Uppercut Deluxe - Steve Purcell

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.

Click here to read the last Q&A with Justin King from Rooks Barbershop.

Click here to check out my book.


“It's like jumping off a cliff and trying to build the plane before you hit the ground!“

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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. 



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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

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Rooks Barbershop

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

Click here to check out the last Q&A with Brent Ferris from Good Times Barbershop

Click here to check out the book


“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?

Very poorly.

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.

Lefty's Barbershop

My relationship with Lefty's goes back quite a ways. It was my spot almost immediately after I moved to San Diego 10+/- years ago. My barber (AJ) has since moved on to open his own shop (Capitol Barbershop), but I've sorta had the opportunity to see a few of the guys there grow quite a bit. And Mikal Zack aka "Poo" is no exception. Years and years ago I desperately needed a last minute haircut, but AJ was out of town. Poo was the only one available. At that time, Poo was FRESH out of barber school. And like anyone who was ever brand new at anything, he wasn't very good, so I got chopped up. If you pay attention to what he's doing now though,  his haircuts are absolutely on point. Really top notch. Some of the best around. I really appreciate him because he's always trying to improve. He went from giving shitty haircuts to being part owner of Lefty's Barbershop. And for anyone who knows, they know Lefty's is a San Diego staple. Respect.  

Follow Poo on IG @pooscreen and the shop @leftysbarbershop

Click HERE to check out the last barber Q&A with Ron Talley from Electric Barbershop. 

Click here to check out the barbershop book. 

"I always had envisioned starting and finishing my career with Lefty’s, Kobe style".

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1) Where are you from and what did you do before becoming a barber?

I am born and Raised in San Diego, CA. I worked at Pacific Drive skateboard shop before becoming a barber.

2) What attracted you to barbering? 

Lefty’s was my first introduction to a real barber shop. Hanging out there is what got me into barbering. The fact that a guy could come in, have a beer, talk some shit, escape their reality of some boring 9-5 for just 30 minutes and leave looking good and feeling confident about themselves is what attracted me to barbering. 

3) Talk about starting your career at Lefty's and now being part owner.

I only went to barber school so I could work at Lefty’s. There was no other option for me. I was able to work with and learn from some of the best barbers who later went on to start rad Barbershops of their own (Brent at Good Times Barbershop, Brian at Lyles Barbershop, AJ at Capitol Barbershop). I always had envisioned starting and finishing my career with Lefty’s, Kobe style. Being given the opportunity to be part owner with one of my best friends, Felipe Becerra, is definitely more than I ever thought possible.

*What do you mean by "there was no other option for me"? Explain that. What would you have done if you didn't become a barber?

I was working at a skateboard shop before barbering and only wanted to work in the skateboard Industry. That’s all I really knew at the time. Jobs in the industry were scarce at the time and I was pretty low on the totem pole. Going to barber school was really my Only option into starting a “career.” There was no way I was going to make it through college nor did I want to go that route and have a regular 9-5. I was already good homies with everyone at the shop and when they were opening their second location Felipe assured me I would have a job if I finished school.

How was your experience at barber school?

Getting through barber school wasn’t easy for me. There were countless times I thought about dropping out. I called Felipe and told him I didn’t think barbering was for me numerous times. After school I would go hang out at Lefty’s and watch them do haircuts and try and learn tricks to do certain things. I would take what I learned back to school and see a little bit of progression, that’s what kept me going. I worked my ass off to get where I’m at. I wasn’t naturally talented as a barber, it was all hard work and repetition. There is something rewarding about having to really work at something to start to understand it.  I’m still nowhere near where I want to be as a barber, but the progress I’ve made from last year to this year is what shows me my hard work is paying off. 

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6) Other places you get inspiration from outside the barber industry?

I’m constantly inspired by my group of friends. The way my girlfriend talks about plants and flowers and the long hours and hard work she puts into running a business makes me feel like I need to step my game up. My boys at Half Face Blades for making the most insane knives on the daily. From motorcycle builders to skateboarders if you take a look around there are super talented people working hard for what they want and that’s pretty inspiring to me. 

7) What do you do outside of the shop? Hobbies? Obsessions? Collections?

 I spend a lot of time geeking out on motorcycles. That’s definitely a bit of an obsession. I still follow skateboarding very closely (even though I don’t actually skateboard nearly enough). I mean we are in San Diego so hanging at the beach with the homies is always a good day. 

*You've mentioned skateboarding twice now. Why do you think there is such a connection between skateboarding and barbers? 

I think it’s safe to say that a lot of our generation of barbers grew up skateboarding. I like to look at barbering how I would look at skating. The more you do a haircut the better you get at it. The better you get the higher your expectations are of yourself. Trying to perfect the haircut reminds me of trying to perfect a trick, it’s probably not going to happen but sometimes you are very pleased with the outcome. 

8) What part of being a barber do you want to be better at? 

All of it. It’s only been 7 years. I can’t wait to see where I’m at in another 7.

9) What do you think about the IG era of barbering? 

I personally like posting photos of haircuts, I like having an online portfolio. I think that showcasing your work for a potential new client to look at before he sits in your chair is a good thing. That being said, I also think that people enhancing their photos with photoshop or whatever is giving not only our clients but new barbers unrealistic expectations.  

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10) Random thoughts on what you do......

Don’t be complacent. Don’t be an asshole. Work hard and get where you want to be. You will never be the best, but strive to be. 

*You were very complimentary of a lot of people, specifically barbers. That's been one of my favorite themes in the barber industry, that you are all so supportive of each other. Why is that? How does that work?   

I think the support comes from respect. Barbers respect barbers. We all know the grind, the long hours, the hurt backs, the frustrating clients, on your feet all day, hard work that goes into being a good barber. I respect anyone who puts in the time and wants to further themselves in whatever career they choose.