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Hair Magazines and Reading Code

25 Feb 2013

Yeah, it's more similar than you thought.

As an apprentice hairstylist, one of the things that would blow my mind would be when a client would bring in a picture and say that they wanted their hair that way and then the stylist I was apprenticing under would look at the pic, chat with the client a bit, and then proceed to deliver. I was amazed. Afterwards one day, I asked her how she could do that. I still remember what she said. "I couldn't always do it, but I guess I just kept looking at (hair)magazines and doing haircuts until I could figure it out. At some point you can just tell what it is." After this, I must have looked at hair magazines everyday and kept trying to figure it out. I was frustrated. I watched videos, I went to classes. Often times, I got to watch her cut and almost always helped with or fully styled it afterwards. As I styled, I really tried to watch how the hair would lay and look in relation to the cut and in relation to the tool I was using to style the hair. The same cut could look a hundred ways depending on how it was styled but underneath the curls and round brushing, there were patterns that I began to recognize. VERY slowly. When I would see one, or think I saw one, I would try to pick it out in the magazine as many times as I could and I would look for variations in styling.

One day, as one of my clients brought a photo in to me, I chatted with her and then she said, "I have no idea how you can tell what a haircut is supposed to be from a picture." I vaguely remembering giving her some kind of answer at the time along the lines of what the girl I apprenticed under told me, thinking nothing of it. Later that night it really hit me. She was right. Now it was me matter of factly saying something like..."I couldn't always do it, but I guess I just kept looking at (hair)magazines and doing haircuts until I could figure it out. At some point you can just tell what it is." ...and I could. When I think back on that, it is really probably one of the things that helped me the most as far as getting observable, palpable feedback dealing with patterns, combinations of patterns, observation and eventual execution.

After looking through some code a couple of weeks ago, I had that same frustrated feeling I had about haircuts way back when. The one where you know that you are not quite where you want to be but want so badly to be in that more advanced place. How can I bridge the gap, I wondered? How do I solve the mysteries that are alluding me to propel myself closer to where I want to be? I started looking up posts online about how to level up as a programmer. I noticed in several of these posts, that there was a strong recommendation of reading others code no mater what level you were at if you wanted to get better. I started to smile as the memory of my past profession replayed in my mind.

Often times I really think I would discount the application of my experience in hair to software since the field is so different but the longer I am doing this the more and more I see the overlap. Craft is craft. A good craftsman has to go through the same process of becoming a craftsman no matter the craft.

Now go read some code....or hair magazines if you'd like. :)

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