What’s the best way to introduce Nat Mathis? Let’s start with an excerpt from his book, Portrait of a Professional: The life of Nathaniel Mathis.
“After Nat used $15 of a $50 Christmas gift from his mother to buy his first set of electric clippers at a local five and ten cents store, he rushed to the basketball courts at the local playground where he engineered a smooth and harmless con. He convinced a friend, Carlton Calloway, that he was an expert haircutter and was offering a reduced rate 25 cents per head, a $1.00 down from the professional barber’s rate. ‘I needed somebody to practice on; I’d never used a pair of clippers in my life,’ recalled Nat, laughing. His buddy, Calloway had $1.15 on him that he was supposed to spend at the barber shop. ‘O.K., you give me a quarter and keep the dollar,’ Nat offered.”
After Calloway agreed to the haircut, Nat totally butched his hair cutting a huge clump out the back of his head. “‘Man, this looks great,’ was Carlton’s unexpected response, and he ran back to the playground where the other guys either admired the missing clump or didn’t care. The twenty-five cents offer was one they couldn’t refuse. ‘I cut at least seven heads that day.’ Nat laughed. ‘As time passed, I improved my technique and was swamped with clients.’”
And after realizing his talent , this man became The Bush Doctor. For this month’s Men’s feature, it was almost destiny that we came in contact Mathis and decided he was the perfect person to highlight. After reading this book to know more about Nat, it was almost appropriate to start out with our favorite part: finding his destiny.
If you don’t know about Nathaniel Mathis, these accolades should have you typing his name into Google:
- First African American inducted in the National artifacts collection dedicated to documenting the history of barbering in the United States
- The Nathaniel Mathis Collection of Barbering and Beauty Culture installed at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Museum and The Archives Center
- First African American to win the International Hair Styling Competition
- Who’s Who Men’s Hairstylist Recognition
- Appointment to the D.C. Board of Barbering
These are just 10% of his accomplishments. If we were to name them all, it would take up this whole feature. This celebrity stylists has served the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Morgan Freeman, Mary Cumberland and served as personal hairstylist to D.C. native, Chuck Brown. He also was the stylist for several productions at the Kennedy Center and for two major motion pictures, one, for example, Nixon.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C. to a single mother, it’s safe to say the odds were stacked against him. He dropped out of high school and became a father, but this didn’t deter him from accomplishing his dreams in life. He attended a vocational school for barbering where he earned his barbering license, worked at barbershops, graduated from cosmetology school and later opened his own shop.
Barbering wasn’t his only passion at that time. Nat was also a singer in a band, which appeared at the Apollo Theater more than once set up by the manager of Peaches and Herb, even though later separating.
Through all of his accomplishments, Nat has always stayed true to two things: his family and giving back to the community. In his book, Nat references his children and the importance they played on his life, noting how the death of one of his children was the most tragic time of his life. In this, we see how amazing of a father he was and just how much his family, including his mother, meant to him. In giving back to the community, Nat became a motivational speaker speaking to youth, criminal institutions, and hosting seminars about the importance of beautifying the inner person and reaching success.
Here at Cosmobiz, we come in contact with stylists from all over, but we definitely have to say Nat is our favorite. His humble spirit and work ethic is a fading glory. These are people we want to share with other stylists who want to make a name for themselves. “What do you want to leave with readers, Nat?” “Everything comes in its own time,” he said. “We are here for a purpose and it might take a lifetime to find out what that purpose is, but you have to start.”