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.
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
“You don't see plumbers wearing gold plated monkey wrenches around their necks…”
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).
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.
Long before meeting Steve Purcell I was a fan of the Uppercut brand. I just dig what they do and how they do it. The content they put out is solid and so are the people they have on their roster. Not exactly sure how Steve and I first connected but it was on the phone, and I remember later meeting him in person and thinking, this isn’t the same dude I talked to. His voice and his person didn’t add up. He’s Australian and on top of the accent, has a very happy/positive tone to his voice and demeanor. In person though, he’s sorta of a hybrid between a skateboarder and a truck driver. He owns a company that very successfully sells a line of men’s grooming products, but he himself is un-groomed. RESPECT. He’s the exact opposite of the guy you think would be the owner of Uppercut Deluxe. And I mean that as a total compliment. He’s almost as ironic as me; a bald guy who has spent 6 years making a book on barbershops. Anyway, he’s got a rad story that I thought everybody would appreciate and I hope to talk with him more about in a longer format. Podcast maybe?
Click here for the Uppercut Deluxe website or follow them on IG @uppercutdeluxe.
“It's like jumping off a cliff and trying to build the plane before you hit the ground!“
1) What did you do prior to becoming a barber?
I worked as a clean up kid in my dads butcher shop after school.
2) What was the barbershop scene like in Australia when you thought about becoming a barber and what made you take the jump? What year was it?
There was no scene! I was 15, late 90's, struggling at school and I'd always enjoyed seeing the barber with my granddad growing up. There was a job offer on the table at the local barbershop so I jumped at it.
3) How did people react when you started on that path?
Brutal! The scene was totally misunderstood at the time, it was all super salon focused and no-one my age was doing it. But I knew I could make it into something rad. Its such a heritage trade. I was the ONLY kid in Australia doing the barber apprenticeship that year. Haha. My friends gave me heaps of shit about it...would call up asking for a perm or a purple rinse.
Literally the only kid? Where did you get the idea that you could make it into something cool?
The ONLY kid. My grandad used to take me to his barber growing up, a hilarious old italian guy and I always loved the banter and bad jokes. I grew up surfing and skating so just wanted to create a space that I felt was rad, and just wanted to do it my way. I was 22 when I opened the shop, my every cent we had went into it and hoped for the best!
4) How did people react when you opened your own shop?
This is where I saw the shift where people stopped rolling their eyes at the trade. People have to physically see things to understand it. We decked the shop out like a mates garage so it was a rad place to just come and hang. Once people figured out what we were doing in there, word spread pretty quick.
5) What is the barbershop scene like in Australia compared to when you started?
Night and Day! Its awesome to see, it stokes me out. Barbering scene in Australia draws inspo from everywhere in the world- European/US/Asia we get the influence from everywhere and it merges out some amazing talent...plus our certification is strict here, to be fully qualified takes 3-4 years so you gotta earn your stripes the old fashioned way.
3-4 years? That's crazy? Is it like America where you have to go to school? Or more like on the job training in a shop?
Its on the shop floor learning, with some school elements. 4 long years!! Shitty pay and definitely a lot of shitty cuts on some brave customers who let me practise on them.
6) How do Australians view American barbers/barbershops?
Classic and traditional. Huge respect, some of my favourite barbers and shop fit outs are in the US.
Care to name a few?
So many! Don't wanna leave anyone out. But I Iove the ones that haven't been updated since the 60's, they grow around the barber and the walls have stories. My ambassador crew are dear to my heart and are amazing barbers with rad shops.
7) What prompted you to start Uppercut and how was it initially received by the locals?
It was the perfect storm, we couldn't easily access products for the shop that we loved. I have always been into mixing products together, and fascinated by the product process.
The locals were overwhelmingly supportive, and still are! We were just doing what we thought was rad and did it the way we wanted to do it.
What do you mean by "I have always been into mixing products together?" What other kinds of products were you previously mixing together?
I was mixing Oil based products with a water soluble/ gel base along with my kernels herbs and spices haha. I had a list of 4 products I would mix together and send my customers to the grocery store. My wife was always mad at me for clogging up our sinks.
8) Describe the journey from the idea to where Uppercut is now. Ups/downs/expectations/growing pains/etc.
It's like jumping off a cliff and trying to build the plane before you hit the ground!
Looking back we were so naive when we started, the journey has taught us so much and we still learn as we go. We timed it well. If we did every single thing the same way but did it later, it wouldn't have worked. We've had amazing people involved in the journey and made lifelong friends, we've also had some huge let downs, which in hindsight has taught us some of our hardest lessons.
You gotta block out the comments, everyone has opinions and if you listened to everything you hear you'd lose your mind. You're either too niche, or a total sell out. Or both! My vision for the brand has never changed, I always listen to my internal compass.
I'm a huge believer in learning the best lessons from screw ups or let downs. Can you talk about one in-particular that happened and how you turned it into a positive?
There isn't one major event that stands out. I've learned that if you can surround yourself with talented people and hire people who inspire and are smarter than you, thats half the battle won. Keep a thick skin and stay focused on your own race. People can be the hardest and the best part of business, looking back the highs and lows have actually happened simultaneously, you have to enjoy the journey along the way or you'll lose your mind.
9) Uppercut is a very distinct and tangible "brand". How did that develop? Why is your roster filled with those particular people?
Coz they're my homies! Ha. They genuinely live the lifestyles so they can't help but be mad dogs. Uppercut is a family and the bigger the brand grows the bigger that family is. The biggest compliment I get is when people say they feel like its a big ass family. Mission accomplished.
10) How do you keep the brand feeling so authentic?
Refer to answer above!! We only bring in the good eggs. Mad love.
11) Any random thoughts you want to get out....
Yes! How the hell did Tim from Syndicate get the front cover of your book? Haha just kidding love you Timmo
I’ve lost track of what number Q&A this is, but that’s probably irrelevant. This go round is with Justin King of Rooks Barbershop in Portland, Oregon. We met a bit of over a year ago when I made these images. The thing that stands out to me about Justin is that he’s every bit a business man as he is a barber. Maybe even more so a business man, which isn’t common to see in the barbershop world. He’s got a lot of irons in a lot of fires. Good dude and I appreciate his willingness to say what he feels regardless of the outcome.
Follow him on Instagram @hellandgrace and the shops @rooksbarbershop
“In the Army, I’d bring dudes into the barracks and fade them out for a few bucks here and there”
1) Where are you from and what did you do before barbering?
I was born in NY and grew up in Miami. Before becoming a barber, I was a paratrooper in the US Army.
Did any of your experience as a paratrooper carry over into the barber world? Where did you get your business sense from?
I think my military experience definitely gave me a good foundation to work off of. It imbued in me a very strong work ethic; an ability to just “get it done”, no matter what. Pair that with an aggressive east coast mentality and you’ve got a recipe for success.
2) What put you into this profession?
Ever since high school, I wanted to cut hair. Growing up as a punk rock kid in the ‘80s, I was always the one cutting and coloring everyone’s hair. I’ve always been good with a pair of clippers.
In the Army, I’d bring dudes into the barracks and fade them out for a few bucks here and there, and when I got out, I decided to take it to a professional level.
3) You're very political with your thoughts and posts on IG, which is something you don't see a lot of barbers doing. Talk about that a bit...
I believe in using whatever resources are at your disposal to affect change in the world. My business is my primary resource and, in this day and age, it’s important that we speak our against injustice, bigotry, racism, etc. They always told me when I became a barber, “never talk politics or religion on the floor”, but fuck that. I’ve never been one to not speak my mind and if customers don’t like it, there are a lot of shops out there adhere to that ‘rule’. Personally, I believe Rooks built its reputation by being real, and I encourage my barbers to be who they are.
What have been the positive/negative outcomes of your public opinions?
I’ve lost customers over my public political opinions. I guess you could say that’s a negative. I don’t think it is. I’ve had people “boycott” my bar and other businesses of mine, but I just think they’re funny. You can’t boycott somewhere you’re not welcome.
4) When did the first Rooks open? How were you able to take Rooks from one shop in Portland to having 3 there as well as another in Hood River?
The first Rooks opened at the beginning of 2009 as a one-chair shop in a little shed attached to a pizza joint. I had worked as a barber for a few years at another shop in town and had built up a large clientele. I took a big chance, opening up Rooks a half hour away and was fortunate enough to have a lot of clients follow me. The barbering scene hadn’t really hit yet, so nothing like this was happening in Portland. I was the first shop to offer straight razor shaves and booze, and my shop gained recognition pretty quickly. After a couple years at that one-chair shop, I moved a few blocks up the road and opened a three-chair, bringing a couple quality barbers onboard from out of town. I had to hire barbers from California because there were hardly any in Portland. A year later, I added two more chairs. By then, our little shop was constantly busy and we had some really solid barbers. So, a year after that, I decided to try a second shop across town to cater to a larger clientele. A third one went in right in the heart of downtown Portland a couple years after that and the rest is history. We had become a Portland institution and a nationally-known name. The fourth shop opened up a couple years later but, unfortunately, was lost in a building fire. We quickly recovered and expanded to Hood River, Oregon just a year and a half ago, and that’s now our busiest location.
What went through your head when the fire hit?
My first concern was relocating my barbers so that they’d still have work. I can deal with a little financial blow like that but I didn’t want my barbers to feel that burden. I also immediately began thinking of the way forward. A couple barbers wanted to start a Go Fund Me campaign to help me recoup some of the financial loss but I wasn’t having it. It was my problem to deal with, not everyone else’s. I had to view the experience as an opportunity to grow in a different direction and, ultimately, it enabled me to put time and energy into opening up Hood River.
5) How do you manage all those shops/barbers?
No, but seriously...I put a lot of stock in my barbers and give them ownership in their shops. My barbers are free to be who they are, manage their own clients, handle their own money, schedule their own breaks, etc. I think the key to a successful shop is keeping your barbers happy. I refuse to treat mine like children. They didn’t pay $20k for barber school to be bossed around and make shit pay.
6) What do you get into outside the shop? Hobbies, obsessions, etc.
Business IS my hobby/obsession. I love creating something, building a brand, getting my hands dirty with the buildout process, etc. Outside of Rooks, I also own a pomade brand, a bar and a motorcycle shop. I create businesses based on my hobbies, so I’m never really working; just doing stuff I like.
7) Notable life fuck-up that ended up being a great learning tool?
Hmmm....I think all fuck-ups should be used as learning tools.
I tried many businesses over the years before opening Rooks, to no avail. Each time was a valuable lesson; how not to waste money, who not to partner with, etc.
I fucked up a lot in my life, but I wouldn’t have been in the exact place I am if I hadn’t.
8) Advice for someone who wants to take that first step from being a barber to opening their own shop?
Every endeavor requires risk. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and take those risks. It’s scary. Putting money down on a lease, going in without really knowing what the outcome will be..it’s serious, and it’ll fuck with your head. Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly. Your business has to be your entire identity, at least in the beginning. Brands don’t build themselves. Don’t be in too much of a rush. Wait until you’ve got several years of experience and a large customer base. Try not to take a loan out, even if it’s from family. You don’t want to start up already in a bunch of debt. Choose your partners wisely and, if possible, don’t have one. Certainly don’t have more than one or you’ll never make money.Make sure you know your brand, but be willing to adapt and progress. Rooks isn’t the same brand that it was when I started and we’re better for it.
Always be true to yourself and don’t compromise.
Respect your barbers. They’re your most valuable commodity.
And DON’T BE COMPETITIVE. Support other shops and keep open communication with them.
9) Random thoughts on what you do....
I love what I do. Opening Rooks has been the best thing I’ve done for myself and my children.
That doesn’t mean starting a business is the best move for everyone. Some people won’t function in that position, others will flourish.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just as honorable to put in an honest days work as it is to be an entrepreneur.
Good luck in whatever you do!
Is the barbering community in Portland supportive?
If I’m being honest...no, I don’t believe it is.
It’s getting there, for sure. But, there are still a lot of shop owners who view each other as competition, and that’s absolutely the wrong mindset to be in.
Portland is saturated with barbershops and could benefit from a stronger sense of community.
Spent all of last week in Brooklyn, NY shooting for a client. That shooting involved a lot of exploration around the borough with a focus on one particular subject (more on that to come), but I’ve always got my eye out for other things as well. And basketball hoops are definitely high on the list. Have never done much city shooting for the Hoops Project, but really enjoyed it. Brooklyn is magical place. Wouldn’t mind spending a lot more time there.
Have been greatly slacking on posts about my commercial stuff, but will get back to that soon. Not sure you can classify the below images as "street photography", but I don't know what else to call them? Either way, this style of shooting is something I have really enjoyed doing in my free time. And think it's very important for a photographer to shoot locally. Most guys put so much emphasis on traveling to exotic places, and that's a lot of fun, but what about your backyard? There is so much character in Southern California that gets overlooked by all the beautiful tourist destinations. Those little pieces are what I enjoy focusing on, and have recently started putting more effort into this project not just in Encinitas (where I live), but in all of "Southern California". It's a unique pocket of the world that is fun to wander around in, and I'm excited to see what this body of images looks like in 10 years.
Part 2 of ? in my Q&A series with barbers from the book. This time with Ron Talley of Electric Barbershop in Riverside, CA. Met Ron about two years (?) ago at the shop when they had sort of just opened. He struck me as a very genuine dude. No bullshit. Not the kind of guy who tells people what they want to hear, which I very much appreciate. He's a good person while just being himself. The world needs more of that. Before opening his own shop, he worked at American Barbershop (Corona, CA), Stay Gold (Pomona, CA), El Catrin (Santa Ana, CA), Monty’s (Nashville, TN), and American Vintage in Whittier, CA. You can follow him on IG @ron_talley and the shop @electricbarbershop.
"I was trying to figure out what I was going to do. Didn’t have a car. Drivers license was suspended. Didn’t have a place to stay...."
1) Where are you from and what led you into barbering?
Born in Houston Texas. Moved a lot. We lived in a cabin on the Buffalo River 17 miles outside of my mother’s hometown; Hohenwald, TN. My parents got divorced when I was in grade school. My dad and I moved to Redondo Beach, CA with family then finally settled in Diamond Bar, CA. I was around 11/12 years old & that is when I met my friend and co-owner Roman Ybanez. His brother was one of my first friends that I met when I started school in the neighborhood. Growing up in Southern California was probably the best thing for me. Lots of different cultures and scenes. I was about 19-20 when I first met Dylan Johnson. He was a barber at Hawleywoods Barbershop. That is when I saw something special in Barbering. The conversations, laughs, shit talking, & everyone having a great time. Not because of the shop itself, because of the barbers and the relationships they had with their customers.
I started barber school in Orange, CA at Hair California in 2009. I felt like dropping out the first day of school. I had zero experience in cutting hair and struggled more than most of the students in my class. School was exactly what all of my friends said it was going to be. A lot of youngsters that were there just because mom and dad told them school or work, and people that just weren’t taking it serious. For them it was more of a thing to do. Our instructor was a licensed cosmetologist that just received her barber license. She was great when it came to how to pass your state board test (extremely important) but most of the senior students had more knowledge of men’s cuts & styles. Having zero experience cutting hair made it extremely difficult on top of having a instructor that was almost the same skill level on men’s hair. Most of all, I was just in a bad place. Lots of personal things keeping me down & failure. But failure is the best lesson in my opinion.
1a) Can you expand on "lots of personal things keeping me down...?"
Not a problem my brother. Before finding barbering I worked all sorts of jobs. Construction, retail, maintenance man, motorcycle fabrication... When I was getting in to barber school I was laid off from working construction & the fly shop at Bass Pro. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do. Didn’t have a car. Drivers license was suspended. Didn’t have a place to stay. My wife and I were dating at the time. I have no idea what she saw in me. We were living in and out of sketchy hotels and motels during the week and shooting up to my uncles cabin in Crestline on the weekends. Since there was so much going on, and so many things in my life that I had to clean up that I just fucked off as a kid, it was tough. Especially having zero experience cutting hair. My dad let me borrow some money to get in to barber school so quitting was not an option. At the time if you went to school for a trade the gov was offering unemployment. I was definitely lucky that I didn’t have to work and go to school part time. So that and side hustling cutting hair (shot out haircuts), I was able to have a little cash to get my life back in order. We got a tiny duplex in Corona, I got my license, and a bucket of a car. I stayed in school & went to visit my good friend Dylan Johnson to pick his brain and learn as much as possible. Eventually passing my state board test and getting my career started.
2) What did you learn along the way?
The “what not to do’s”. Not to half ass and cut corners. Not just the cleanliness & appearance of the shop. All the tools in the shop; the stations, barber chairs, hot towel cabinets, lather machines, lighting. Literally everything in that place is a tool that makes your job & your barbers jobs easier. That goes for service as well. Longevity is key. How do you expect people to keep coming back if you’re providing terrible service or treating them like trash? Not to disrespect your barbers. You provide a space for your people to grow but keeping in mind that’s all you’re going to have; just a space without barbers. It’s nothing special without the people that work there. Your business will not grow if you don’t allow your barbers to grow. Never tell your barbers “if it wasn’t for me”. The sun doesn’t rise and set in your shop homie. Do not be dishonest with your barbers. At the end of the day we are in one of the oldest trades around. We are here to service people and take care of them. Customers give us the opportunity to make them look good, feel good, and provide for our families. Don’t lose sight of that.
3) Can you talk a little more about the relationship between barber and customer?
This one is another one that gets me pretty fired up! Over the past few years this trade has become extremely popular. Because of that we are seeing a lot of change. Just like anything else you’re going to get some really strange personalities. Barbers that feel like they are doing you the favor. Instead of being humbled and grateful for the amazing opportunities that we have just from cutting hair, they take it for granted and always expect way more. Our customers are the ones putting money in our pockets, food on our tables, & the clothes on our backs. I do not care how bad ass you think you are. How bad ass are you if there’s nobody sitting in your chair? We are blue collared workers. One of the oldest trades period. We provide a service. You should never feel like you’re too good.
4) When we first met, Electric was really new, and I think you guys were still kinda slow? Can you talk about what you've done to grow the business to where it is now? What specifically did you learn at the other shops about what not to do?
Yes! The good ole days! We definitely had our share of slow days! I feel like we’ve grown as a team. Everyone gets involved and we try to move as a unit. Helping one another whenever there is down time with everything. Social media, google, & yelp is huge! Doing our best to keep fresh new content and pushing our customers to leave honest reviews. Hitting the streets and pushing that hand to hand with business cards and flyers. I feel like that is a lost art. So many people are quick to send a DM or an email. We did our absolute best to get out in our community and meet people face to face and spread the gospel of Electric Barbershop. Most of all is just keeping a good vibe in the shop. Making sure everyone is on top of their game. Pushing out solid work with a great attitude, keeping a clean welcoming shop, & making people feel like they are a part of something that is really special.
5) Random thoughts on what you do...
Barbering has given me the opportunity to open a business. It has also given me the opportunity to be an Ambassador with Uppercut Deluxe, some of the best people I’ve worked with in my career. It’s amazing to think you can travel, see new places, & meet new people just from cutting hair. It blows my mind and I feel fortunate and grateful everyday.
This is the first in what I hope is a long line of Q&A's with barbers from my book. I'm naturally curious about people and the way they live, so I thought this would be a fun thing to do. Adam Byrd cuts at Syndicate Barbershop in Long Beach, CA and is a great example of what I love about the "next generation" of barbers. So many of them are covered in tattoos, which could be very intimidating to people who aren't used to that culture. Once you get past that and talk to them though, you'll see they are just good people who happen to have a lot of ink on their skin. I enjoyed talking with Adam during the shoot because of his candid style, and figured he would be a good interview to kick this off with. I also think it's a good way for barbers to learn about other barbers and to be inspired by their stories. You can follow him on Instagram @bakoscum19 and the shop @syndicatebarbershop .
1) Where are you from and how did you make a living prior to becoming a barber?
Bakersfield, CA. Prior to becoming a barber I worked random construction jobs.
2) When we shot at Syndicate you mentioned moving to Long Beach because you were partying too much. Talk about that and what has changed since you moved to LB.
Partying too much, for me, means black tar heroin...crack cocaine...pills....and vodka. I was using heroin everyday, I was in and out of jail and prison...lived in shit bag hotel rooms. I was strung out and I had to quit doin' drugs. Since moving to Long Beach, I 've been off drugs for 5 years. I graduated barbering school, got married, and became a full time barber at Syndicate Barber Shop.
** Would you mind expanding on that?
So when I was a young Punk Rocker everyone that I looked up to was a heroin addict and most of them died very young. It was just a natural progression for me. I was 16 years old the first time I tried heroin. The first time I became strung out on that particular drug I was 19 years old. That was pretty much my life for a whole lot of years. Back then they weren’t so lenient with drug users so I eventually went to prison for 10 dollars worth of dope and with parole the way it was back then I was in and out- couldn’t clean up because really I didn’t want to. Eventually I got off parole but not off drugs and almost every bad thing that can happen to an addict short of dying or catching a terminal disease happened to me. I had girlfriends who were prostitutes, I was shot once in a drive by (in my foot haha), dropped off for dead in my mother’s driveway, woke up in the hospital handcuffed to a wheelchair. All kinds of crazy shit some people probably only think is in the movies. Then one day at age 35 I looked at myself in the mirror and was like ,”Well- you fucked off dying young, maybe it’s time.” December 12th, 2013 I did hard drugs for the last time in the restroom at Union Station downtown Los Angeles. At about 4 months sober I enrolled in Barberschool and the rest is history. This trade has literally helped me save my life because it has given me a life worth living. I met a kid who became one of my best friends, Anthony Champion, Rest In Peace, in barber school. He pushed me when I wanted to quit. My wife pushed me when I wanted to quit. My family pushed me when I wanted to quit. And Tim hired me when I was ready to just go to work in a sober living home haha. I don’t know where I’m going with this but I’ll tell you one thing I’m not falling asleep in a 30 dollar motel room tonight. And for that I’m grateful.
3) What was the final factor that lead you to start barber college?
To be honest, there really weren't a lot of options for a guy like me. The wreckage created from my past life makes me almost completely unemployable. Except for Tim. Tim doesn't give a fuck.
4) What is life like as a barber at Syndicate?
I've met some of my best friends working at Syndicate. I get to listen to music I love all day. I meet people from all over the United States and the world. I make cash daily and I get to make people feel better.
5) What are your favorite/least favorite parts about being a barber?
Least favorite: Rollercoaster income, man buns, picky metro-sexuals
Favorite: Get to hang out with my friends all day, get to make people feel better walking out then they did when they walked in, nobody seems to mind the fact that I am heavily tattooed or what my past has been.
6) Opinions on where the industry is now compared to when you were getting cut as a kid?
Hipsterville. Its saturated with hipsters...when I was a kid you went a got a fucking haircut, they did an alright job, and barbers didn't have egos..they didn't have Instagram. They didn't have this cool-guy bullshit. It's oversaturated with corny people. I like the old timers.
7) What is your greatest strength as a barber?
My greatest strength as a barber is my gift of gab. Cutting hair has helped me immensely go from being sort of introverted to getting outside of myself talking to people making them feel comfortable. I look a little intimidating so I always make it a priority to let a new clients know that I'm just a poo-butt teddy bear. And the way I do this is through a handshake, a conversation, and doing my best to make sure that time in my chair is enjoyable for the client. Like I’m not a dick or some too cool for school barber stuck up his own asshole.
8) What does is take to be a great barber?
I’m still learning what it takes to be a good barber haha but I’d say taking it seriously and doing your best haircut and remembering that even if you have an asshole in your chair that asshole is paying for your dinner that night. Be nice.
9) Advice for someone wanting to become a barber?
Try to join a union first.
10) Where do you see yourself in ten years?
This isn't a typical assignment for me, but had to share because it was such a unique experience. I followed Hulk Hogan around for the WWE during his induction to the Boys and Girls Club of America Hall of Fame. Admittedly I had no idea what a big deal this is or what would be going on. The place was filled with lots of former inductees as well as a big incoming class, which consisted of professional athletes from all sports and people like Shaun White and Jason Derulo. Who, by all accounts, are far more "relevant" today than Hulk Hogan. He has been retired for years and you rarely see or hear about him except in certain circles. Still though, he was the draw. EVERYBODY wanted to meet The Hulk and have their picture taken with him. Men and woman of all ages. Didn't matter. It was shocking. I've been around some of the biggest professional athletes in the world, yet there was something special about The Hulk. It was a quick reminder about the enormous impact he's had on the world. An easy thing to forget about when you don't see someone on TV anymore. Hulk Hogan is a once in lifetime personality, and I'll never forget shaking his enormous hand and having him say "HEY BROTHER!".
I'm of the completely biased opinion that San Diego is the best place to live in America. Not that it's a stretch, but it's still biased. One of the things that comes along with living in such a beautiful place is tons of year round visitors who all seem to make the same pictures. Let's be honest, San Diego is a really easy place to photograph. Go to just about any landscape gallery in the country and you're sure to see a big framed image of Antelope Canyon (AZ), Horseshoe Bend(AZ), and Scripps Pier among many other overly shot landmarks. A long time ago I realized that I have almost no desire to photograph the landmarks. What's the point? They've all been shot a million times over. And I'm certainly not a landscape photographer, so I won't be making any money from the shots. I still think it's important to photograph the place you live though. So over the past couple years, I've slowly developed a body of images made in various parts of San Diego. You're not going to see any images of Scripps Pier or Lajolla Cove in this gallery, but they are still interesting in my opinion. And images that I feel are representative of San Diego.
Thought this project was going to be done about a year ago, but I suppose that's just how it goes? Either way I'm really excited that the second barbershop book is finally on it's way. For anyone not familiar with the project, I initially spent 3 years (on and off) traveling to all 50 states with Mojo, documenting the old and quickly disappearing American barbershop. At the end of it all, that group of images was published into a book. Then about a year and half ago I started the project again. The whole time still documenting old school shops, but also photographing the "next generation" of shops that I feel are doing things the right way. So this second book is essentially an extension of the first. A lot of the images from the first book are also in this one, but completely re-edited, and with a proper trimming of the fat. The printing is also better than the first book, and I think the addition of all the new shops shows an incredible contrast of where the barber industry has grown to. I'm proud of the book and excited for people to see it. The barber industry has been very welcoming of me, so I hope that the book is something they feel does them right.
On Sunday May 6th, we'll be having a book release party at the notorious Eagle+Pig Barbershop in Costa Mesa, CA (Orange County). We've got some great people behind the project with sponsorships from Uppercut Deluxe, Andis Clippers, Irving Barber Company, and House Beer. It's sure to be a great time with tons of raffles, so come hang out, check out the book, drink some beer, and talk to some cool barbers.
About a year ago I developed a healthy obsession with photography books, and now have a small (and growing) collection that I try and comb through regularly. It's a calming thing to do, but it's also sort of a free education. Every time I look through another book, or back through an old one, I learn something new. Whether that's a new way of seeing, or whatever, it doesn't matter. Either way it has caused me to to enjoy shooting and looking for different kinds of images. I've always been of the opinion that not every image needs to be "epic". I fully understand why most people need to shoot that way, and why it sells, but there is a lot more to it than that. Simple images that show the viewer a slice of life or tell a story, are every bit as fun to make as one of the guy standing on top of Everest. The images below were taken on a couple walks around my neighborhood in San Diego and another in Los Angeles. They are simple, but I really like them, and will be making a lot more of them. The term "street photography" is getting pretty loose these days. Back in the day, if you were a street photographer, then you were wandering around NYC with a Leica. Now, these images would probably fit into that category. Looking at them, the style of shooting isn't much different from my America series. Just different subjects.
Can't ever see becoming sick of shooting CrossFit. It's too real, which means that it never gets boring. There is never a need to stage anything. You just let everything happen in front you and do your best to capture it. Real sweat. Not that from a spray bottle bullshit.
It's only been a year+ since this trip and I'm finally getting around to posting about it. Have been back several times since. Wonder how many other trips I have sitting on my hard drive? Jackson Hole is top notch. Really top notch. The more I go back, the better it is, and the amount of time we actually spend in town is less and less. Grand Teton National Park and everything else that surrounds town is phenomenal. The hiking, camping, fishing, etc, is so good. And on this particular trip we did all of that. Up the middle Teton to be exact. A very different type of backcountry climbing than I'm used to. So much of it is just huge boulder fields. Which means that you spend a lot of time going from rock to rock, or scrambling. Not my favorite style of hiking, but what an incredible trip. The Tetons have to be the most picturesque range in the USA. The way they rise up from the the valley floor is so dramatic. They look so massive from afar, and even bigger when you're right up close. Not sure how we got so lucky, but it was perfectly sunny at the summit without an ounce of wind. That can't happen too often? As I'm writing this it's snowing in Jackson Hole, and I can't wait to get back up there. The snowboarding there is so good. You'd have to put it up there as some of the best in the country, especially when you really get to know the mountain. This is the worst thing I've written in a while. Sorry.
During my time on the road one thing I've always got my eye out for is hoops. I don't really see an end to this project. It will probably be something I continue to shoot for the rest of my life. That being said, it's getting harder and harder to find hoops that I actually like. Over the past 4+ years, I've come across some amazing hoop scenes, which means the bar is now set pretty high. So unless I find something at least as good or better than the previous ones, then I'm not shooting it. These three are (in order) from Nebraska, Colorado, and India.
Not sure there is way to describe New Delhi that would do it justice in any way. I wasn't able to spend a ton of time there, but couldn't be happier with what we experienced. There is so much going there all the time, that you can't possibly make sense of it. If you're not from there, or have been living there for an extended period of time, don't even think about driving. The city streets are chaos. And that's coming from someone who loves to drive, everywhere. So thankful I did not have a car in Delhi. Let the locals handle that task. At any given point, you'll be sharing the streets with cars, motorcycles, rickshaws, motor rickshaws, dogs, cats, monkeys, cows, bulls, people, and who knows what else. The strangest part is that there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. Yet nobody is angry, and somehow is just seems to work. The energy in the streets of New Delhi is incredible. Something I'd love to experience over and over again for the rest of my life. Any time you're outside in Delhi, you've got constant stimulation. Sort of like Vegas, only not at all. And not just visually. It seems like there is something for all of your senses.
Getting off the airplane, it's obvious that you're no longer in America. You can immediately smell smoke, which seems to be the standard weather forecast. Not hazy or foggy, but smoke. That's literally what it says when you look on a weather app. Smoke. And if you stay in a hotel, the armed guards at the gate have to check your cab for bombs, both under the car and under the hood. Depending on where you go, who you're with, and time of day, it can be difficult to walk around alone. Both because of safety and because you'll be bombarded with people trying to sell you something. Just get over it. The experiences you'll get from walking through the streets and markets are worth it. Don't even get me started on the food. I still can't figure out how that jam all that flavor into their meals. Brilliant.
Have a lot more from this trip to post. We also visited Agra and Jaipur, where I did a lots of shooting. Will be posting those images in the next week or so. Come on back.
Haven't shot Crossfit in a bit and think I'm going through withdrawals. Time to get back on it.
The result of 7,038 American miles this past month. Love this country.