Lucky's Barbershop - New Hampshire

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

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“After escaping school, I ended up cruising around the country in a 1977 B-100 custom van with Aerosmith airbrushed on the back.”

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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.

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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!

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

Favorite bands?

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!

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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.

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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.