It’s been so long since I sat down with the guys at Kings Club to record this thing that I don’t really remember much of what we talked about. I do recall that it was a great time, but it was also completely unfiltered, so you might wanna skip it if you’re offended easily. Either way, they are a great group of guys (and barbers) that you should hit up if you’re in the Dana Point area and need a cut. Beautiful shop too. I’ve known them since way back when I first started shooting for this project in 2012-ish and they’ve been in both books. The shop has been through a lot since then, including a fire that completely destroyed the place, so it was cool to catch up with them to talk about everything that has happened since we first met.
The Proper Barbershop is a special place that is right at home in Hollywood. If you want a show as well as a great cut, then The Proper is the place for you. The first time I visited was back in 2013-ish and there was someone sleeping one off in the backroom. From the time I stepped foot inside, the show was just naturally going on. The guys in there know how to have a good time all while getting shit done. The owner Vinnie is a good dude and a classic case of someone you shouldn’t judge just based on his appearance. Being the owner of The Proper and knowing it’s reputation, it would be easy to think that he’s just another Southern California bro with face tattoos. He’s the exact opposite of that though. And one thing I’ve been saying for years now, is that they are just tattoos, a vehicle for creativity and self expression. Vinnie is a really solid guy who spreads a lot of positivity and has a lot of support for his fellow barbers all across the industry.
Follow the shop on IG @theproperbarbershop and Vinnie @theedgebarber
“I think the industry has lost sight that we all cut hair and we all should support each other as it costs us nothing to support one another!”
1) Where are you from and what did you do before barbering?
I am from Los Angeles, CA and before barbering I was in high school and I actually was kickboxing and teaching kickboxing! But I had a friend who knew during high school that he wanted to do hair so when I realized that I was never going to have a life fighting I tried my hand at hair and absolutely fell in love with it!
2) Talk about owning a shop in Hollywood from a barber's perspective as well as an owner's perspective.
Well owning a shop in Hollywood is more than what I originally set out for, my hope for the shop was to be a cool little neighborhood spot and this shop grew a bit of a kind of its own, not to say that is a bad thing at all but this shop became more of its own personality, the antics the environment and the bullshit garnered it quite the reputation! From the barbers perspective this shop is so rad, always busy in a transient town with constant walk-ins and never ending material for discussion, it is a dream. From the owners perspective I would echo a ton of that but the real difference is learning how to keep this place relevant while remaining true to the roots of The Proper and that has been the real challenge!
Do you find that people come in expecting a show or a certain environment? If so, how do you deal with that?
Over the years I have learned so so much and one thing I have learned is that the environment is just as important as the haircut itself! So yes, at this point in the shops life I do feel that people have come to expect the show that is The Proper Barbershop, and we happily oblige that expectation! Don’t get me wrong we love to sling our brand of BS and entertain but we also make sure we give a quality service!
3) You also own a shop in Orange County. What lead you to open another shop there and what have you done to grow the business?
My Orange County shop came out of the need for myself to not drive to and from Hollywood every day from the OC as that is where my family and I live, so in order to preserve some tiny bit of sanity I had to open a shop less than 60 miles away from me! To grow the Orange County shop it required having to penetrate the residential neighborhoods surrounding the center that my shop is located. We drove around with home printed fliers and stuffed mail boxes and most recently have run an add in the money mailer at the recommendation of my brother Cory Danger of the locally famous Golden Crown Barbershop! So that has been fantastic for the shop as well! I have found more of the rad local feeling I wanted in the OC shop as opposed to the larger than life persona of the Hollywood shop!
4) Who/what in the barber industry is inspiring to you? Who/what outside of the industry gives you inspiration?
Inside the barber industry I draw a ton of inspiration from the team I am on over at Babyliss. I am surrounded by so many really talented barbers that all do something so different from my traditional style of cutting so right now it is learning to meld the new urban style I am learning with my tried and trusted traditional skill set and that has been such a breath of fresh air for me and my career! Outside of the industry I am inspired by culture, tattoos, art, design, currently I am super passionate about graffiti again and that is so cool to try to use some linear intersecting lines and bring that to my creative side of hair!
Are you saying that you look at graffiti and try to use those designs in haircuts? How has that progressed for you? Do customers come to you for that type of thing now?
I do draw some liniar inspiration from the cut lines in graffiti as well as all types of art. I try to evolve my style as a barber and as a haircutter every day. I never want to become complacent in this craft. As far as customers coming to me for designs I do have a pocket of those customers who allow me to express my artistic roots and freedom!
5) Each time I've been in your shop, there is an exceptional level of comedy going on. Talk about that.
Well the Hollywood shop as mentioned has become a place not just to get a haircut but now to watch and participate in the show! Clients are a part of our jokes and take things from inside the shop weather it be jokes or stories or jargon and apply them to their lives outside the shop and bring us some really epic stories that lead to some incredible real world comedy! Most recently we have a doctor who is a shop regular and his last visit he helped us diagnose that one of our barbers may have contracted an STI and once we realized what it was we just laughed it off and said “oh rad so it’s basically the common cold for the penis!” Well our client found this to be so rad that he vowed he would break the news to someone in the same fashion and this haircut. He came back and told us the story of the frat kid who came to him for the same STI and how our client was so pumped to let this kid know “don’t stress man it is just the common cold for the penis” and he had our whole shop rolling with laughter!
6) You are straight edge. What led to that decision/lifestyle?
Ehhh that’s a whole ridiculous story but let’s just say that given my family history I knew if I ever started drinking I would be really good at it so I have always been way to scared to even try it! But being straight edge works for me so I intend to stay this way!
7) What do you think about where barbering is today?
Loaded question, I think barbering is in an interesting transition where it is less about the work you do and more about the way you look and how you present yourself while not working as if that translates to how good you cut hair? I think the industry has lost sight that we all cut hair and we all should support each other as it costs us nothing to support one another! If we all could band together in positivity we could then and only then start to effect real change! So I hope we can make that the new future together!
8) What do you do outside of the shop?
Well I play ice hockey as well as have season tickets to the Anaheim Ducks and I raise my beautiful baby girl! I also love to ride my motorcycle. And may or may not be a part time plus sized model... no big deal!
I'm sorry, did you say that you're a plus size model?
I am trying out this new thing called..... sarcasm. I am not to sure about it but it sure is fun!
9) Can you describe the psychology of running and keeping a barbershop moving from day to day. In other words, what is that thing that's happening when you notice everything is just clicking?
I am not to sure how to answer this one because it changes from day to day. I just try to keep my shops busy because if we are all making money it tends to lead to good moods and a better working environment!
10) Random thoughts/ramblings/advice on what you do....
I love this industry. It is all I have ever known. I have never had a real job so to see what we are now and how the internet has had such a profound effect on us all I can only hope that we can soon come together and determine a nation wide rate of service. If we all choose, we can force each other to better ourselves by holding ourselves to higher standards we can drop the hate and just be in this together! I love to support barbering. I wear only shop shirts and never my own! I take pride in putting on a pin of a barber or a hat or shirt as I am proud of my industry. It doesn’t hurt us or devalue ourselves to say that someone else is an amazing barber! It just boosts that we are all in this together. I want to do nothing but cut with my friends and constantly put out the best work of my life every day! Through positivity and friendship we can all push ourselves and each other to be the best and it doesn’t cost us anything to support one another!
Anything else you want to get off your chest?
Way back in 2012-ish I met the Nefarious Dr. Pugsly at his original shop in Kingston, NY. No remembrance of how we came in contact or how I ended up at his shop, but glad I did. He’s an interesting cat and his place was the first of the “next generation” shops I came across where you could feel an immense amount of pride and a very high bar for service. His cuts are next level and it’s obvious that he wants his shop to reflect that. Since our first meeting, a lot has happened with him, including a second “sideshow” shop (featured below) not far from the original. During the final push for the last book I of course wanted to include his new shop, but the only time I had to photograph it on my trip cross country was Christmas Eve. He graciously took time out of his schedule to open up and even more graciously gave me a beard trim. Thank you, Dr. !
Give him a follow on IG @pugsly_dude or check out his website www.pugslysbarbershop.com
“This is a trade. It’s not a fashion show, it’s not politics”
1) Where are you from and what did you do before barbering?
So, I'm born and raised here in Kingston. I had the opportunity to spend some pretty personal time with most of our country traveling and playing music really early on. As far as formal work, I made most of my living around cars. I worked in a pretty standard repair shop for a while. Learned a lot. Basic car knowledge. Eventually found my way into car audio and custom installs. There, the crew had pretty free run of the shop. We all built a ton of rad stuff there! Lastly i found myself in a local Kustom shop. I'll always be grateful for that opportunity, the friends and lessons I took from that time. I fell in love with metal flake, fancy cast parts, and I received the nickname Pugsly.
What is the meaning behind Pugsly?
Pugsly was just a nickname I picked up in a small circle that spread a bit, for a min there. Sounded fun for a shop name... kind of low browy? Either way, that's why Pugsly!
What did you take from building cars that carried on to being a barber?
Man, I worked in a garage with a group of my best dudes for years where we did audio by day and by night we had full range. We built some crazy stuff in that place! But we had some pretty gnarly work ethic. You've never seen more organized boxes and work areas. We got really, really involved in our install work. I think I learned a standard there that I took with me.
2) You have 2 beautiful shops that I would say are on a different level from most. Can you talk about your process of putting them together? How does it start and how far are they from the original idea/concept?
I built my first shop in last few months of 2007. At that time I was watching only a few different shops from the side lines. A couple of which were Lefty's, obviously out of San Diego via MySpace, and Robs Chop Shop out of Dallas who I had met and known personally through the car community. I was just trying to set up a very traditional, walk-in, gentleman's style environment. What I felt to be a 1940's style barbershop visually but my main focus was the product. Both the cut and experience riding the same level of importance. I pretty quickly established as diverse of a clientele as I had hoped. As time progressed minor, natural adjustment took place but for the most part Pugslys remains what it set out to be.
The main problem I found with the original business model was the wait time. I was noticing negative trends concerning client retention. That sparked the idea for shop number two. Pugsly's SideShow was the solution. A small "SideShow" of a location that would except appointments only. With a little bit of a tongue in cheek approach in coordination with the name, the decor took a little bit more of a funky approach. It might be a little bit more representative of me personally. The only thing I've seen changing and fairly rapidly with business model number 2 is the fact that SideShow started as a "small offshoot" but is quickly growing to the size of the original shop with the popularity of the more modern appointment set up. To be considered moving forward for sure.
You seem like a fairly obsessive person? And I don't mean that in a bad way at all. Quite positive actually. Can you talk about how that translates into your shops and your cuts?
So thanks? No, I think that's fair and I think that it helps with consistency and some organization within the shops. As far as the cuts and work ethic, I think our crew shares the same thing that the boys from Burts garage did. We feed off of each other. Push each other's standards a little. So it's good. I know we all get pretty nerdy about our haircuts sometimes.
3) Are there any specific factors that you can pinpoint which have lead to your success as a barber?
I try to be cool to the people that make it possible to pay my bills. I'm hyper focused on giving the best product that I can start to finish. I feel very fortunate to be wired in a manor that I take pride in what I do. I think you have to really believe in what your doing if other people are going to believe what your doing.
4) You have a great reputation for giving beautiful haircuts, but live in what a lot of people would consider a "small market". Kingston isn't in NYC, but it's also not really upstate. Can you talk about your decision to stay in Kingston as opposed to moving to NYC or LA or any other big market?
I just wanted to open a barbershop. Every town needs one and my town NEEDED one. The little Hudson valley city that I grew up in was still moving pretty good when I was a kid and until the boom we've experienced in the past decade, I'm not sure how much I noticed the down time we went through. I've benefited from it, established a clientele I couldn't have predicted, but I guess I was just doing what I knew at the time.
Would you ever consider leaving Kingston?
Absolutely... We considerate it all the time. Just not sure what really gets better then this at the moment. We got family, a cool crib, good people, the Hudson valley itself is just a rad place... it's hard to justify a move, right now anyway.
5) What kind of things do you see barbers today doing wrong?
This is a trade. It's not a fashion show, it's not politics.
6) What do you do outside of the shop? Hobbies? Obsessions?
I'm a husband and a proud father. I love cars and motorbikes. I really like paint. I play music. Vacation state of mind.
7) Where do you see yourself in 5/10/25 years?
Cutting hair. I couldn't have imagined almost 11 years ago that I'd have the support or clientele, established the relationships, or the crew that holds this whole project together. No matter where it goes from here I want to be cutting hair. I feel like that means slowing down sometimes.
8) Thoughts on the IG age of barbering?
I've made so many friends, pulled so much inspiration, and traveled both domestically and internationally on behalf of my family from Australia, Uppercut Deluxe. All opportunities presented to me through IG. All though, I feel like I've seen some people loose balance a little when it comes to what really makes their world go around.
9) Can you think of any major screw-up or failures in your life that ended up leading to something great?
I mean, I guess high school was tough for me. Not that I couldn't do it, I just didn't want to and they didn't keep my interest. But I did invest myself in other things, some real deal collage at one point even, and one of them ended up being barbering. I'm pretty happy about that.
10) Any barbers/shops out there that you look up to?
Yeah! A lot of them! I don't even want to rattle off names because I'm afraid to miss someone super important... I have been in so many shops. I've taken so many things, inspirations, ethics, personality, from so many shops... it would be a big list. But my big brother shop is Robs chop Shop in Dallas. That's the guy that popped the bubble, made me think... I should just go to barber school already.
Brent Ferris was the owner of Good Times Barbershop in Imperial Beach, CA before he sold it and moved to Missouri to open a Good Times out there. Brent might appear in my books more than anyone else. Prior to writing this blog post I went back to see when the first time I photographed him was, and 2012 is the answer. At that time I was somewhat casually working on this project in the San Diego area. He was working at Lefty’s back when they were still at their Cass St. location, but he is one of the Lefty’s OG’s from the Garnet Ave days. Since all that, he went on to cut at Capitol Barbershop where I shot for the first book. Then when he opened up Good Times in IB, we shot together for the second book. This past year I stopped at his new place in MO, but he wasn’t around and it was closed. No sweat. I’ll be back out there before too long. Can’t seem to find the scans, but I shot him back in 2012 on medium format film using an RZ67. A big bastard of a camera that produces amazing files.
Follow Brent on IG @b_ferris and the shop @goodtimesbarbershopmo
“We really didn’t learn much in there other than playing craps, smoking weed, and skate boarding all day”
1) Where are you from and what did you do before becoming a barber?
I’m from a small beach town on the south side of San Diego called Imperial Beach.
2) What was it like taking the jump from cutting in someone else's shop to opening your own? Take us through the experience. The good and the bad.
To be honest, I had no desire to starting a shop, ever. I started off over at Lefty’s Barber Shop with Brian Burt when he first opened the doors of his first shop on Garnet in Pacific Beach and then moved over to Capitol Barber Shop with AJ probably 8 years later. I worked with AJ two years and finally just woke up one day to a sign in a window that I had passed by for about 15 years (in Imperial Beach) that I always thought would be the perfect barber shop location, that eventually became Good Times Barber Shop. I was completely content in paying my booth rent and going home daily. But when I finally got to doing numbers on what booth rent was and what my bills would be, they almost equaled out with the deal I was getting on the spot in IB and I couldn’t pass it up!
What obstacles did you face with opening that shop? What did you do to increase business?
One of the biggest obstacles I had with opening my first shop was building it out all myself. I decided to go with pallet wood walls and man those were a pain in the ass to take apart! I literally busted my ass working at Capitol Barbershop, get off work, went home, got the kids to bed, and then headed over to the new shop and worked in there until about 1-2am. I completed the shop in just about a month with working on it daily and all days on the weekend.
3) After owing your own shop in Ocean Beach, you decided to sell it, move to the middle of Missouri, and then open a shop there. Why?
I really did it all for my family! San Diego cost of living was just getting outrageous and my family is number one! Plus, every time I visited my family in Missouri I wondered, why the fuck is there no real barbershops here?! So I sold my shop off to one of the guys who worked with me, Adam Foxworth, and packed up and left to MO.
4) How was that process different from opening the first?
It was scary! I had 10+ years of clientele in San Diego to open a shop, so it didn’t seem bad and then moved to a little country town in the middle of Missouri where I didn’t know anybody other than a couple of family members. I was like, “shit, did I do the right thing?!” It has worked out great though. From the get go, it’s been crazy busy and picking up steam every week!
5) You're known for giving very fast high quality haircuts? How are you able to be so quick yet still keep the quality so high? Why can't other people do that?
Hahaha, I don’t know who told you that but yeah I cut pretty quick. I guess I’ve just been lucky to be able to cut quick, talk shit, and efficiently. I’m kind of a multi tasker, so that probably helps?
6) What was barber school like for you? Why did you start?
Barber school was kinda like being in jail, very segregated by race and always some shit popping off. We really didn’t learn much in there other than playing craps, smoking weed, and skate boarding all day. I got started originally because Brian Burt was my barber and he kept telling me every time I’d come into Milts shop (where he was working before he opened Lefty’s), to go to barber school. I sat there one day and asked him what barbering was all about other than cutting hair and the first thing he said was, “you’ll be your own boss”. That sold me on the spot!
Can you go into more detail about all the shit that was going on in barber school? Did you ever think about dropping out?
Haha. Barber school was a trip. People smoked weed in the side alley of the school, craps were played in the back room where we had “class” and we dealt with a lot of homeless coming in the school because of our location. It was definitely a fun time though! Not much was taught in my school. It was kind of up to you how much effort you wanted to put into learning. I would always go and watch Brian Burt cut and he’d teach me stuff that I would take back to school and work on. What better time and place to practice when you’re in school. If you fuck their hair up it didn’t matter as much as when you get into a shop.
No, I never thought about dropping out. I had my eyes set on the future of what barbering was going to possible bring me and that kept me going. There were definitely times I hated being there, especially once you’re getting close to being out and you feel like “you know it all”.Haha. Then once you’re out it’s a completely different story. Your cuts have to count and be great cause you want that guy to come back and potentially refer people to you.
7) Where do you find inspiration inside/outside the barber industry?
I just love checking out barber shops when ever I’m visiting places. If I’m traveling I’m checking out barber shops. Other than that I love watching friends and rad people do cool stuff and making it happen, no matter what the skill is!
Any one person in particular that you look up to?
I would have to say Brian Burt for sure! Taking me under his wing when he had just started Lefty’s and trusted me to work there. He definitely taught me a lot on cutting hair and running a successful, clean, and welcoming barbershop!
8) What do you do outside the shop? Hobbies, obsessions,collections, etc.
Some times I feel like I do too much! I love building custom hot rods, which is what I did before becoming a barber. I’m a big collector of American vintage stuff such as flags, old barber poles, and many other random things. I grew up surfing so that’s always been a passion of mine along with shaping surf boards. Now that I’m in the mid west I do a lot of fishing, deer hunting, and beer drinking! I love craft beer which is a big part of me and my wife’s life. We visit breweries frequently and travel to find new ones.
Do you think building hot rods and shaping surf boards has anything to do with your skill as a barber?
I believe it does! As a hot rod builder and surf board shaper there’s a lot of attention to detail when your building. You need to have that vision of the build/board/haircut before you even put a tool to them and having the skills of all of those translate into each profession.
Favorite craft brewery?
Man this is a hard question, I just love beer! If I had to really dissect a brewery though, since I’m into aging and cellaring beer I’d probably have to go with Lost Abbey Brewing Co in San Marcos, CA. They make some of the most complex stouts, sours, and Barrel Aged beers around. Their brewer-Tomme Arthur, is one of the best in the business!
9) How do you feel about what barbers are doing with IG?
I’m not the biggest fan of social media so I don’t participate in IG and Facebook too much. To be honest it’s never gotten me any long term customers or paid me anything so I don’t take the time to always be posting haircuts and stuff. It’s cool for the newer generation but I feel I want to stick with the traditions of the old school way and let my work behind the chair speak for its self rather than posting it out to the world.
10) Random thoughts on being a barber.....
It’s the greatest fuckin thing I’ve ever done with my working life!! There’s so much enjoyment knowing you can brighten up somebody’s day with a good haircut.
If not for barbering I wouldn’t be where I am and be able to support my beautiful wife and kids!
11) What is your biggest career/life fuck-up that lead you to a realization or to start a better way of life?
I wouldn’t say it was a fuck up but it was definitely a change in life. I started surfing at a young age and thought I would turn pro so I moved to Maui and surfed my ass off every day and came to the realization that I didn’t want that anymore. I then moved back to California and that is when I started getting into barbering with the help of my roommate at the time Adam Fuqua who is a great tattoo artist. He’s the one who introduced me to Brian after a night of tattooing him.
Q&A number 6 with barbers from the book. There is so much to like about Al’s Barbershop in Alameda, CA, which is just across the bay from San Francisco. Inside and out, it’s a classic any way you spin it. Love this shop. Al’s still looks and feels authentically from the 50’s despite requiring a remodel before they could reopen the place. Such a small and old school joint that it doesn’t even have a bathroom. Just four walls and four chairs. There is almost a monochromatic feel to the decor and the place just makes you feel comfortable. Maybe it’s a combo of the colors, the light, and the crew? I don’t know, but either way, a very enjoyable place to be in. Joe Pollisky is the owner of it now, and there is a lot to him that doesn’t meet the eye, besides his perfect hair. His answers to my somewhat basic questions are great because they contain so much candid advice and knowledge. A couple weeks ago I was on a road trip up to Portland and made it a point to stop in and see Joe. Was even lucky enough to get time in his chair for a quick beard clean up. Thanks Joe!
Follow the shop on Instagram @als.barbershop or on their website www.alsbarbers.com and Joe @joe.the.barber
“After dozens of shitty, meaningless jobs, it’s nice to know that I’m actually contributing to someone’s image, perception, confidence, and hopefully, success.”
1) Tell me about your life before barbering and what got you into it.
Before becoming a barber I did a little bit of everything. I worked office jobs for about 6-7 years before going to barber school. I hated every day of it. Previous to that, I DJ’d at a really low-rent bikini bar in Lancaster, CA called “Snooky’s.” A close friend of mine was DJing there 5 days a week, sometimes 12 hours a day. It was killing his relationship, so he asked me to cover a few of his shifts. The place was owned by alleged Russian mafia connected guys – I speak Russian, so they seemed to take a liking to me, or at the very least trusted me enough to get to work that night. Anyways, that place was a drag. I ended up sleeping with one of the dancers who then got 86’d the next night for being blackout drunk at work. I only did that for about 4-5 months before backsliding into office hell for the next long while. The entire time I was in a few different hardcore punk bands – did a little touring around the US. Unfortunately, not much came of it because I was too concerned with keeping my bullshit cubicle job than actually going out on the road with my closest friends and playing music. That’s probably one of my biggest regrets.
2) Your shop is an Alameda classic that has been around since the 50’s. Talk about how you came to own it, and you’re interest in keeping it (for the most part) the same as it was.
When I moved to Oakland from Los Angeles, I started going to Al’s as a customer. Paul Ehat, a close friend whom eventually became my apprentice (and now fully licensed barber) referred me there. Nick Vlahos was my barber. He and I became friends and after a while he mentioned that he was opening a shop in Oakland sometime soon because Al wasn’t ready to retire or sell the place to him. I started picking his brain about barbering. At the same time, I was also gathering information from Dylan Johnson, a good friend and barber that’s worked all over southern CA. I loved being inside shops, I loved the nostalgia. It just made sense to me – but I had zero skill. It wasn’t until really getting into Nick’s head that I realized the skill can be taught, it’s everything else about barbering that can’t be – the soft skills. I eventually apprenticed for Nick at Temescal Alley Barbershop. After nearly 4 years of working at Temescal, Al was ready to retire and he approached Nick to take the shop over. Nick brought me in along with his partner at Temescal – Brad Roberts.
The place was a wreck. We decided that we definitely needed to replace the lathe and plaster walls and ceiling, so once that was demo’d, the electrical was so outdated and shot, that by code, we had to replace that. Then we realized that some of the studs were dry rotted, so those had to be replaced. Then the floor had asbestos, so that had to be replaced. It took 9 months to make that place look like it did in 1953. It’s clean and simple. I think people appreciate how minimal it is. Barbering is an uncomplicated thing, so there’s no reason why the space should be complicated.
3) Each barbershop has a unique feel and different way of operating. Explain why you run your shop the way you do. How much of your personality do you see in your shop?
I think the shop is everything I want my personality to be. I feel like I constantly over complicate things in my personal life. The shop is my respite where I can’t over complicate even if I try. Al’s is staffed by my friends who see it the same way.
What do you mean when you say that you overcomplicate things?
I tend to think way too far into the future with even the most unimportant things. I overanalyze, worry too much, and I'm always trying to put pieces in motion so I can get an outcome rather than just letting things happen as they may. If you're building a house, that's critical. If you're just trying to plan a fucking weekend away, it's annoying and makes things come to a grinding halt. The barber shop is so simple and linear. Once I got over the nervousness of fucking up a haircut it became all about creating relationships with customers and maintaining a place that the barbers I work with love as much as I do.
4) Barbering has changed so much over the years. What does it mean to you to be a barber?
I think barbering is about building a community. I think what’s changed is that some barbers have put more value on their own image than their customers. In my first year of barbering I can remember specific customers whose hair I really fucked up, but they continued to come back to me. As my skills improved, they didn’t point out how much better they felt their cut was. It was just one long conversation that’s lasted almost 6 years now. Barbering is more about being a friend, a confidante, a counselor, or just a sounding board. After that, sure, a good haircut is a nice thing to give them, too.
5) There is a certain aspect of repetition to being a barber in that you spend a lot of time in the same place with the same people. Explain how you feel about that and what it does to your decisions about time spent outside of the barbershop.
There’s a level of comfort to seeing and standing with the same people every day. Even if they’re friends going into the working relationship, you learn things about them through their conversations with customers that you otherwise wouldn’t have ever known. We hang out outside of the shop more as family than friends. That being said, time away from the shop is extremely valuable. I’ve only recently come to grips with the fact that quality time apart from the shop is necessary. I try to encourage my work family to do the same.
6) Hardest lesson you've learned as a shop owner?
Leading by example isn’t always enough. You want the best for those that work with you and they’ll provide the best to their customers. Occasionally the awkward conversation has to be had so that there’s a shared understanding of how things need to run. I never wanted to be seen as anyone’s “boss.”
7) At the end of a work week, what is it that gives you the most satisfaction?
Pulling the hair splinters out of my hands is pretty satisfying. I think knowing that I made a lot of people feel good about themselves translates over to my own well being. After dozens of shitty, meaningless jobs, it’s nice to know that I’m actually contributing to someone’s image, perception, confidence, and hopefully, success.
8) Advice for someone trying to open their own shop?
Don’t ever put yourself in a place where you think that your customers owe you anything. Remain humble and thankful – provide a great experience and in turn your customers will refer their friends, family, and co-workers. Just be patient and the customers will come.
9) Anything in particular happen at the shop that stands out as a good memory?
I think it was the first day we officially re-opened. It was just me cutting that day, Paul was still an apprentice and hadn’t begun cutting during hours yet. At one point in the day, 4 or 5 customers from my old shop that happened to know one another were all there at the same time, just shooting the shit. It was what I’d imagined that barber shop should be: A place to relax and be amongst friends or at least friendly people.
10) Pet peeves?
Unreal expectations that a customer has for a barber and unreal expectations that a barber has for a customer.
11) If you could only have one tool to do an entire cut, what would it be?
I’m not the best at any cut, but I try my best every day. One tool? That’s tough! If you don’t include comb, It’d be my shears. I think an all over shear cut is something every barber should be proficient at. If the power goes out… fuck it, a nice clean shear cut is the only thing on the menu that day. The great part about it is that you can create a ton of different styles, shapes, and textures with just shears.
13) Where do you plan on being/doing in 10 years? 30 years?
Whether it’s at Al’s, or on a different venture, I hope that I’m healthy and still behind the chair.
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
"I always had envisioned starting and finishing my career with Lefty’s, Kobe style".
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.
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.
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.
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?