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Billings barber turns haircuts into art, mentors new barbers entering trade

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Posted at 1:05 PM, Aug 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-04 15:05:16-04

BILLINGS — 406 Elite Barber has a growing reputation for fresh haircuts with a unique twist. As the shop celebrates its second year in business, co-owner Marlon Joe reflected on the journey that got him here.

“I started cutting when I was a sophomore in high school, that was the year 2000, my dad just gave me a pair of clippers and said, ‘here, start cutting your own hair’ because I got too picky. So I started doing my hair, my friends’ hair, and it just pretty much took off. I pretty much just taught myself,” he said.

Joe grew up in Crow Agency and joined the Army out of high school, ultimately serving three combat tours in Afghanistan.

“That’s where I learned most of all haircuts to do because I was the barracks barber. I always had Army guys wanting a nice clean cut. I was even cutting overseas in the side of a mountain in Afghanistan in my first tour, because I had my pair of clippers with me wherever I went.”

Joe perfected clean cuts on a mountainside in Afghanistan, but it was at powwows back home that he started turning haircuts into art.

His portfolio shows feathers, flowers, even the portraits of tribal leaders like Chief Plenty Coups.

Out of the military and with a career as an X-ray technician lined up, Joe decided to move in a different direction and follow his passion.

“It’s like seeing a plant you planted grow.”

Owning his own shop is a dream, but it’s allowed Joe to mentor a new generation of barbers and he wants to build on that idea.

“I want to expand 406 Elite Barber to other places in Montana, like Great Falls, Bozeman or Missoula. And I want to open my own barber school, since we don’t really have one in Billings anymore. I feel like I have a lot more to offer in the world of barbering and want to put Montana on the map.”

Joe says if you want to learn the trade, him a call. The shop's number is (406) 969-1046.