Just got out of a week in the woods, so I'm a bit late on this post to make it effective at all, but still wanted to talk about it. The San Diego Union Tribune asked me to talk about my barbershop book at the San Diego Festival of Books this past weekend at Liberty Station. Truthfully, until they reached out I didn't even know the festival existed, and wasn't sure what to expect. It turned out great though. All of the panels were in private rooms with about 60 chairs, and every one was sold. I was on the panel with another photographer and the discussion was moderated by a woman from the Tribune. She had some great questions, as did the audience. So all in all it was a fun experience and I hope to do something similar again in the future.
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?