situations. You don’t always know what’s going on and it’s in that moment of uncertainty where growth and miracles happens. It’s also a place where you start to learn so much more about yourself. Traveling gives me a lot of time to reflect and reorganize my thoughts. It’s true what they say, that the quality of your life depends on the type of thoughts you have.
How did you go about creating your own clipper and what was the process from design to now?
If anyone knows me, they know how much I love technology. Early on in my career, I was a clipper junkie. I invested in the latest and greatest of all the companies that made clippers because I was obsessed with how they work and how they differ from one another. Something about how the sounds of the blades crunching the hair just fascinated me. Fast forward to the last four years, I came on board with an innovative tech company called BaByliss Pro. I’ve done some of the biggest stages all over the world with them and it was just a blessing to have to opportunity to have my own clipper edition. It was not only huge for me, but for them as well to put a face to the brand. Black was an easy choice, but I’m pretty neutral in color and who doesn’t like black? Also, we made sure to have a custom fade blade that comes with each pair. Over the years, I’ve grown to love certain types of blades more than others and the timing of all of it this was just in perfect harmony. Each set is equipped with what I think is the perfect blade of today: matched with its ability to work at two hours run time on a full charge and five locking detent to help people stay organized in their work. What more could you ask for?
What’s it like being a woman in this industry and has it always been welcoming?
It was honestly tough at first, but really, what isn’t? People doubted for a while if I could fade hair, but in due time you get better in your skill and judgement happens less. One thing I hold on to that helped me was using those moments as fuel to push myself beyond and become exceptional. You’ve got to aim high in this industry or you just blend in with the crowd. I had eyes on me because I was a woman, but you either let that break you or motivate you. You always get to choose what you’re going to do with what happens to you.
What’s one of the most memorable moments you had with a client in your chair and why did it make an impact on you?
This mom and daughter came to see me from up North. Her daughter was in junior high and already had colored hair. It was unusual to see parents allowing their kids be so expressive at a young age. She wanted something a little wild that could bring out her personality. You could tell she was artistic, but really shy. Her mom asked me to tell her about my story of how I became about. She wanted her to understand that if you get into something creative and you have things working against you, to not let that stop you and go full force after something you love. Seeing this mom be so supportive of the arts for her daughter really inspired me because I think it’s missing in today’s world. The pressure of attending college and not really loving what you are doing just because someone said it was good or that it promised you security in the future. At the end of that appointment, you could see the little girl come into herself as she saw how her hair was. It warmed my heart right up.
What’s the best way to enter into this industry and how does it differ from how you started out?
Being open to all knowledge and soak up what you can. What’s different now is that you can learn skill sets in half the time. We have to continue evolving the industry. Also, education is way more accessible and you can train under people you look up to.
What’s in your kit and why are these instruments your go-tos?
My kit has my black FX of course, gold trimmer, foil shaver, my gold shears, texturizer and carbon comb is a must with some texture powder. With these things, I can create any kind of effortless style.
What are your favorite styles to create and what do you hope to do more of in the future?
My favorite styles are hybrid styles that include clipper cutting but mixed in with a longer messy top created by shears. This have been my favorite combo for the longest. I think it stems from my cosmetology background, mixed in with the training I had in barbering. It’s the best of both worlds.
What goals do you have for 2020 and how are you planning to set them in motion?
2020 is going to be nuts. I have new products launching mid-year and I’m excited to announce what exactly they’ll be. Plus I plan to continue my personal course in how to help people build a better business for themselves. The Gold Zone class continues next year, I launched my course a few weeks ago and the craziest thing happened: it sold out within 45 minutes! It was eye opening and set me on this cloud nine feeling ever since. I’ve never felt more inspired to bring value to my industry. I have even more traveling next year, so I need to enjoy what’s left of this year.