A new selection of images from the local streets of San Diego. You might wonder why I post these, as they have nothing to do with my “business” or commercial work, but I’d have to disagree with you. While the subject of the imagery is completely unrelated, the creation of them is very informative of the commercial work. Learning to see different lines and compositions will be directly reflected in my other work, so you can sort of consider this an exercise. And quite a relaxing one at that.
I love BBQ. Everything about it. The smell. The taste. The smoke. The buildings. The pits. The process. Even the meat sweats. There really isn’t anything about BBQ I don’t like. Even take a lot of enjoyment out of the different sides that each place serves. Since I started road tripping X amount of years ago, there really hasn’t been a single one that didn’t involve BBQ in some way. That usually means eating it, but I’ve also began documenting it whenever possible, which obviously leads to eating afterward. Win win. Smitty’s down in Texas is as beautiful a BBQ joint as you’ll find anywhere. When you work up a mental picture of old school Texas BBQ in your head, Smitty’s is probably it, or damn close. Their pit room is the kind of thing I see in my dreams. Mouth watering smells, heavy smoke, and dark bricks that have been crusted over from cooking with fire for years and years. Smitty’s is the real deal. Love how the chopping block which was once a flat top is now worn in from endless hours of cutting and serving meats. I could hang out here forever……if there weren’t so many other good BBQ joints to explore.
FYI: If you visit Smitty’s get the sausage.
The Proper Barbershop is a special place that is right at home in Hollywood. If you want a show as well as a great cut, then The Proper is the place for you. The first time I visited was back in 2013-ish and there was someone sleeping one off in the backroom. From the time I stepped foot inside, the show was just naturally going on. The guys in there know how to have a good time all while getting shit done. The owner Vinnie is a good dude and a classic case of someone you shouldn’t judge just based on his appearance. Being the owner of The Proper and knowing it’s reputation, it would be easy to think that he’s just another Southern California bro with face tattoos. He’s the exact opposite of that though. And one thing I’ve been saying for years now, is that they are just tattoos, a vehicle for creativity and self expression. Vinnie is a really solid guy who spreads a lot of positivity and has a lot of support for his fellow barbers all across the industry.
Follow the shop on IG @theproperbarbershop and Vinnie @theedgebarber
1) Where are you from and what did you do before barbering?
I am from Los Angeles, CA and before barbering I was in high school and I actually was kickboxing and teaching kickboxing! But I had a friend who knew during high school that he wanted to do hair so when I realized that I was never going to have a life fighting I tried my hand at hair and absolutely fell in love with it!
2) Talk about owning a shop in Hollywood from a barber's perspective as well as an owner's perspective.
Well owning a shop in Hollywood is more than what I originally set out for, my hope for the shop was to be a cool little neighborhood spot and this shop grew a bit of a kind of its own, not to say that is a bad thing at all but this shop became more of its own personality, the antics the environment and the bullshit garnered it quite the reputation! From the barbers perspective this shop is so rad, always busy in a transient town with constant walk-ins and never ending material for discussion, it is a dream. From the owners perspective I would echo a ton of that but the real difference is learning how to keep this place relevant while remaining true to the roots of The Proper and that has been the real challenge!
Do you find that people come in expecting a show or a certain environment? If so, how do you deal with that?
Over the years I have learned so so much and one thing I have learned is that the environment is just as important as the haircut itself! So yes, at this point in the shops life I do feel that people have come to expect the show that is The Proper Barbershop, and we happily oblige that expectation! Don’t get me wrong we love to sling our brand of BS and entertain but we also make sure we give a quality service!
3) You also own a shop in Orange County. What lead you to open another shop there and what have you done to grow the business?
My Orange County shop came out of the need for myself to not drive to and from Hollywood every day from the OC as that is where my family and I live, so in order to preserve some tiny bit of sanity I had to open a shop less than 60 miles away from me! To grow the Orange County shop it required having to penetrate the residential neighborhoods surrounding the center that my shop is located. We drove around with home printed fliers and stuffed mail boxes and most recently have run an add in the money mailer at the recommendation of my brother Cory Danger of the locally famous Golden Crown Barbershop! So that has been fantastic for the shop as well! I have found more of the rad local feeling I wanted in the OC shop as opposed to the larger than life persona of the Hollywood shop!
4) Who/what in the barber industry is inspiring to you? Who/what outside of the industry gives you inspiration?
Inside the barber industry I draw a ton of inspiration from the team I am on over at Babyliss. I am surrounded by so many really talented barbers that all do something so different from my traditional style of cutting so right now it is learning to meld the new urban style I am learning with my tried and trusted traditional skill set and that has been such a breath of fresh air for me and my career! Outside of the industry I am inspired by culture, tattoos, art, design, currently I am super passionate about graffiti again and that is so cool to try to use some linear intersecting lines and bring that to my creative side of hair!
Are you saying that you look at graffiti and try to use those designs in haircuts? How has that progressed for you? Do customers come to you for that type of thing now?
I do draw some liniar inspiration from the cut lines in graffiti as well as all types of art. I try to evolve my style as a barber and as a haircutter every day. I never want to become complacent in this craft. As far as customers coming to me for designs I do have a pocket of those customers who allow me to express my artistic roots and freedom!
5) Each time I've been in your shop, there is an exceptional level of comedy going on. Talk about that.
Well the Hollywood shop as mentioned has become a place not just to get a haircut but now to watch and participate in the show! Clients are a part of our jokes and take things from inside the shop weather it be jokes or stories or jargon and apply them to their lives outside the shop and bring us some really epic stories that lead to some incredible real world comedy! Most recently we have a doctor who is a shop regular and his last visit he helped us diagnose that one of our barbers may have contracted an STI and once we realized what it was we just laughed it off and said “oh rad so it’s basically the common cold for the penis!” Well our client found this to be so rad that he vowed he would break the news to someone in the same fashion and this haircut. He came back and told us the story of the frat kid who came to him for the same STI and how our client was so pumped to let this kid know “don’t stress man it is just the common cold for the penis” and he had our whole shop rolling with laughter!
6) You are straight edge. What led to that decision/lifestyle?
Ehhh that’s a whole ridiculous story but let’s just say that given my family history I knew if I ever started drinking I would be really good at it so I have always been way to scared to even try it! But being straight edge works for me so I intend to stay this way!
7) What do you think about where barbering is today?
Loaded question, I think barbering is in an interesting transition where it is less about the work you do and more about the way you look and how you present yourself while not working as if that translates to how good you cut hair? I think the industry has lost sight that we all cut hair and we all should support each other as it costs us nothing to support one another! If we all could band together in positivity we could then and only then start to effect real change! So I hope we can make that the new future together!
8) What do you do outside of the shop?
Well I play ice hockey as well as have season tickets to the Anaheim Ducks and I raise my beautiful baby girl! I also love to ride my motorcycle. And may or may not be a part time plus sized model... no big deal!
I'm sorry, did you say that you're a plus size model?
I am trying out this new thing called..... sarcasm. I am not to sure about it but it sure is fun!
9) Can you describe the psychology of running and keeping a barbershop moving from day to day. In other words, what is that thing that's happening when you notice everything is just clicking?
I am not to sure how to answer this one because it changes from day to day. I just try to keep my shops busy because if we are all making money it tends to lead to good moods and a better working environment!
10) Random thoughts/ramblings/advice on what you do....
I love this industry. It is all I have ever known. I have never had a real job so to see what we are now and how the internet has had such a profound effect on us all I can only hope that we can soon come together and determine a nation wide rate of service. If we all choose, we can force each other to better ourselves by holding ourselves to higher standards we can drop the hate and just be in this together! I love to support barbering. I wear only shop shirts and never my own! I take pride in putting on a pin of a barber or a hat or shirt as I am proud of my industry. It doesn’t hurt us or devalue ourselves to say that someone else is an amazing barber! It just boosts that we are all in this together. I want to do nothing but cut with my friends and constantly put out the best work of my life every day! Through positivity and friendship we can all push ourselves and each other to be the best and it doesn’t cost us anything to support one another!
Anything else you want to get off your chest?
Working on something new for the Hoops Project which has caused me to go back through old hard drives. That in turn always leads to looking at old images in a new way, usually uncovering things that I didn’t notice the first 10 times around. Sitting in front of a computer is not my idea of a good time, but it is fun finding images that turn me on. Below are a few I made from 2013-2018 that stood out at least a little.
Had a mini freak-out the other day at the vet when we had to bring Mojo in to get a lump removed. They couldn’t say either way if it was cancerous, and would be 6 days until we got the results back. I left there thinking totally irrationally, and jumped on 99 Designs right when I got home to get a logo of him made up. No idea why I was doing it at all. Even asked myself that question the next day after calming down. Still not sure of the answer other than wanting something of him besides a photo that will also last forever. Now that I think about it, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to logos lately and thinking how similar they all are. On top of that, thinking how little my previous logo meant to me. I love this depiction of Mojo because he means so much to me, and it’s vastly different than anything commercial photographers use. It’s also cool to think about how much he has been involved in my photography. He has been on board for all of my biggest/long term personal projects like Barbershops of America and The Basketball Hoops Project. Not quite sure of the total tally, but he’s been to roughly 45 states with me. He’s made a lot of people smile, and just about everywhere I go, people ask how he’s doing. Glad he doesn’t have cancer.
Eagle&Pig Barbershop is a gem of gems. Have loved this place since the first day I walked in. And like most shops worth their weight, Pig is the organic creation of it’s owner Dane Hesse. Spend 30 seconds here and you’ll realize there is as much going on in his head as there is in the shop. That should be read and taken as a compliment. Dane is a complex dude with plenty of smarts to go around. I have endless appreciation for anyone who was “supposed to be” one thing, but decided that one thing wasn’t for him or her. And then sets out on their own path without any fear of the repercussions or opinions of others. That’s exactly what Dane did, and since then he has created something truly unique. A place that he, his customers, and friends love to be. What more can you want from a barbershop?
Follow the shop on IG @pigbarber.
1) Tell me about where you're from, what you did before you were a barber, and what led to the decision of going to barber school.
I am Southern California born and raised. I grew up in North County San Diego surfing, skateboarding, riding BMX and playing sports. When I graduated from high school I ended up attending Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Ca. Orange County was a really cool place to live then. After I graduated from college I was able to find work helping grow a kettlekorn business with a buddy of mine and work for an MMA publication writing and selling advertisements. My long term goal was to attend law school at some point, but I wasn't really dedicated to the idea nor had I worked hard enough to get into law school easily. That being said, I was impressed upon by a local barber, Mark Miller, that barber school and the subsequent profession were the best decisions he made. So not wanting to pursue a career in law lead me to become a barber instead.
Are you not a fan of living in Orange County now?
You know what’s funny about this question, is that until recently the answer would have always been "I love Orange County." And dont get me wrong, its still wonderful to me, but it has change a decent amount from the secretive, artistic, and influential coastal oasis it once was. There is so much greed and excess here now. Houses and cool communities have all given themselves away to profiteering over culture. There is a lot of gentrification that doesnt even really include the middle class families that live here. Everyone is being priced out. Luckily, there are still so many good things about the OC that make it worth staying here. Every once and awhile SD or Ventura calls my name or pulls on the heart strings. In the end though, I just know that my success really does come from being influenced by Costa Mesa and its history of surf, skate, music, art, etc. My shop wouldnt be what it is or as successful without the love the county has given to it over the years.
2) How have your decisions as a shop owner changed over the years? What do you contribute a lot of your success to?
Honestly, and this word will answer both questions...consistency. As a shop owner my decisions haven't changed much. I started out in the shop solo. Then I hired Justin in 2015 and Richie in 2017. Even with bringing them on the consistency with which the shop is ran stayed the same. Customers make appointments the same way. The standards for the services are high. The toilet gets cleaned. The towels folded. Etc.
My success comes from busting my ass and being in the shop when its advertised that i'm in the shop. I make sure to plan days off well in advance on the scheduling software so that customers can adjust their lives to my absence. I've probably only missed a dozen days in 7 full years from being sick. And, back to the word consistency, my goal with each haircut is to make it, consistently, as close to each individual’s expectations or needs. Show up when you say you are going to be there, don't cancel on people, and do good haircuts. Easy recipe.
3) You have a very unique shop. How has it developed over the years? Why does it look the way it does? What bothers you about it?
Thank you. It's a growing amoeba. I've actually seen some old photos of the shop recently and it was amazing to see it with nothing on the walls. I grew up in a construction/hard work/do it yourself household so its development hinges on that mentality greatly. Most of the projects in the shop I've done myself or with the help of close friends and family.
My shop takes influence from a few exact experiences in my life. I love stickers. They decorate things so well, abstractly. I used to cover things in them as a kid, but with order, not complete randomness. Another direct influence was Mark Millers shop in Costa Mesa. His style was so cool. Old posters from punk shows lined his walls along with other awesome memorabilia to look at. Surf and Skate culture across the decades are all huge influences as well. They each have their own unique styles that I really connect with.
I'm usually bothered with how much work it is to clean the shop and what a massive pain in the ass it is to change things up. I like to move things around from time to time so that when people shoot photos in the shop they get different visuals. So much work.
How did the name Eagle & Pig come to be?
Originally, when I got the space for the shop I had a business partner named Sean. His plan was to use his knack for finding old furniture and selling it out of the shop. We were going to furnish the shop with his findings, but everything was going to be for sale. We sort of just landed on the name through word games. Eagle comes from America, simple enough. Pig comes from a few places...1960s surfboard design, men can be pigs, sailors good luck charm, Reagan has this quote "I am glad they call me a P.I.G it stands for Pride, Integrity, Guts." Sean and his wife decided that three kids were more important than me though, hahaha...so his stint in the shop selling stuff never really happened. 2020 will be 10 years in the shop.
4) How do you feel about the younger generation of barbers/celebrity barbers/instagram barbers?
I'm not necessarily a fan of them. I think that their perspective on the profession is massively skewed by becoming cool or sponsored. That's all bullshit. Its cool, and don't get me wrong, I am beyond grateful for the awesome adventures being “sponsored” has given me, but at the end of the day the barbers “sphere of influence” is wherever he or she consistently shows up, services their customers, and develops a book of business. Customer loyalty has always been a major contributing factor to a barber’s success and vice versa. Its a 2 way street relationship. Wasting time hoping that your social media pops off disallows you the opportunity to create genuine long lasting relationships with patrons who will help pay your bills for years, not just for the short period of time that “insta cool” exists. If you aren't behind your chair for long periods of time you can't expect to have customers sitting there waiting for you to come back. They dont give a shit about how cool you are at the end of the day...they just need a damn haircut.
5) One of the great things about your "school" of barbers is the support you all give each other. That doesn't happen in a lot of professions. Can you talk about that?
There are barbers who operate from a train of thought based on that consistency i've already mentioned. You show up and cut, have barbers that do the same, and you keep your patrons happy. Realistically, beef in the barbering industry is usually petty bullshit that involves short sighted and simple minded people. Supporting people should be easy. We all work in 10ft squares most of the day..not anywhere else. Some of us go out of our way to send customers, when they move away, to shops that will service them similarly or have a good reputation of quality. Having an ego in a blue collar industry like ours is just ignorant. There are enough customers to go around and my “school” believes that being supportive is much more beneficial than being a dick.
6) Talk about the culture of your shop specifically.
My shop is an enigma, I think. It grew out of my need to have structure and believing that our customers could conform to that idea. We are a pretty no holds bar barbershop. I've got a degree in history/political science and I read a lot. I will allow the entire spectrum of conversation to happen in the shop. I make sure that people understand the concept of respect in dialogue. Not many people, let alone barbers, care enough to be educated on subjects varying from socio economic conditions, beer company politics, fuck trump, fuck hillary, gang books, girl pop music...you see where i'm going with this. I'll say, clearly, I think that barbers tend to short change their ability to be intelligent. Some “smart” ones come across as absolute fucking morons. Some “dumb” ones suppress their smarts to be cool. That being said, my shop is a haven for everyone. Everyone is both safe and vulnerable. We like to enjoy our lives because barbering is supposed to be a fun, community focused profession.We also want our customers to grow, personally, by our influence. And, get laid because of our haircuts.
Maybe you're the enigma? You were supposed to go to Law School, but didn't and instead became a barber/shop owner that is very educated and continues to read a lot, can build things with your hands, and also loves to chug beer. How does that all add up?
Math was definitely not a strong subject for me in school, hahaha. I knew turning by back on the lawyer track in life was going to provide me with a new set of challenges. Some I knew for sure, others I had to take with stride. I don’t come from money. I DO come from a household that always taught ingenuity and hard work WILL get you by. My parents both fulfilled their specific rolls in my life and honestly most of the lessons I learned were the same, just in different circumstances. Sacrifice, courtesy, honesty, diligence, and other strong words came to me through their examples. My dad worked on the cars, was a welder, managed ranches, built homes, owned a construction company. My mom was a librarian, beach shuttle driver, cooked, helped my dad in every way she could, forced me to mount bugs and cross stitch instead of take ADD meds. I was given the responsibility at a young age to take care of portions of my life, simple things that I could handle for the age that I was. I learn visually. So watching my parents do a plethora of tasks throughout my lifetime I was able to learn a lot of little skills. The skills and the way I learned actually translated over to barbering really well. In barber school I was able to watch and learn, know when and what questions to ask, etc. Its funny how the things you might encounter or endure as a child prepare you for your future. If you decide to fine tune some of those skills into productive adulting you might just end up good at something.
As for the beers. I love beer and all the rest of the booze in this world. Im fortunate enough to not have any sort of dependency on alcohol though, that I am grateful for. As barbers we are always being exposed to cool new things. So many of my customers work for different companies in the booze world and they love sharing their knowledge and perks. Ive been fortunate enough to drink all sorts of amazing top shelf liquors. At the end of the day though, I will drink anything under the sun. You have to know how to handle yourself if you are gunna drink with me. Nobody likes a sloppy drunk. Ive been sloppy, maybe, a half dozen times since I became of legal drinking age. It just such a calming feeling to sit down at the bar top and throw a few back. Its also amazing to do keg stands or order rounds of shots or slug it down straight from the whiskey bottle.
Moral or this question: Balance is your absolute best friend.
3 books you would recommend everyone read?
Im gunna break these down into genres with some suggestions
1.Gang Related Autobiographies or Biographies: A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown, Monster by Sanyika Shakur, Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead by Frank Meeink, Blood in Blood Out by John Lee Brook
2.Post Modern/Modern Fiction: Anthology of Franz Kafka, Most novels by Chuck Palahniuk, House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski
3.Philosophy: The Republic by Plato, The Will to Power by Friedrich Nietzsche, Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, Candide by Voltaire, A Modest Proposal and Paradise Lost by Jonathan Swift
4....If you plan to read and convey the "news" to people try to read the same topic across several sources and maybe cross reference the "factual" information provided. You will actually sound and BE smarter for it.
7) Anything that bothers you on a daily basis?
Bad customers. Cocky customers. “No Call/No Shows.” I despise people who mess with the schedule. Its disrespectful to our other customers. We try to stay on schedule to our best ability, but sometimes people mess that up for us and the customers following after them. I don’t mind product in peoples hair. I can afford to buy new clippers or blades a few times a year. But what I hate is when they talk shit about weird parts of their last cut or ask for MORE product when they already have a TON in their hair. Its your dumbass fault you ALWAYS come in with product in your hair. And, you DO NOT need more product.
8) At the end of a week, what is it you are most proud about/what gives you the most satisfaction?
Honestly...that every day/week that I show up consistently, so do my customers. My schedule is fully booked every day that I work. I cut on the 30min. Im not doing hour cuts and wasting my time filming or taking studio photos. Im proud to bust my ass for my customers. They know that I will be there, give them an above par cut, and be everything they need from me. Barber. Counselor. Friend. etc...
9) Advice for someone trying do what you do?
You cant be me, or anyone else. You have to be yourself. Barbering is an artform. It requires individuality. You have to want to be selfless. Be covered in tiny little pieces of other peoples hair day in and day out. If you want to be like me you have to provide quality service, with speed and efficiency, while maintaining a high level of educated conversation. You have to show up to work and not miss days or take days off without replacing those days. If you are getting busy or already busy its making sure that your customers have the opportunity to get their cut which helps your pocket book to remain full and their mops chopped.
11) Random thoughts about what you do.....
Being a good barber is so much more selfless than the social media era has made it. I refer to it as the 50/50 scale. When we are in the shop we are 100% barbers. 50% technical barber. 50% personable barber. Now some of us are always going to be more technical than personable, and vice versa. The goal should be to strive for a 50/50 standard...that's what makes the most complete, well rounded barber. Somedays, you might not want to put out the effort to be personable so you can slide your technical game to 60% for the day. Or 70% if you are really grumpy. Other times you might get caught up in a good mood or vibe in the shop that takes your timing off, thought process off, steps off, messes with the game and your scale might slide to 70% personable...some of you out there that already operate at 70% personable might slide to 100% too often and thats why you lose customers to the quiet guy in the shop that puts out white hot technical haircut heat every cut. That dudes customers might be bored as shit, but they look like $1M everytime they leave the shop. Random enough Rob?
Biggest thing you've learned about yourself since passing on Law School and opening up your own shop?
That I’m not "wasting my potential." That was a big issue for some people around me when I made the leap from possible future lawyer to barber. The idea that I would "waste” my intellect on a blue collar profession. If anything, my blue collar job choice has given me the opportunity to continue to learn, grow and be influential as human being, friend, husband, barber.
What do you get into out side the shop?
Hopefully not legal trouble. I enjoy spending time with my wife and friends. I really like being in the sun, not doing much, by a pool, with a cocktail. I surf when I can, ride my harley, work on the endless project that my truck has become. Try to relax. I am really good at stressing myself out and over working myself into shut down mode. Im trying to get better at that. I just want to find the balance between contentment and drive for more. Im gettting there slowly but surely.
Cape Cod has been my families summer destination for as long as I can remember. It takes up a huge place in my heart, and one that I can’t possibly explain to anyone who has never been. There is something so uniquely special about it. A quality that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Winter isn’t quite done yet, at least that’s what I’m telling myself as the snowboarding itch hasn’t totally been scratched. Then again, it never really is. Still though, I’ve found myself already thinking about Cape Cod, a lot. Among the many things I look forward to every year is the seafood. Even living in San Diego where we have access to top notch seafood, I still crave the east coast offerings. Oysters being one of them. I’ll never talk about the exact location of this oyster farm, as it’s the same place we go to harvest our own clams. A little hole I hope to be going for the rest of my life. Go find your own spot.
A while ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Indonesian to shoot an ad campaign for a client. Traveling and photography are my two favorite things, so this was a great experience on a lot of levels. One of the biggest being that the cultural differences were so far from what we have here. The client I went over for is the #1 cigarette company in Indonesia (Gudang Garam), and the shoot was entirely fitness based with a slogan of “NEVER QUIT”. That would never happen in America. A cigarette company in the states would never do a fitness shoot, certainly not with that type of slogan. Smoking over there is just a way of life though, so nobody real thinks twice about it. Personally I’m not a smoker, but I tried one of the cigarettes and it was kind of enjoyable. Not like the harsh cigarettes we have here. They are more flavored and easy to smoke. Probably like a clove if I were to compare it to anything. I’ll be posting some of the actual images from the shoot later on, but below are a couple things I pulled off the internet of my images in the wild around Indonesia.
While putting this post together, I realized that there are no pictures of Josh (owner of Lucky’s). When Mojo and I went to the shop, he didn’t get there till after I had finished shooting, and by that point we had got into a great conversation, which made me completely forget about making a picture of him. What’s even worse is we were just together two days ago and it completely slipped my mind again. Oh well, next time. The only way I know how to explain Josh is that he is a very genuine person. He puts himself out there and has nothing but love for everybody.
Give the shop a follow on IG @luckysbarbershop
1) Where are you from and what did you do before becoming a barber?
I’m from Concord,New Hampshire. It’s the Capital and we are known as the “Granite State” because of the mass amount of granite stone in our quarries. It can be found in a lot of different parts of the world, including many monuments in Washington D.C.
Concord is located in the central part of the state, and fun fact- when you’re sitting in my Barber chair you are exactly one hour to the city of Boston, one hour to the white mountains, and one hour to the ocean. It’s pretty unique to have that many amazing things in such a short distance away. Most people don’t have any of those, let alone all of them and so close. I think half the people that live here is because of these things and the others don’t care, forget, or are too busy working.
So my first job ever was working at a full service gas station at the bottom of the hill from where I grew up in East Concord, which is on the north side of the Merrimack River off of exit 16. You can’t miss it, it’s still there today but with a new owner. A traffic circle/roundabout was installed recently in front of it because of the amount of accidents at the intersection. My father used to bring me down there every week to hang with him and the mechanics. They’d be talking and hanging out and I’d be down below the cars hanging in the pits when that was still legal to have. Years ago they did away with them for obvious safety concerns. My best childhood friend Matty worked down there as well. I remember it well- gas was under $.90 cents a gallon and Old Gold smokes were less than $10 per carton. You’d drive across the tube and the bell would ring and we’d come out from inside and pump your gas, top off all your fluids and check the air- all usually for free. I learned a lot in a quick period of time from that place. I was proud to work there. Unfortunately I was fired only a handful of months later only to be accused of stealing from the station. Sadly they didn’t believe me and they sent me on my way. Fortunately for them they caught the mechanic that was stealing only a short time later but never apologized to me. In return my Father never brought coffee down there in the mornings ever again, and rumor has it that he may have made some direct statements that kept them inside their garage bays when he would drive by. He taught me that your word is your bond and that I didn’t come from a family of liars. I followed that rule my whole life. After that I ended up working retail at our local mall at a sporting goods store as part of a deal for some trouble that I got in shortly after getting my license. Nothing crazy, but part of my probation was applying for jobs and they were the ones that took me first as a temp, right before Christmas time. That was where I honed in my customer service skills and thoroughness. It was strictly enforced and it fit me well. I loved helping people out and finding what suited their needs. I did that and ended up picking up another retail job on top of that at the other end of the mall to keep busy, keep my car on the road, put a couple of bucks in my wallet and most importantly away from school as much as possible. You see, work has always been my escape and my savior(outside of music) I knew from a pretty early age that school just wasn’t for me and that college was not part of my future. Work gave me everything I needed and taught me everything that life hadn’t up to that point. After escaping school, I ended up cruising around the country in a 1977 B-100 custom van with Aerosmith airbrushed on the back. That was it’s own adventure and taught me some life lesssons that New England hadn’t offered me yet. After being a nomad, and avid couch surfer, I ended back on the east coast and then back home slinging bagels and coffee with the other misfits in town. Now I was an adult and had found and solidified my tribe. It was the precursor to Barbershop Life.
It's interesting that you found and solidified your "tribe". Old time barbers seem to me to be in a way very isolated, not knowing much about what happens outside their town. The next generation of barbers (which I would say you're in) though, are very connected. Barbers now are definitely part of a "tribe" that embrace and support each other. Talk about that...
Well, it’s interesting. I was just talking to some Barber students today that stopped by the shop to shadow. I came up in a time where I understand that isolation and disconnect from how that generation feels- because that is the generation of Barbers that I grew up going to as a kid and thats the same era of Barbers that I worked with when I first got out of Barber school 20 years ago. You’ve got to understand, at least here in New Hampshire, that Barbering had become almost nonexistent. When I enrolled in Barber school in 1999 there had not been a Barber school in our state for over two decades, the last one had closed in 1977. So when I graduated and got my Barbers license in 2000, I was the first person in New Hampshire to bridge that gap in a very long time. I’m very proud of that fact, but in reality it has nothing to do with me, it was just the timing. In fact it would’ve been great if there was never a lapse in Barbering and it had continued to flourish not only in our state but across the country and in the world, but that’s really not the case. My first job was working with two Korean War Veterans that had been cutting hair in Barbershops since the 50’s, and the way that they talked about the time period when they first became Barbers and started working was that Barbers were a dime a dozen and were not highly respected. For a lot of people it was just a job and a way to put food on the table back then. I think that you didn't have the same artistic culture that surrounds it today. For a lot of these people I think they viewed other Barbers more as competition than their peers or friends, when in reality there’s always been enough hair to go around for everyone, back then and still today. I think with the emerging and continuous growth of social media and other various online platforms you are seeing that not only is it not as mysterious and secretive as it once may have been, but that it is a worldwide phenomenon. There’s no way that the majority of these people that have tens of thousands of followers online are only being followed by other Barbers. People are paying attention to what they’re doing. That strikes my curiosity but it also gets me excited to know that even though we feel like we have a very important and dynamic role in our communities and in this world – other people are starting to finally recognize that and in return are keeping us all busy and making us become better practitioners. So just like anywhere else in this world, I think you carve out your niche and you start to figure out where you fit in. It took me a long time to figure out what my role is and where I belong. Sometimes under certain circumstances you need to take inventory and create it for yourself when it’s not there. What’s great about my position as a Barber but more particularly as a shop owner and operator is that I’m not trying to mimic and clone myself but I’m actually trying to surround myself with like-minded humans who make me better and want to be better each day. I feel like I’ve been swimming against stream for a long time, but I hate treading water and becoming stagnated. I live in a world where we set our own standards and we keep focused on our own work and what works for our customers. I’m not worried or concerned with the majority of what’s going on outside of here. I listen to my customers, they have the answers, they are the ones that inform me most of the time of what they want or what they’ve seen. I don’t pick the cuts, I put them on. However, some of the people I work with are really in tune with the online community and some not as much. It’s a nice balance because we all benefit from each other in the long run and I like and appreciate that. I am learning, and I’m making more efforts to try and connect with people outside of here because I do believe it’s important and honestly it’s cool that there’s others out there that feel and carry themselves like you(we)do.
2 ) What sent you into being a barber?
I’ve never been good at short stories and am usually long winded, but I tend to talk fast in real life and faster in my head. Basically up to age 12, my Father would bring me to the Barbershop when I was staying with him on the weekends. Little did I know that one particularly early and hot morning in July that in combination of his lack of patience and the long line of people in front of us that he would have me cutting his hair in his tiny 3rd story apartment with no AC and barely a bathroom later on that day. He still doesn’t quite remember if he acquired the clippers when he was in the Service or if it was to shave down his old German Shepard’s that he used to own, train and show. Well a can of WD 40, a Phillips screwdriver and a lack of choice had me shaving his head in no time. He assured I could do no worse than him, and that I had the better angle. Initially reluctant, and with no say in the matter-the first pass was made on the right side of his head. I remember vividly when his fluffy white hair hit my shoe, I stopped and looked down and he said “don’t stop now.” By the end of that week- anyone and everyone that I knew within a couple miles stretch got a haircut from me. I was thrown to the mercy of this braided cord, loud, old, overheating clipper. It was perfect!
3) Where did the inspiration for your shop come from?
My true inspiration was a combination for a love of old things and the first shop I worked at out of Barber school. Growing up, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together most of the time. So most of the time the stuff we had was either bought from yard sales and flea markets, hand me downs or from the dump from the next town over. And it was cool! I never knew the difference growing up till I hit middle school and met other kids with more fortunate situations. I would say it’s all I’ve ever known, and always appreciated. There’s a life that’s been breathed into something that’s been used or loved before. New stuff has never really appealed to me, except for sneakers. I was born with a broken sniffer, but I can still smell (at least in my mind) the highly intoxicating beautiful aroma of a box of shoes opened up for the first time, gasoline fumes in the air and the occasional whiff of talc powder. It’s the simple things! Also, equally as important-my first job as a Barber was at a shop from 1920 that still had the majority of the original fixtures. It’s all I’ve ever known and all I’ve ever cut in and on. It’s not just a look or gimmick, it’s real to me. I sat in chairs like those as a kid and I cut hair in chairs like those now as an adult. There’s a beauty in the detail and organization of a well curated shop. It doesn’t make the haircut better, but it sure doesn’t hurt the overall experience and aesthetic either.
4) You own two shops. That's a lot of barbers to manage. How do you handle that?
I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t a lot, but it’s grown carefully and steadily over the years, preparing me the best it could to get to this point. There’s currently 12 Barbers at Lucky’s including myself. I think the locations and the customers were ready before I was. It takes the right ingredients to make the cake rise and not fall. After almost twenty years I’ve got a pretty good grasp on what I like and what I want. Most importantly what I don’t want. I’ve managed to surround myself with talented hardworking humans that exhibited qualities that I admired in them before they ever held a pair of shears. I’ve learned that it’s a lot easier to make someone a better Barber than it is to make them a better person. I can’t express this enough. I’ve found people that compliment myself and the shop, and in return have become a very strong and fundamental being of Lucky’s. It’s pretty well oiled, but if you know me then you know that I’ve got a thousand irons in the fire at all times. Mediocrity and complacency don’t exist in my life. You’d need an elephant tranquilizer to slow me down, and that’s probably not enough. It’s all I know. Set the bar high, smash it, repeat. If you’re not moving forwards then you’re going backwards. My old man said that’s why the rear view mirror is so much smaller than the windshield. Don’t forget what’s behind you in the past, but keep your eye on the future in what lies ahead of you.
5) Why did you open the second location?
It was out of necessity, not want. The area I opened in didn’t have a lot of options. My buddy would tell me “you can get a haircut here, just not the one you want.” Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but I think we offer something special, something more than a just a haircut. You’re building relationships, friendships, trust and community. Call it what you will but you can’t fake this shit, no matter how good your social media looks, you’ve got to deliver the goods at the end of the day, and that’s what we do best. We are service practitioners and we will ALWAYS need them more than they need us. Drop the attitudes and learn your history. If you’re in this for a quick buck and some popularity then maybe it’s the wrong career for you. But if you want to build a livelihood to take care of you and yours and have a long life doing it-the sky is the limit. We have something special (in my opinion) to help people out with and in return they help us more than we could ever imagine. Two years into the second location and I’m very happy to be a small part of a great town with a great history. Have you seen that video of the Barber that’s over 100 years old? I wish! For him, at this point it’s got to be by choice, by love. You know his house is paid off, his kids are grown and probably even great grandparents and you can bet the worlds a million miles from the one he was born into, but he’s still here and hairs still growing. I’m thankful for this trade and I’ll be forever grateful. A vampires life for me! How else could you repay this world for such a gift in a short period of time?
6) Thoughts on where barbering is today?
Barbering is off the rocks and cruising. I hear its one of the fastest growing trades in many parts of the country and even abroad. It’s no surprise, open up your phone and go online and look at social media. We’re everywhere! You’d be hard pressed to throw a quarter into a crowd and not hit a Barber nowadays. It doesn’t bum me out, it makes me happy. I hold no bearing over the future of Barbering, but I sure as hell can tell you that it’s not for the weak of spirit, dedication, or mind. It’s physical, it’s mental and its over compassing at times but if you’re a tourist -get out of the way or you’ll get steamrolled. All I ever ask to anyone that inquires to me about it is: to love it like your own, to take care of it, mend it and honor it for what it is. We’re carrying the torch and you can bet it’s not going out on my watch.
7) What do you get into outside of the shop?
Music has been my moral compass outside of what I was taught at an early age. It embodies a spirit of freedom, art, conviction, dedication, passion, and emotion. Strangely enough it’s qualities like those that seem to be in most Barbers that I like,respect or admire and they seem to carry within themselves. For me, it was there before Barbering and before cutting hair entered my life. It’s been my social circle, my getaway and my salvation. It’s brought me some of the the most memorable times of my life with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. It’s brought me to corners of the Earth I didn’t think were possible. It’s how I met my Wife, and it’s made friendships that I’ll forever appreciate and hold deeply in my heart. It’s brought light into the darkest corners and filled in the holes when I needed it most.
Also, very importantly- my animals. Two rescue dogs, and two rescue cats. I could go on forever, but I’m telling you, I don’t want to live in a world where they don’t exist. It’s a love that’s unconditional/24 hours a day. My next life, my next time around-I want to come back as a dog, a rescue dog. I’d be willing to endure some hard times up front for a lifetime of love and spoils on the end. Lord knows most of us on Earth have been to hell and back to see the upside of down. That’s how I treat my animals. They’re worth it and I put them before myself. I’d say they rescued me.
More specifically, how are you involved with music?
Borrowed my first bass when I was 14, played in my first band when I was 15 and never looked back. The ties between Barbers and music is more synonymous than ever and sometimes it feels the same way in or out of the shop. Met a lot of my Barbers because of music, started and played in bands because of those Barbers, and got to travel the country and abroad because of those Barbers. Some were friends before being Barbers, some after. It’s a crazy world and I’ve got to experience some things outside of the shop that I’ll never forget and always be thankful for.
Far too many to list. Chances are if you don’t like or can’t appreciate or respect A Tribe Called Quest or Gorilla Biscuits then we probably have less in common than most. Musically, morally or fashionably. I’m more open minded than ever when it comes to music today though. If it sounds good to me- I don’t care what genre, or who’s making it. Turn it up!
8) Something people would be surprised to know about you?
Often times I have immediate connections with people in my chair, but outside of this part of the world I live in, I often feel disassociated and more of a loner and a wallflower believe it or not. I’m great one on one, but more often then not I have a sense of aloneness or not belonging. Not in a sad way or even depressing way really, sometimes just more lost, sometimes more comforting. I could talk to strangers all day long about personal details and share stories, but a lot of that shuts off when I’m not cutting hair. I wouldn’t call it antisocial, I don’t know what really? It’s definitely not from a negative place at this point in my life, it’s just always been there since I was a kid. It’s something I think a lot about and in some ways try to work on. I love connecting with people so it’s strange. If you catch me one on one-I’ll listen all day to you and talk all night!
What are you doing to work on that?
Being honest with myself helps, and sometimes hearing it out loud or from other people is a good reminder. It might sound cheesy to some, and maybe would’ve once upon a time to an earlier version of me- but looking in the mirror and owning it is the one of the biggest forms of self reflection and self respect. If you can’t jive with yourself and you don’t like what you see, sometimes you’ve got to make a change. I get it, hindsight is 20/20, but there’s no excuse this day and age to make an effort to become a better version of you. All the tools are available. Start with yourself and build upon that and you’ll see the rest get onboard or jump off the ship.
9) Random thoughts or ramblings on what you do....
Barbering was here before us and no doubt long after us. Don’t be a one trick pony, try new things, ask questions, and help each other out. The worlds a small place but I wouldn’t t want to paint it. There’s enough hair to go around, and if you’re driven and if your passionate- you’ll get better and it will take care of you well beyond your years. As of lately though, I’ll be honest, this day and age feels more divided than I can ever remember and it’s getting real old. The beauty that lies in our country particularly, is that we should all have the opportunity, free will, and be able to rely on the foundations and principles that are supposed to unite us not divide us. Cut the bullshit, take a deep breath and open up your mind and let’s get back to work. MLK once said “ we may home come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” I say let’s keep it afloat. Other than that, give me about a hundred more years of this life and check back in on me. Until then, thanks to my family, friends, customers and anyone that was ever in my corner throughout this journey.
I love winter, which is ironic because one the main reasons for leaving New York was the weather. Not sure you can really say that have a proper winter though? Either way, I love it, but more specifically I love snowboarding. Can’t get enough of it. A few years ago I used to take the camera out with every time I got on the board, then I noticed the more I got into it, the more the camera stayed in the bag. This was a big problem for me, because there was always that feeling of missing out on a lot of incredible shots. Then I started thinking about it and realized it’s ok. I’m totally obsessed with photography, but snowboarding is the one thing that I feel ok about putting the camera down for. It’s my time to just check out and not be totally concentrated on making images. Everyone should have their thing, right? Yes. It’s very important and necessary for everyone to check out of whatever it is that they do for a living, regardless of how much they love it. The below shot was made during a recent drive from Denver to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The camera still comes with me on trips, but it seems like I only end up making images of the in-between times, which is also really fun.
The box jump is an exercise that I find strange to photograph. For some reason the images always just seem boring. So why not play around a little?
Way back in 2012-ish I met the Nefarious Dr. Pugsly at his original shop in Kingston, NY. No remembrance of how we came in contact or how I ended up at his shop, but glad I did. He’s an interesting cat and his place was the first of the “next generation” shops I came across where you could feel an immense amount of pride and a very high bar for service. His cuts are next level and it’s obvious that he wants his shop to reflect that. Since our first meeting, a lot has happened with him, including a second “sideshow” shop (featured below) not far from the original. During the final push for the last book I of course wanted to include his new shop, but the only time I had to photograph it on my trip cross country was Christmas Eve. He graciously took time out of his schedule to open up and even more graciously gave me a beard trim. Thank you, Dr. !
Give him a follow on IG @pugsly_dude or check out his website www.pugslysbarbershop.com
1) Where are you from and what did you do before barbering?
So, I'm born and raised here in Kingston. I had the opportunity to spend some pretty personal time with most of our country traveling and playing music really early on. As far as formal work, I made most of my living around cars. I worked in a pretty standard repair shop for a while. Learned a lot. Basic car knowledge. Eventually found my way into car audio and custom installs. There, the crew had pretty free run of the shop. We all built a ton of rad stuff there! Lastly i found myself in a local Kustom shop. I'll always be grateful for that opportunity, the friends and lessons I took from that time. I fell in love with metal flake, fancy cast parts, and I received the nickname Pugsly.
What is the meaning behind Pugsly?
Pugsly was just a nickname I picked up in a small circle that spread a bit, for a min there. Sounded fun for a shop name... kind of low browy? Either way, that's why Pugsly!
What did you take from building cars that carried on to being a barber?
Man, I worked in a garage with a group of my best dudes for years where we did audio by day and by night we had full range. We built some crazy stuff in that place! But we had some pretty gnarly work ethic. You've never seen more organized boxes and work areas. We got really, really involved in our install work. I think I learned a standard there that I took with me.
2) You have 2 beautiful shops that I would say are on a different level from most. Can you talk about your process of putting them together? How does it start and how far are they from the original idea/concept?
I built my first shop in last few months of 2007. At that time I was watching only a few different shops from the side lines. A couple of which were Lefty's, obviously out of San Diego via MySpace, and Robs Chop Shop out of Dallas who I had met and known personally through the car community. I was just trying to set up a very traditional, walk-in, gentleman's style environment. What I felt to be a 1940's style barbershop visually but my main focus was the product. Both the cut and experience riding the same level of importance. I pretty quickly established as diverse of a clientele as I had hoped. As time progressed minor, natural adjustment took place but for the most part Pugslys remains what it set out to be.
The main problem I found with the original business model was the wait time. I was noticing negative trends concerning client retention. That sparked the idea for shop number two. Pugsly's SideShow was the solution. A small "SideShow" of a location that would except appointments only. With a little bit of a tongue in cheek approach in coordination with the name, the decor took a little bit more of a funky approach. It might be a little bit more representative of me personally. The only thing I've seen changing and fairly rapidly with business model number 2 is the fact that SideShow started as a "small offshoot" but is quickly growing to the size of the original shop with the popularity of the more modern appointment set up. To be considered moving forward for sure.
You seem like a fairly obsessive person? And I don't mean that in a bad way at all. Quite positive actually. Can you talk about how that translates into your shops and your cuts?
So thanks? No, I think that's fair and I think that it helps with consistency and some organization within the shops. As far as the cuts and work ethic, I think our crew shares the same thing that the boys from Burts garage did. We feed off of each other. Push each other's standards a little. So it's good. I know we all get pretty nerdy about our haircuts sometimes.
3) Are there any specific factors that you can pinpoint which have lead to your success as a barber?
I try to be cool to the people that make it possible to pay my bills. I'm hyper focused on giving the best product that I can start to finish. I feel very fortunate to be wired in a manor that I take pride in what I do. I think you have to really believe in what your doing if other people are going to believe what your doing.
4) You have a great reputation for giving beautiful haircuts, but live in what a lot of people would consider a "small market". Kingston isn't in NYC, but it's also not really upstate. Can you talk about your decision to stay in Kingston as opposed to moving to NYC or LA or any other big market?
I just wanted to open a barbershop. Every town needs one and my town NEEDED one. The little Hudson valley city that I grew up in was still moving pretty good when I was a kid and until the boom we've experienced in the past decade, I'm not sure how much I noticed the down time we went through. I've benefited from it, established a clientele I couldn't have predicted, but I guess I was just doing what I knew at the time.
Would you ever consider leaving Kingston?
Absolutely... We considerate it all the time. Just not sure what really gets better then this at the moment. We got family, a cool crib, good people, the Hudson valley itself is just a rad place... it's hard to justify a move, right now anyway.
5) What kind of things do you see barbers today doing wrong?
This is a trade. It's not a fashion show, it's not politics.
6) What do you do outside of the shop? Hobbies? Obsessions?
I'm a husband and a proud father. I love cars and motorbikes. I really like paint. I play music. Vacation state of mind.
7) Where do you see yourself in 5/10/25 years?
Cutting hair. I couldn't have imagined almost 11 years ago that I'd have the support or clientele, established the relationships, or the crew that holds this whole project together. No matter where it goes from here I want to be cutting hair. I feel like that means slowing down sometimes.
8) Thoughts on the IG age of barbering?
I've made so many friends, pulled so much inspiration, and traveled both domestically and internationally on behalf of my family from Australia, Uppercut Deluxe. All opportunities presented to me through IG. All though, I feel like I've seen some people loose balance a little when it comes to what really makes their world go around.
9) Can you think of any major screw-up or failures in your life that ended up leading to something great?
I mean, I guess high school was tough for me. Not that I couldn't do it, I just didn't want to and they didn't keep my interest. But I did invest myself in other things, some real deal collage at one point even, and one of them ended up being barbering. I'm pretty happy about that.
10) Any barbers/shops out there that you look up to?
Yeah! A lot of them! I don't even want to rattle off names because I'm afraid to miss someone super important... I have been in so many shops. I've taken so many things, inspirations, ethics, personality, from so many shops... it would be a big list. But my big brother shop is Robs chop Shop in Dallas. That's the guy that popped the bubble, made me think... I should just go to barber school already.
A lot more random images from the street that have been made over the last couple months. Obviously this is the kind of thing I do in my free time, whether it’s before or after a commercial shoot, a meeting, running errands, walking the dog, etc. This stuff is totally different from all my commercial work and something I find very relaxing, so I try to make room for it whenever I’m in a different place. Not sure yet where I’m headed with all this, but it will come.
My travels have taught me a lot of things about how to live and not to live. It’s all personal opinion of course, but one thing I’ve become very passionate about is living your own life. One that makes you happy. And it always makes me upset seeing who spend their whole lives working a job that they hate. I don’t understand it at all. My buddy Aaron Straker (below images) is doing the opposite of that. For the past 8-ish years he’s been working for a company in San Diego as a senior software engineer. A job that he probably liked ok, but it’s certainly not what he loves to do. Well, last month he quit that job to focus full time on nutrition, and very soon he and his girlfriend (also a nutritionist) are moving to Vietnam to start their own business over there. At some point they will move back to the states, at which point they plan on pimping out a sprinter van and literally taking their show on the road. These type of decisions are ones that 99% of people can make but never do. I applaud him for it and hope that his decisions inspire other people to do something with their own lives.
Follow him on Instagram @aaron_straker and his girlfriend @jennythenutritionist
Joe’s Barbershop in Chicago is a rad place. And that’s a fact. Not an opinion. Maybe it’s the history or the general attitude of people in Chicago, but I really dig Joe’s. It’s got something special. Joe Jr. is an old school cat, so I loved hearing his brutally honest answers about what has happened in the shop since Papa Joe started it back in 1968. If you’re ever in town, be sure to stop in. You won’t regret it. I try to every time I’m up that way and he always takes care of me. Bastard got me rolling on a serious giardiniera habit that I can’t seem to shake though.
Follow the shop on Instagram @joesbarbershopchicago1 or on their website at www.joesbarbershopchicago.com
1) What did you do before becoming a barber?
I have had my fair share of jobs in my 39 years on this planet. I have done everything from selling 18 Wheelers, to doing contract work for Harley Davidson corporate, to washing cars at a Lexus bodyshop. Most of my "career" could fall into the marketing / advertising world I guess you could say. Not going to college for a piece of paper always got me in the door at the lowest level, and then having to prove to upper management that I wasn't a complete piece of shit I would rapidly move up the ranks. I hate corporate America for the record.
You sold 18 Wheelers???? How did your random jobs prior to Joe's translate or help what you do now?
Indeed I did. At the ripe age of 23 I handled the largest fleet accounts for a local freightliner dealer pretty much next to O'Hare airport.
It wasn't a bad gig, but it was more a career then a "job" so to speak. You cant just start in a job like that and expect to make any money. The older guys I worked with had been their 10-15-25 years and due to that were making a very nice living.
My list of random jobs before I started in the barbershop has definitely helped me for sure. I always say I am glad I did have other jobs before starting in the shop with my dad, rather then just going right from high school to the shop. I have had both cool and asshole bosses, had to work holidays, had to miss events and such because I had to work, etc. Plus even today I consider myself a shop barber first, then an owner. I would never expect or want something out of my barbers that I wouldn't want to do myself (if that makes sense).
2) Your old man started Joe's in 68'. Did he encourage you to follow in his footsteps?
He didn't. If anything he told me to "stay away" from barbering all together. Just like his father (who was also a barber) told him not to get involved in the trade. All I heard growing up was , "use your head not your body" and " don't deal with the public" but here I am working in the shop. My father started teaching me to cut hair when I was in the 7th or 8th grade. One day an old Paidar barber chair ended up in our small 1 1/2 car garage. I didn't think anything about it because weird shit was always showing up on my pops garage (usually to be sold in the barbershop as back then it was more stolen merchandise trading post then barbershop). But no, that chair was there for a reason ! So for the next year or so every other Sunday before I was allowed to do anything I might have wanted to do I had to give my pops a haircut and a shave. Each time he would change it up on me, as last time I gave him a #3 on the sides with alittle off the top, and now this time he wanted a full cut done with shears left full in the back. Not knowing then what he was doing I thought he was just being difficult (which he still does very well at 72 years old), but now as I'm abit older I realize he was showing me different ways to cut hair. For the next few years I would cut my neighbors hair, friends, relatives over for holidays and such, etc. I bought my first car (a 1985 Toyota Supra) off the money I made doing garage haircuts.
3) What was the transition like when you started there and later convinced him to expand the shop?
My father didn't want me to get into barbering, let alone work next to him in the then small / 250sq.ft. shop that he had called home / sanctuary away from his family since 1968. So after getting some of his family and my mom to talk to him he agreed. I graduated barber college and started full time @ Joe's in September of 2010 and literally could do nothing right (still cant in his eyes). At that time it was a two chair shop and with abit of effort and using what social media was around then we started to get busier. About 6 months in I started telling him we needed to clean up the shop abit and add a third chair (which we could barely fit). Of course this was answered with a no and a shaking of the little mans head. How could it be a good idea if his son was the one who thought it up? So after a few months of fighting he finally let me add the third chair. After hiring on a third barber it wasn't even a week before that third chair was part of the shop and we could of used a 4th. This was also around the time that our part of Chicago aka Logan Square was going through a change for the better aka "gentrification" if you wanna go down that road, so allot of young dudes were moving into the area around the shop and needing a good haircut. Fast Forward to 2013 and the shop had become a monster. We were winning every sorta social media "award", mentions in national publications, being used for tv and movie shoots, etc. Open 6 days a week with 5 barbers working 3 chairs (in rotation) six days a week averaging a 2 hour wait everyday. We extended our hours and just got busier. We raised our prices and just got busier. Sounds good on paper but was hell working in the shop back in those days. So after another year or so of fighting and bitching with the small man I finally convinced him to let me knock out the back 2 bedroom apartment and expand the barbershop to its current size. The conversation went like this:
“Dad, we need to expand the shop.
Dad, we are losing 20-30 customers a day due to them not wanting to wait. We need more barbers and more room.
Dad, Those 20-30 people leaving could be taken care of by the addition of more barbers. We need to expand.
Dad, I worked with some banks and I will pay for the expansion out of my pocket.
OK, Do it..”
So basically when I told him I wasn't needing or asking him to cough up any money to expand the place he was cool with it. Typical old man Italian. So a rough timeline is the shop was opened in 1968. I started in 2010. Added a third chair in 2013. Expanded the shop to its current 1400sq.ft / 7 chair size in 2015. I officially took over ownership of the building and the barbershop in February of 2015.
4) You're both characters and seem like pretty hard headed guys. Describe your relationship in the shop. How has it changed over the years?
This is a easy one. My father and I have NEVER got along. Not when I was little. Not when I was just starting off in the shop. Not as I write this. Not sure if its because we are too much alike? Are both super hard headed? Who knows. It is literally his way or nothing when it comes to me, and just me. He is not that way with his customers. He is not that way with my older sister. It is literally his attitude towards me and only me. Flash back to 2013 when the shop was insanely busy and I remember him and I got into it on a Friday night after the shop had just closed. I remember sitting him down in his chair and me sitting across from him and saying and I quote, "Dad, I can not work with you anymore. So, you are either going to retire, we are going to expand this shop so I can get alittle bit of distance between you and I, or I am going to drown you in the toilet by your size 6 feet." The expansion started to gain steam about a week after that. Fast forward to present day and my 72 year old father is still working four 10-12 hour days a week and is more feisty and up my ass then ever before. Him still working is really why I have the schedule I have . Working just 4 days a week in the shop and only working 2 days with him. Two too many...
How does your old man feel about where the shop is today?
My father is the definition of " old school". He doesn't show emotion, and is definitely not going to give me any sort of praise for what I have done to / for the shop. It's just how he is so it really doesn't bother me. I have seen him be that way since I can remember. The proof is in the business the shop is doing, the amount of haircuts we complete every day, the amount of repeat business we have, and so on. That's how I measure success, not Instagram followers or how many t-shirts the shop sells. Hell, I give more shirts away then I sell. I am not one to hype myself up online, post pictures of haircuts, pictures of famous shop customers, or any of that crap you cant help but see online. The shop itself and what it is/has become is all the "creditation" I myself need. A smooth running shop with good barbers and good customers is all I can ask for, and I bust my ass to maintain that.
5) Joe's is as I see it, a Chicago institution….
Tough question. I see it kinda in two ways. 1. Yes, 50 years, family business, son taking over from his father and expanding/growing business, etc.
2. No, Its a barbershop that has stuck around because the owner may or may not have been to stubborn to close it down / move it when the neighborhood turned into a ghetto in the late 90's. By just plain luck the neighborhood that the shop is in now is "booming". Barbering is stronger now then ever before. So, I am always torn when thinking of the shop as a "institution", guess it just depends on who I talk to. I can tell you one thing, barbers as of late could care less if the shop they work in has been around for 50 years or 5. As long as their Instagram accounts are popping and they are making $$$. The days of opening up a shop with say 2 dudes and having that crew around for the duration of the shop is long gone. So to answer the question Yes, Joe's is something special. And, no matter who does or doesn't work in the shop the shop itself will continue to carry on through the years.
6) How do you manage a shop of 7 barbers? What do you expect out of them?
Out of all the jobs / tasks I have had in my life up to this point the managing of people / being a boss has been the hardest. I work in my shop alongside my barbers so I try and make the shop / environment a place where I myself would want to work (as I do work there). From the expansion and more room to what's on the walls to the music being played to how well the shop is cleaned (which I do myself). Do I hang out with my barbers outside of work ? Do I not because I don't want to be seen as their "friend" but as their " boss" ? Do I play the roll of " cool boss" and let everything I don't like slide ? Do I play the roll of "stern boss" and sit down with them once a week and tell them what they are doing wrong ? Either way or direction has its good and bad sides to it. I have lost barbers due to things out my control, like how my father acts. I have lost barbers due to the shop down the street offering them 5% more per cut. I have lost barbers due to my "attitude" which is really just how I am. I have lost barbers who wanted to work in an appointment shop because that's what the cool Insta-Babers are doing now a days. So I really cant win. I have paid certain barbers more thinking they would stay working in the shop and they left. I have given certain barbers more leeway in coming in late / leaving early to try and keep them around and they have left. So now my approach is kinda the straight and to the point kinda thing. 1. This is the shop and this is how it's ran. 2. This is what your going to get paid per haircut and that's not going to change. 3. You have a job here for life if you want it. 4. If I happen to have a issue with your performance in the barbershop YOU will be the first to know. I would say that this method has been going well but I lost a barber about 3 months ago and will prob loose another by summer (have a gut feeling which I am usually not wrong about).So, if that does happen we do what we always do, keep chugging on. Everything in the shop has always evened out in the end.
7) Joe's is everything I love about a barbershop. There is a lot of comedy and you want people to have fun, but you also don't want any bullshit fuckery. Talk about that.
I do run the barbershop with a heavy hand, and I am well aware that some people don't "get" it and take it the wrong way. As I am an asshole or think I am the shit or whatever. I even made a website called " the dirty" a few years back (its still up there - just do a google search of my name) where an old customer of mine (yes I know who he is) posted a pic and article of me slamming me for being a "tough guy" with a crappy beard. Do I care that he did that ? No, and kinda take it with a smile that I got under his skin that bad for him to take his time and write that. Same as I feel about YELP reviews that say things like the haircut was great and the shop is cool but I was told to hang up my jacket and wont go back, 1 star. Atleast the haircut came out ok is what I think to myself when reading those kinda things. As said before I try and run the shop as I would want it to be as if it was a place I went to get my haircut. I don't want to see a bunch of peoples jackets thrown on the waiting chairs when we have a perfectly good coat rack. It looks sloppy and takes up chairs for waiting customers. I harp on my barbers to tell their customers to hang up their jackets but sometimes they just don't do it. People talking on their phones, people with the legs stretched out so people have to walk over them, guys wearing sunglasses inside the shop, people who waste beers, people who think the floor is a good spot to put their full cup of coffee, Men in flip flops complaining about that hair got on their feet, men in flip flops in general, etc. All things that drive me up a wall and you better bet people are going to hear about in my shop with my name in neon on it !
My first time in the shop I was wearing flip-flops and took some shit for it. I’ll definitely be leaving a bad Yelp review…
8) What do you get into outside of the shop?
I really never am "off" from the shop. No matter how much I try it is part of me. I mean I live upstairs ! But in reality I do more for the actual running of the shop on my days off then when I am behind the chair. Weather it be updating the website, social media whatever, lunch meetings with people about say a photoshoot in the shop, etc. This is what barbers don't see, the behind the scenes stuff that a good owner does to keep his shop afloat and floating higher then the other shops in the area. Sixty8 Provisional is a small male grooming product company I started back in 2014 which takes some of my time. Everything from product formulation to marketing to sales to fulfillment is all handled by yours truly. We sell it here at the shop, as well as 5-10 other barbershops and retail stores across the US. If it grows cool, if not its something to do which only compliments the barbershop in which it was created in. Sixty8 = the year my dad started Joe's. Also have two other "start-ups" that are in their infant stages that should do pretty well once their up and going. I have smaller roles in those so hopefully alittle effort up front can gain me some added income which would be nice. Besides the above I am into hot rods and classic cars, motorcycles, black haired tattooed women in heels, good food and booze with good company, etc. I have always said I can sleep when im dead..
9) Random thoughts about what you do....
I am a barber. Barbering is a trade like being an electrician or a plumber. Barbering is the oldest legal profession in the world. Barbering has put food on families plates, sent kids to college, paid for houses, cars, and so on for years. And yes of course I take what I do and my trade seriously and with respect. But, I can’t get a date to save my life on these online dating apps because when a woman see's "barber" as a profession It might as well say "doesn't make any money" to her. I love it when a customer in my chair asks, " so what else do you do to make ends meat ?" Or, " you cant really live of a barbers salary right?" . Believe me their is nothing better then rolling up to Chicago Cut (one of the best steakhouses in Chicago) in my 55 Bel-Air and some snobby older guy asks what I do for a living and tell him I am a barber. Just to watch his face go into some weird questioning look. Then you have these Insta-Barbers wearing gold barber poles around their neck and surgical masks doing backflips into crowds at barber conventions. I don't get it, but to each their own I guess. You don't see plumbers wearing gold plated monkey wrenches around their necks. Or electricians walking around with attitudes because of what they do. All trades, but barbering has something weird about it. I try and let the shop itself do the talking, rather then me myself posting every haircut I do in the shop. You don't see "Joe Jr. " stickers and t-shirts being produced but we make 20,000 Joe's Barbershop stickers a year to slap all over the world and have been since I started back in 2010. The shop is what's special, I am just it's care taker..
10) Best pie in the city?
No one in Chicago calls it "pie" so I'm guessing you’re talking about Pizza ? I like all kinds of pizza so I have a few different spots for each style of "pie" as you put it.
Deep dish = Peaquads (Lincoln Park, Chicago) for sure. Thin crust Italian style = Gigio's in the burbs (Des Plaines, IL). Thin crust square cut or "tavern style" = John's Pizzeria (Logan Square, Chicago). Napoli style = Pizza Metro (Wicker Park, Chicago).
I’m not here to debate the ethics of hunting. Whatever you believe is fine with me. What I am interested in is little slices of life that only occur in certain places, and this is a great example of that. Towards the tail end of a cross-country trip, while driving through western Colorado, I caught a small glimpse of the scene below and turned around to see what was actually happening. My first thought was they were cutting up a wolf because all I saw from the road was the tail. Turns out it’s a Mountain Lion. Where I’m from and where I live now, this kind of thing doesn’t happen. I spend a lot of time in the mountains, but have never been a hunter, so this life very intriguing to me. And the 3 people involved in the hunt were really nice about letting me hang out while they broke down their catch. Learning about different hunting techniques is fascinating, so I enjoyed hearing about how they used dogs to catch this lion and how they train the dogs to hunt. More surprising is that the lion apparently tastes good. Would like to try a piece at some point. Won’t go much farther than that as not to stir the pot.
***For obvious reasons the license plate numbers were photoshopped out of these images.
Had a great time last month shooting some trail running for San Diego Magazine. Besides being in beautiful locations, it was interesting talking to the guys who are both ultra-runners. Hearing about their experiences, techniques, and eating habits was very eye opening. Looking at these images again really makes me appreciate living in San Diego.
Bonus on this shoot was needing a last minute stand in runner for the 3rd location because of a cancelation, I was able to use Emily (wife). Eagle Rock is a very cool place that we were pumped to check out.
Another one is in the books. Can’t remember what I’ve said about these trips in the past, but they are my favorite. Hands down. Anytime there is a camera in my hand, I’m having fun, but nothing beats a cross-country road trip. Just Mojo and I and nobody else to tell me what to do or how to shoot. No agenda or itinerary, just a general goal of where I’ll end up on the other side. There might be a couple things i’m looking for, but it’s also very important to not be too focused on those things. Otherwise you’ll miss out on everything else. Learned a good lesson on this trip pertaining to the weather, which it felt like I was fighting with a majority of the time. Weather can be great for photographs, but this time around most days had skies filled with a very drab blanket of grey. No definition to the clouds. Just a blanket. Boring. Definitely not what I typically look for when shooting on the road. After about six thousand of miles of being frustrated with those skies, I finally said screw it, accepted it, and tried to just use it. The images that I made on that day ended up being some of my favorites. Lesson learned. The road has a funny way of teaching you great lessons. Yet another reason why I love it.
Sign makers kept popping into my head during this trip. I’ve always been fascinated by old signs, but this time around it really struck me what a profound impact sign makers can have on a business, store front, street, neighborhood or city. In general, it seems like signs aren’t nearly as creative as they used to be. And that’s sad. Still though, there are some very creative guys out there. And I appreciate the way a sign can make you feel. Just looking at a sign can tell you so much about whatever kind of business is happening inside. A sign can set a mood or it can tell you about the culture of the place it occupies. And over time, that sign can create a culture which further helps draw like minded people to an area. A sign can define a street. It can become iconic and synonymous with a certain city. That’s powerful.
Side note: A lot of new content was made on this trip for my barbershop project and I’ll be sharing that soon.