The Old-Fashioned, Timeless Career Paths That Are Making a Comeback

a barber cuts a man's hair
Barbers are one of several old-fashioned, timeless trades that are becoming increasingly popular. |

Let’s face it: We’re not all cut out for a job in tech or to become a nurse or doctor. Though these industries are experiencing unprecedented growth and a need for bodies, a lot of people aren’t a good fit. Some of us would rather swing a hammer than wrestle with JavaScript. For those people, an old-fashioned, hands-on career is a much better fit.
Luckily, many of those traditional career paths are making a comeback. Whether it be society’s increasing appetite for locally sourced organic produce or handmade wallets and belts, trades and crafts that some of us considered extinct or on the decline are back in style.
Fair warning: These jobs probably won’t make you rich. One of the reasons people left these careers is because the industries had become saturated or the work had become automated. People fled to other jobs and industries. But now, there’s demand again — demand and openings. One example? People who don’t want to go to a corporate chain salon for a haircut and would rather visit the barbershop on the corner.
Even though it might cost more, a lot of consumers are willing to pay a premium for direct, personal service and attention to detail that a lot of chains lack. This doesn’t translate into every industry, of course, but if you’ve wanted to earn a living in a more traditional way — or tap into your inner craftsman — the timing has never been better.
We’ll start with an example we’ve already buzzed: the barbershop.

1. Barbers

The numbers don’t lie: Employment for barbers and hairdressers is on an upward trajectory. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these positions are expected to grow at a rate of 10% through 2024. And if it’s job security you’re worried about, consider that everyone needs a haircut now and again. If you can build up your private client base, then you’re essentially running your own business, too. From there, your earning potential should correlate with your ability to snip.
If you’d prefer to get out there get your hands dirty (literally), there are many other old-fashioned or traditional jobs that might be a better fit. Let’s till that soil.

2. Farmers

farmers market
You can make some money at a farmers market. |

You don’t need to own huge amounts of land to be a farmer. In fact, a visit to a local farmers market will make it clear that small farmers are prospering as more and more people are buying local, certified organic foods. There are numerous ways to specialize, too, and create niche products. From beekeeping to growing organic vegetables, farming is back. The farming industry is employing fewer people than ever, but with our increasing appetite for local, organic products, opportunities are there.
If you like to work with your hands and with tools but don’t necessarily want to get into farming, there are other ways to make a living, too.

3. Leatherworkers

Man working with leather using crafting tools -- very old-fashioned
A person works with leather using old-fashioned crafting tools. |

Enjoy working with your hands? You might want to get into leatherworking, which can start as a hobby and turn into a full-time job. There’s always going to be a demand for leather — just look at the wide variety of goods for sale out there, ranging from dog leashes to wallets, watch straps, belts, and more. You can get started with a few tools, and before you know it you’ll be running your own business. It probably won’t make you rich, but it’s an option.
If leather isn’t your thing, you can get a little more medieval.

4. Blacksmiths

a blacksmith
A blacksmith bangs away. | Orlando/Three Lions/Getty Images

One trade that is back in style is blacksmithing. Perhaps we can thank Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings for smithing becoming popular. But either way, there are now schools and classes nationwide that will teach you the craft. If you’re interested in smithing as a hobby or as a vocation, there are ways to get in. Earnings, nationwide, for blacksmiths average more than $51,000, and job prospects are expected to grow in coming years.

5. Chimney sweeps

Fireplace -- a job creator
The fireplace is a job creator. |

A career as a chimney sweep sounds so deliciously Victorian, doesn’t it? But that doesn’t make it all that appealing. Who would want to go home covered in soot every day? If you can hack it, it’s actually a viable career path. If you never thought to look, there are actual job listings out there for chimney sweeps. Sweeping chimneys might not have been your dream, but if you’re looking for a way to earn a living, look no further than your fireplace.

6. Food vendors

You can have a career running a food truck
You can have a career running a food truck. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In many cities, the popularity of food trucks and food carts has exploded. You can get just about anything you want, in certain places, right out of a truck. For some entrepreneurs and restaurateurs, this is a much more exciting prospect than a brick-and-mortar location. Costs are lower, for one, and you can stay mobile. The industry is exploding, too. Total revenues have grown fourfold since 2012, and in 2017, the food truck industry is expected to generate $2.7 billion.

7. Carpenters

Pursue a career path like J.C. and become a carpenter
Pursue a career path like J.C., and become a carpenter. |

Tap into your inner Ron Swanson, why don’t you? If blacksmithing or leatherworking doesn’t tickle your fancy, you could try woodworking or carpentry. There’s always going to be a demand for carpenters, as they’re integral to the construction industry. Job prospects are on the rise, too, and you can earn a decent living with mean hourly wages at around $23 per hour.

8. Tailors

A tailor stands tall. |

If nails and sawdust aren’t really your thing, you could look at becoming a tailor. Tailors, of course, make and do adjustments to clothing. It’s one of the most old-fashioned jobs you can find, and there’s always going to be a need for them.
It’s a field that probably won’t fetch you an incredibly high salary, so keep that in mind. The average tailor makes more than $32,000 per year. But BLS data show it’s an in-demand field for those who cherish security above all else.

9. Brewers

sampling of beer from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Beer sampler | Firestone Walker Brewing Co. via Facebook

Everywhere you look these days, you’re bound to run into a craft beer. Small, specialized breweries are popping up everywhere, and the explosion of the craft beer industry has created thousands of jobs and flooded the market with tons of new brews. The industry grew 15% in 2015 to give you some perspective. Craft beer makes up 12% of the overall market, which is a $107.6 billion industry.
In other words, there’s a lot of money out there to be made. And if you’re interested in beer, the iron has never been hotter — so strike.

10. Cheesemakers

Various types of cheese
Various types of cheese |

Say cheese! We’ve mentioned farming and brewing, but if none of that specifically rings your bell, why not try making cheese? Like many other foods, specialty cheeses are more popular than ever. Worldwide, the cheese market is set to cross the $100 billion threshold by 2019. With that in mind, why not ditch the Kraft cheese, and instead get into craft cheese?

11. Loggers

Logger | AX Men

Though it’s statistically one of the most dangerous and deadly jobs out there, loggers are needed. The industry has changed over the years, with the advent of new technologies and techniques that make it easier than ever to fell trees and get them out of the forest. But it’s still a dangerous gig. Job growth isn’t stellar, either, but if you’re thirsty for an old-fashioned career path, logging should be on your list.

12. Millwrights

A worker building an engine
A worker builds an engine. | Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

What, exactly, is a millwright? It’s a person who disassembles and reassembles machinery and equipment, usually in a factory setting. In a sense, it’s a maintenance position — and they’re needed in plants, factories, and construction sites nationwide.
You can earn a decent living as a millwright, with a median rate of $61,209 per year. And getting to work with your hands, direct with machinery and tools, will definitely connect you to a more innocent time.

13. Sailors

A ship in Boston
A ship sails into Boston. | Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kathryn E. Macdonald/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

“Sailor” is pretty broad. You can join the Navy and become a sailor. Or you can jump on a merchant ship and be a sailor. Either way, becoming a sailor will definitely put you in touch with humanity’s ancestral roots. We’ve always been sailors — from the Europeans striking out across the globe, to those in the South Pacific island-hopping all the way to Easter Island. Wages, however, will vary depending on where you ship out. And demand for sailors is rising, if spending months at sea sounds appealing.

14. Cartographers

Bakersfield pinned on map
Cartographers are actually in demand. |

Cartography — or map making — is an incredibly old-fashioned job. It’s also a niche profession that is experiencing high demand. Between 2014 and 2024, employment for cartographers is expected to jump 29%, according to the BLS. The pay isn’t bad either. Median salaries mount up to more than $62,000 per year. If you know the blue on the map is not land, cartography might be in your blood.
Speaking of blood, that’s a good way to end our list.

15. Butchers

meat counter
Meat in a display case |

What profession allows you to play with knives and experience some job security? Becoming a butcher. Butchers have always been around, and they are one of the several jobs (like bakers and cooks) in and around the kitchen that are experiencing a renaissance. The only downside? It doesn’t pay all that well, with median salaries coming in at less than $30,000. Of course, if you open up your own “craft” meat shop, the sky’s the limit.