Had a mini freak-out the other day at the vet when we had to bring Mojo in to get a lump removed. They couldn’t say either way if it was cancerous, and would be 6 days until we got the results back. I left there thinking totally irrationally, and jumped on 99 Designs right when I got home to get a logo of him made up. No idea why I was doing it at all. Even asked myself that question the next day after calming down. Still not sure of the answer other than wanting something of him besides a photo that will also last forever. Now that I think about it, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to logos lately and thinking how similar they all are. On top of that, thinking how little my previous logo meant to me. I love this depiction of Mojo because he means so much to me, and it’s vastly different than anything commercial photographers use. It’s also cool to think about how much he has been involved in my photography. He has been on board for all of my biggest/long term personal projects like Barbershops of America and The Basketball Hoops Project. Not quite sure of the total tally, but he’s been to roughly 45 states with me. He’s made a lot of people smile, and just about everywhere I go, people ask how he’s doing. Glad he doesn’t have cancer.
Eagle&Pig Barbershop is a gem of gems. Have loved this place since the first day I walked in. And like most shops worth their weight, Pig is the organic creation of it’s owner Dane Hesse. Spend 30 seconds here and you’ll realize there is as much going on in his head as there is in the shop. That should be read and taken as a compliment. Dane is a complex dude with plenty of smarts to go around. I have endless appreciation for anyone who was “supposed to be” one thing, but decided that one thing wasn’t for him or her. And then sets out on their own path without any fear of the repercussions or opinions of others. That’s exactly what Dane did, and since then he has created something truly unique. A place that he, his customers, and friends love to be. What more can you want from a barbershop?
Follow the shop on IG @pigbarber.
“…..my “school” believes that being supportive is much more beneficial than being a dick.”
1) Tell me about where you're from, what you did before you were a barber, and what led to the decision of going to barber school.
I am Southern California born and raised. I grew up in North County San Diego surfing, skateboarding, riding BMX and playing sports. When I graduated from high school I ended up attending Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Ca. Orange County was a really cool place to live then. After I graduated from college I was able to find work helping grow a kettlekorn business with a buddy of mine and work for an MMA publication writing and selling advertisements. My long term goal was to attend law school at some point, but I wasn't really dedicated to the idea nor had I worked hard enough to get into law school easily. That being said, I was impressed upon by a local barber, Mark Miller, that barber school and the subsequent profession were the best decisions he made. So not wanting to pursue a career in law lead me to become a barber instead.
Are you not a fan of living in Orange County now?
You know what’s funny about this question, is that until recently the answer would have always been "I love Orange County." And dont get me wrong, its still wonderful to me, but it has change a decent amount from the secretive, artistic, and influential coastal oasis it once was. There is so much greed and excess here now. Houses and cool communities have all given themselves away to profiteering over culture. There is a lot of gentrification that doesnt even really include the middle class families that live here. Everyone is being priced out. Luckily, there are still so many good things about the OC that make it worth staying here. Every once and awhile SD or Ventura calls my name or pulls on the heart strings. In the end though, I just know that my success really does come from being influenced by Costa Mesa and its history of surf, skate, music, art, etc. My shop wouldnt be what it is or as successful without the love the county has given to it over the years.
2) How have your decisions as a shop owner changed over the years? What do you contribute a lot of your success to?
Honestly, and this word will answer both questions...consistency. As a shop owner my decisions haven't changed much. I started out in the shop solo. Then I hired Justin in 2015 and Richie in 2017. Even with bringing them on the consistency with which the shop is ran stayed the same. Customers make appointments the same way. The standards for the services are high. The toilet gets cleaned. The towels folded. Etc.
My success comes from busting my ass and being in the shop when its advertised that i'm in the shop. I make sure to plan days off well in advance on the scheduling software so that customers can adjust their lives to my absence. I've probably only missed a dozen days in 7 full years from being sick. And, back to the word consistency, my goal with each haircut is to make it, consistently, as close to each individual’s expectations or needs. Show up when you say you are going to be there, don't cancel on people, and do good haircuts. Easy recipe.
3) You have a very unique shop. How has it developed over the years? Why does it look the way it does? What bothers you about it?
Thank you. It's a growing amoeba. I've actually seen some old photos of the shop recently and it was amazing to see it with nothing on the walls. I grew up in a construction/hard work/do it yourself household so its development hinges on that mentality greatly. Most of the projects in the shop I've done myself or with the help of close friends and family.
My shop takes influence from a few exact experiences in my life. I love stickers. They decorate things so well, abstractly. I used to cover things in them as a kid, but with order, not complete randomness. Another direct influence was Mark Millers shop in Costa Mesa. His style was so cool. Old posters from punk shows lined his walls along with other awesome memorabilia to look at. Surf and Skate culture across the decades are all huge influences as well. They each have their own unique styles that I really connect with.
I'm usually bothered with how much work it is to clean the shop and what a massive pain in the ass it is to change things up. I like to move things around from time to time so that when people shoot photos in the shop they get different visuals. So much work.
How did the name Eagle & Pig come to be?
Originally, when I got the space for the shop I had a business partner named Sean. His plan was to use his knack for finding old furniture and selling it out of the shop. We were going to furnish the shop with his findings, but everything was going to be for sale. We sort of just landed on the name through word games. Eagle comes from America, simple enough. Pig comes from a few places...1960s surfboard design, men can be pigs, sailors good luck charm, Reagan has this quote "I am glad they call me a P.I.G it stands for Pride, Integrity, Guts." Sean and his wife decided that three kids were more important than me though, hahaha...so his stint in the shop selling stuff never really happened. 2020 will be 10 years in the shop.
4) How do you feel about the younger generation of barbers/celebrity barbers/instagram barbers?
I'm not necessarily a fan of them. I think that their perspective on the profession is massively skewed by becoming cool or sponsored. That's all bullshit. Its cool, and don't get me wrong, I am beyond grateful for the awesome adventures being “sponsored” has given me, but at the end of the day the barbers “sphere of influence” is wherever he or she consistently shows up, services their customers, and develops a book of business. Customer loyalty has always been a major contributing factor to a barber’s success and vice versa. Its a 2 way street relationship. Wasting time hoping that your social media pops off disallows you the opportunity to create genuine long lasting relationships with patrons who will help pay your bills for years, not just for the short period of time that “insta cool” exists. If you aren't behind your chair for long periods of time you can't expect to have customers sitting there waiting for you to come back. They dont give a shit about how cool you are at the end of the day...they just need a damn haircut.
5) One of the great things about your "school" of barbers is the support you all give each other. That doesn't happen in a lot of professions. Can you talk about that?
There are barbers who operate from a train of thought based on that consistency i've already mentioned. You show up and cut, have barbers that do the same, and you keep your patrons happy. Realistically, beef in the barbering industry is usually petty bullshit that involves short sighted and simple minded people. Supporting people should be easy. We all work in 10ft squares most of the day..not anywhere else. Some of us go out of our way to send customers, when they move away, to shops that will service them similarly or have a good reputation of quality. Having an ego in a blue collar industry like ours is just ignorant. There are enough customers to go around and my “school” believes that being supportive is much more beneficial than being a dick.
6) Talk about the culture of your shop specifically.
My shop is an enigma, I think. It grew out of my need to have structure and believing that our customers could conform to that idea. We are a pretty no holds bar barbershop. I've got a degree in history/political science and I read a lot. I will allow the entire spectrum of conversation to happen in the shop. I make sure that people understand the concept of respect in dialogue. Not many people, let alone barbers, care enough to be educated on subjects varying from socio economic conditions, beer company politics, fuck trump, fuck hillary, gang books, girl pop music...you see where i'm going with this. I'll say, clearly, I think that barbers tend to short change their ability to be intelligent. Some “smart” ones come across as absolute fucking morons. Some “dumb” ones suppress their smarts to be cool. That being said, my shop is a haven for everyone. Everyone is both safe and vulnerable. We like to enjoy our lives because barbering is supposed to be a fun, community focused profession.We also want our customers to grow, personally, by our influence. And, get laid because of our haircuts.
Maybe you're the enigma? You were supposed to go to Law School, but didn't and instead became a barber/shop owner that is very educated and continues to read a lot, can build things with your hands, and also loves to chug beer. How does that all add up?
Math was definitely not a strong subject for me in school, hahaha. I knew turning by back on the lawyer track in life was going to provide me with a new set of challenges. Some I knew for sure, others I had to take with stride. I don’t come from money. I DO come from a household that always taught ingenuity and hard work WILL get you by. My parents both fulfilled their specific rolls in my life and honestly most of the lessons I learned were the same, just in different circumstances. Sacrifice, courtesy, honesty, diligence, and other strong words came to me through their examples. My dad worked on the cars, was a welder, managed ranches, built homes, owned a construction company. My mom was a librarian, beach shuttle driver, cooked, helped my dad in every way she could, forced me to mount bugs and cross stitch instead of take ADD meds. I was given the responsibility at a young age to take care of portions of my life, simple things that I could handle for the age that I was. I learn visually. So watching my parents do a plethora of tasks throughout my lifetime I was able to learn a lot of little skills. The skills and the way I learned actually translated over to barbering really well. In barber school I was able to watch and learn, know when and what questions to ask, etc. Its funny how the things you might encounter or endure as a child prepare you for your future. If you decide to fine tune some of those skills into productive adulting you might just end up good at something.
As for the beers. I love beer and all the rest of the booze in this world. Im fortunate enough to not have any sort of dependency on alcohol though, that I am grateful for. As barbers we are always being exposed to cool new things. So many of my customers work for different companies in the booze world and they love sharing their knowledge and perks. Ive been fortunate enough to drink all sorts of amazing top shelf liquors. At the end of the day though, I will drink anything under the sun. You have to know how to handle yourself if you are gunna drink with me. Nobody likes a sloppy drunk. Ive been sloppy, maybe, a half dozen times since I became of legal drinking age. It just such a calming feeling to sit down at the bar top and throw a few back. Its also amazing to do keg stands or order rounds of shots or slug it down straight from the whiskey bottle.
Moral or this question: Balance is your absolute best friend.
3 books you would recommend everyone read?
Im gunna break these down into genres with some suggestions
1.Gang Related Autobiographies or Biographies: A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown, Monster by Sanyika Shakur, Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead by Frank Meeink, Blood in Blood Out by John Lee Brook
2.Post Modern/Modern Fiction: Anthology of Franz Kafka, Most novels by Chuck Palahniuk, House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski
3.Philosophy: The Republic by Plato, The Will to Power by Friedrich Nietzsche, Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, Candide by Voltaire, A Modest Proposal and Paradise Lost by Jonathan Swift
4....If you plan to read and convey the "news" to people try to read the same topic across several sources and maybe cross reference the "factual" information provided. You will actually sound and BE smarter for it.
7) Anything that bothers you on a daily basis?
Bad customers. Cocky customers. “No Call/No Shows.” I despise people who mess with the schedule. Its disrespectful to our other customers. We try to stay on schedule to our best ability, but sometimes people mess that up for us and the customers following after them. I don’t mind product in peoples hair. I can afford to buy new clippers or blades a few times a year. But what I hate is when they talk shit about weird parts of their last cut or ask for MORE product when they already have a TON in their hair. Its your dumbass fault you ALWAYS come in with product in your hair. And, you DO NOT need more product.
8) At the end of a week, what is it you are most proud about/what gives you the most satisfaction?
Honestly...that every day/week that I show up consistently, so do my customers. My schedule is fully booked every day that I work. I cut on the 30min. Im not doing hour cuts and wasting my time filming or taking studio photos. Im proud to bust my ass for my customers. They know that I will be there, give them an above par cut, and be everything they need from me. Barber. Counselor. Friend. etc...
9) Advice for someone trying do what you do?
You cant be me, or anyone else. You have to be yourself. Barbering is an artform. It requires individuality. You have to want to be selfless. Be covered in tiny little pieces of other peoples hair day in and day out. If you want to be like me you have to provide quality service, with speed and efficiency, while maintaining a high level of educated conversation. You have to show up to work and not miss days or take days off without replacing those days. If you are getting busy or already busy its making sure that your customers have the opportunity to get their cut which helps your pocket book to remain full and their mops chopped.
11) Random thoughts about what you do.....
Being a good barber is so much more selfless than the social media era has made it. I refer to it as the 50/50 scale. When we are in the shop we are 100% barbers. 50% technical barber. 50% personable barber. Now some of us are always going to be more technical than personable, and vice versa. The goal should be to strive for a 50/50 standard...that's what makes the most complete, well rounded barber. Somedays, you might not want to put out the effort to be personable so you can slide your technical game to 60% for the day. Or 70% if you are really grumpy. Other times you might get caught up in a good mood or vibe in the shop that takes your timing off, thought process off, steps off, messes with the game and your scale might slide to 70% personable...some of you out there that already operate at 70% personable might slide to 100% too often and thats why you lose customers to the quiet guy in the shop that puts out white hot technical haircut heat every cut. That dudes customers might be bored as shit, but they look like $1M everytime they leave the shop. Random enough Rob?
Biggest thing you've learned about yourself since passing on Law School and opening up your own shop?
That I’m not "wasting my potential." That was a big issue for some people around me when I made the leap from possible future lawyer to barber. The idea that I would "waste” my intellect on a blue collar profession. If anything, my blue collar job choice has given me the opportunity to continue to learn, grow and be influential as human being, friend, husband, barber.
What do you get into out side the shop?
Hopefully not legal trouble. I enjoy spending time with my wife and friends. I really like being in the sun, not doing much, by a pool, with a cocktail. I surf when I can, ride my harley, work on the endless project that my truck has become. Try to relax. I am really good at stressing myself out and over working myself into shut down mode. Im trying to get better at that. I just want to find the balance between contentment and drive for more. Im gettting there slowly but surely.
While putting this post together, I realized that there are no pictures of Josh (owner of Lucky’s). When Mojo and I went to the shop, he didn’t get there till after I had finished shooting, and by that point we had got into a great conversation, which made me completely forget about making a picture of him. What’s even worse is we were just together two days ago and it completely slipped my mind again. Oh well, next time. The only way I know how to explain Josh is that he is a very genuine person. He puts himself out there and has nothing but love for everybody.
Give the shop a follow on IG @luckysbarbershop
“After escaping school, I ended up cruising around the country in a 1977 B-100 custom van with Aerosmith airbrushed on the back.”
1) Where are you from and what did you do before becoming a barber?
I’m from Concord,New Hampshire. It’s the Capital and we are known as the “Granite State” because of the mass amount of granite stone in our quarries. It can be found in a lot of different parts of the world, including many monuments in Washington D.C.
Concord is located in the central part of the state, and fun fact- when you’re sitting in my Barber chair you are exactly one hour to the city of Boston, one hour to the white mountains, and one hour to the ocean. It’s pretty unique to have that many amazing things in such a short distance away. Most people don’t have any of those, let alone all of them and so close. I think half the people that live here is because of these things and the others don’t care, forget, or are too busy working.
So my first job ever was working at a full service gas station at the bottom of the hill from where I grew up in East Concord, which is on the north side of the Merrimack River off of exit 16. You can’t miss it, it’s still there today but with a new owner. A traffic circle/roundabout was installed recently in front of it because of the amount of accidents at the intersection. My father used to bring me down there every week to hang with him and the mechanics. They’d be talking and hanging out and I’d be down below the cars hanging in the pits when that was still legal to have. Years ago they did away with them for obvious safety concerns. My best childhood friend Matty worked down there as well. I remember it well- gas was under $.90 cents a gallon and Old Gold smokes were less than $10 per carton. You’d drive across the tube and the bell would ring and we’d come out from inside and pump your gas, top off all your fluids and check the air- all usually for free. I learned a lot in a quick period of time from that place. I was proud to work there. Unfortunately I was fired only a handful of months later only to be accused of stealing from the station. Sadly they didn’t believe me and they sent me on my way. Fortunately for them they caught the mechanic that was stealing only a short time later but never apologized to me. In return my Father never brought coffee down there in the mornings ever again, and rumor has it that he may have made some direct statements that kept them inside their garage bays when he would drive by. He taught me that your word is your bond and that I didn’t come from a family of liars. I followed that rule my whole life. After that I ended up working retail at our local mall at a sporting goods store as part of a deal for some trouble that I got in shortly after getting my license. Nothing crazy, but part of my probation was applying for jobs and they were the ones that took me first as a temp, right before Christmas time. That was where I honed in my customer service skills and thoroughness. It was strictly enforced and it fit me well. I loved helping people out and finding what suited their needs. I did that and ended up picking up another retail job on top of that at the other end of the mall to keep busy, keep my car on the road, put a couple of bucks in my wallet and most importantly away from school as much as possible. You see, work has always been my escape and my savior(outside of music) I knew from a pretty early age that school just wasn’t for me and that college was not part of my future. Work gave me everything I needed and taught me everything that life hadn’t up to that point. After escaping school, I ended up cruising around the country in a 1977 B-100 custom van with Aerosmith airbrushed on the back. That was it’s own adventure and taught me some life lesssons that New England hadn’t offered me yet. After being a nomad, and avid couch surfer, I ended back on the east coast and then back home slinging bagels and coffee with the other misfits in town. Now I was an adult and had found and solidified my tribe. It was the precursor to Barbershop Life.
It's interesting that you found and solidified your "tribe". Old time barbers seem to me to be in a way very isolated, not knowing much about what happens outside their town. The next generation of barbers (which I would say you're in) though, are very connected. Barbers now are definitely part of a "tribe" that embrace and support each other. Talk about that...
Well, it’s interesting. I was just talking to some Barber students today that stopped by the shop to shadow. I came up in a time where I understand that isolation and disconnect from how that generation feels- because that is the generation of Barbers that I grew up going to as a kid and thats the same era of Barbers that I worked with when I first got out of Barber school 20 years ago. You’ve got to understand, at least here in New Hampshire, that Barbering had become almost nonexistent. When I enrolled in Barber school in 1999 there had not been a Barber school in our state for over two decades, the last one had closed in 1977. So when I graduated and got my Barbers license in 2000, I was the first person in New Hampshire to bridge that gap in a very long time. I’m very proud of that fact, but in reality it has nothing to do with me, it was just the timing. In fact it would’ve been great if there was never a lapse in Barbering and it had continued to flourish not only in our state but across the country and in the world, but that’s really not the case. My first job was working with two Korean War Veterans that had been cutting hair in Barbershops since the 50’s, and the way that they talked about the time period when they first became Barbers and started working was that Barbers were a dime a dozen and were not highly respected. For a lot of people it was just a job and a way to put food on the table back then. I think that you didn't have the same artistic culture that surrounds it today. For a lot of these people I think they viewed other Barbers more as competition than their peers or friends, when in reality there’s always been enough hair to go around for everyone, back then and still today. I think with the emerging and continuous growth of social media and other various online platforms you are seeing that not only is it not as mysterious and secretive as it once may have been, but that it is a worldwide phenomenon. There’s no way that the majority of these people that have tens of thousands of followers online are only being followed by other Barbers. People are paying attention to what they’re doing. That strikes my curiosity but it also gets me excited to know that even though we feel like we have a very important and dynamic role in our communities and in this world – other people are starting to finally recognize that and in return are keeping us all busy and making us become better practitioners. So just like anywhere else in this world, I think you carve out your niche and you start to figure out where you fit in. It took me a long time to figure out what my role is and where I belong. Sometimes under certain circumstances you need to take inventory and create it for yourself when it’s not there. What’s great about my position as a Barber but more particularly as a shop owner and operator is that I’m not trying to mimic and clone myself but I’m actually trying to surround myself with like-minded humans who make me better and want to be better each day. I feel like I’ve been swimming against stream for a long time, but I hate treading water and becoming stagnated. I live in a world where we set our own standards and we keep focused on our own work and what works for our customers. I’m not worried or concerned with the majority of what’s going on outside of here. I listen to my customers, they have the answers, they are the ones that inform me most of the time of what they want or what they’ve seen. I don’t pick the cuts, I put them on. However, some of the people I work with are really in tune with the online community and some not as much. It’s a nice balance because we all benefit from each other in the long run and I like and appreciate that. I am learning, and I’m making more efforts to try and connect with people outside of here because I do believe it’s important and honestly it’s cool that there’s others out there that feel and carry themselves like you(we)do.
2 ) What sent you into being a barber?
I’ve never been good at short stories and am usually long winded, but I tend to talk fast in real life and faster in my head. Basically up to age 12, my Father would bring me to the Barbershop when I was staying with him on the weekends. Little did I know that one particularly early and hot morning in July that in combination of his lack of patience and the long line of people in front of us that he would have me cutting his hair in his tiny 3rd story apartment with no AC and barely a bathroom later on that day. He still doesn’t quite remember if he acquired the clippers when he was in the Service or if it was to shave down his old German Shepard’s that he used to own, train and show. Well a can of WD 40, a Phillips screwdriver and a lack of choice had me shaving his head in no time. He assured I could do no worse than him, and that I had the better angle. Initially reluctant, and with no say in the matter-the first pass was made on the right side of his head. I remember vividly when his fluffy white hair hit my shoe, I stopped and looked down and he said “don’t stop now.” By the end of that week- anyone and everyone that I knew within a couple miles stretch got a haircut from me. I was thrown to the mercy of this braided cord, loud, old, overheating clipper. It was perfect!
3) Where did the inspiration for your shop come from?
My true inspiration was a combination for a love of old things and the first shop I worked at out of Barber school. Growing up, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together most of the time. So most of the time the stuff we had was either bought from yard sales and flea markets, hand me downs or from the dump from the next town over. And it was cool! I never knew the difference growing up till I hit middle school and met other kids with more fortunate situations. I would say it’s all I’ve ever known, and always appreciated. There’s a life that’s been breathed into something that’s been used or loved before. New stuff has never really appealed to me, except for sneakers. I was born with a broken sniffer, but I can still smell (at least in my mind) the highly intoxicating beautiful aroma of a box of shoes opened up for the first time, gasoline fumes in the air and the occasional whiff of talc powder. It’s the simple things! Also, equally as important-my first job as a Barber was at a shop from 1920 that still had the majority of the original fixtures. It’s all I’ve ever known and all I’ve ever cut in and on. It’s not just a look or gimmick, it’s real to me. I sat in chairs like those as a kid and I cut hair in chairs like those now as an adult. There’s a beauty in the detail and organization of a well curated shop. It doesn’t make the haircut better, but it sure doesn’t hurt the overall experience and aesthetic either.
4) You own two shops. That's a lot of barbers to manage. How do you handle that?
I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t a lot, but it’s grown carefully and steadily over the years, preparing me the best it could to get to this point. There’s currently 12 Barbers at Lucky’s including myself. I think the locations and the customers were ready before I was. It takes the right ingredients to make the cake rise and not fall. After almost twenty years I’ve got a pretty good grasp on what I like and what I want. Most importantly what I don’t want. I’ve managed to surround myself with talented hardworking humans that exhibited qualities that I admired in them before they ever held a pair of shears. I’ve learned that it’s a lot easier to make someone a better Barber than it is to make them a better person. I can’t express this enough. I’ve found people that compliment myself and the shop, and in return have become a very strong and fundamental being of Lucky’s. It’s pretty well oiled, but if you know me then you know that I’ve got a thousand irons in the fire at all times. Mediocrity and complacency don’t exist in my life. You’d need an elephant tranquilizer to slow me down, and that’s probably not enough. It’s all I know. Set the bar high, smash it, repeat. If you’re not moving forwards then you’re going backwards. My old man said that’s why the rear view mirror is so much smaller than the windshield. Don’t forget what’s behind you in the past, but keep your eye on the future in what lies ahead of you.
5) Why did you open the second location?
It was out of necessity, not want. The area I opened in didn’t have a lot of options. My buddy would tell me “you can get a haircut here, just not the one you want.” Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but I think we offer something special, something more than a just a haircut. You’re building relationships, friendships, trust and community. Call it what you will but you can’t fake this shit, no matter how good your social media looks, you’ve got to deliver the goods at the end of the day, and that’s what we do best. We are service practitioners and we will ALWAYS need them more than they need us. Drop the attitudes and learn your history. If you’re in this for a quick buck and some popularity then maybe it’s the wrong career for you. But if you want to build a livelihood to take care of you and yours and have a long life doing it-the sky is the limit. We have something special (in my opinion) to help people out with and in return they help us more than we could ever imagine. Two years into the second location and I’m very happy to be a small part of a great town with a great history. Have you seen that video of the Barber that’s over 100 years old? I wish! For him, at this point it’s got to be by choice, by love. You know his house is paid off, his kids are grown and probably even great grandparents and you can bet the worlds a million miles from the one he was born into, but he’s still here and hairs still growing. I’m thankful for this trade and I’ll be forever grateful. A vampires life for me! How else could you repay this world for such a gift in a short period of time?
6) Thoughts on where barbering is today?
Barbering is off the rocks and cruising. I hear its one of the fastest growing trades in many parts of the country and even abroad. It’s no surprise, open up your phone and go online and look at social media. We’re everywhere! You’d be hard pressed to throw a quarter into a crowd and not hit a Barber nowadays. It doesn’t bum me out, it makes me happy. I hold no bearing over the future of Barbering, but I sure as hell can tell you that it’s not for the weak of spirit, dedication, or mind. It’s physical, it’s mental and its over compassing at times but if you’re a tourist -get out of the way or you’ll get steamrolled. All I ever ask to anyone that inquires to me about it is: to love it like your own, to take care of it, mend it and honor it for what it is. We’re carrying the torch and you can bet it’s not going out on my watch.
7) What do you get into outside of the shop?
Music has been my moral compass outside of what I was taught at an early age. It embodies a spirit of freedom, art, conviction, dedication, passion, and emotion. Strangely enough it’s qualities like those that seem to be in most Barbers that I like,respect or admire and they seem to carry within themselves. For me, it was there before Barbering and before cutting hair entered my life. It’s been my social circle, my getaway and my salvation. It’s brought me some of the the most memorable times of my life with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. It’s brought me to corners of the Earth I didn’t think were possible. It’s how I met my Wife, and it’s made friendships that I’ll forever appreciate and hold deeply in my heart. It’s brought light into the darkest corners and filled in the holes when I needed it most.
Also, very importantly- my animals. Two rescue dogs, and two rescue cats. I could go on forever, but I’m telling you, I don’t want to live in a world where they don’t exist. It’s a love that’s unconditional/24 hours a day. My next life, my next time around-I want to come back as a dog, a rescue dog. I’d be willing to endure some hard times up front for a lifetime of love and spoils on the end. Lord knows most of us on Earth have been to hell and back to see the upside of down. That’s how I treat my animals. They’re worth it and I put them before myself. I’d say they rescued me.
More specifically, how are you involved with music?
Borrowed my first bass when I was 14, played in my first band when I was 15 and never looked back. The ties between Barbers and music is more synonymous than ever and sometimes it feels the same way in or out of the shop. Met a lot of my Barbers because of music, started and played in bands because of those Barbers, and got to travel the country and abroad because of those Barbers. Some were friends before being Barbers, some after. It’s a crazy world and I’ve got to experience some things outside of the shop that I’ll never forget and always be thankful for.
Far too many to list. Chances are if you don’t like or can’t appreciate or respect A Tribe Called Quest or Gorilla Biscuits then we probably have less in common than most. Musically, morally or fashionably. I’m more open minded than ever when it comes to music today though. If it sounds good to me- I don’t care what genre, or who’s making it. Turn it up!
8) Something people would be surprised to know about you?
Often times I have immediate connections with people in my chair, but outside of this part of the world I live in, I often feel disassociated and more of a loner and a wallflower believe it or not. I’m great one on one, but more often then not I have a sense of aloneness or not belonging. Not in a sad way or even depressing way really, sometimes just more lost, sometimes more comforting. I could talk to strangers all day long about personal details and share stories, but a lot of that shuts off when I’m not cutting hair. I wouldn’t call it antisocial, I don’t know what really? It’s definitely not from a negative place at this point in my life, it’s just always been there since I was a kid. It’s something I think a lot about and in some ways try to work on. I love connecting with people so it’s strange. If you catch me one on one-I’ll listen all day to you and talk all night!
What are you doing to work on that?
Being honest with myself helps, and sometimes hearing it out loud or from other people is a good reminder. It might sound cheesy to some, and maybe would’ve once upon a time to an earlier version of me- but looking in the mirror and owning it is the one of the biggest forms of self reflection and self respect. If you can’t jive with yourself and you don’t like what you see, sometimes you’ve got to make a change. I get it, hindsight is 20/20, but there’s no excuse this day and age to make an effort to become a better version of you. All the tools are available. Start with yourself and build upon that and you’ll see the rest get onboard or jump off the ship.
9) Random thoughts or ramblings on what you do....
Barbering was here before us and no doubt long after us. Don’t be a one trick pony, try new things, ask questions, and help each other out. The worlds a small place but I wouldn’t t want to paint it. There’s enough hair to go around, and if you’re driven and if your passionate- you’ll get better and it will take care of you well beyond your years. As of lately though, I’ll be honest, this day and age feels more divided than I can ever remember and it’s getting real old. The beauty that lies in our country particularly, is that we should all have the opportunity, free will, and be able to rely on the foundations and principles that are supposed to unite us not divide us. Cut the bullshit, take a deep breath and open up your mind and let’s get back to work. MLK once said “ we may home come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” I say let’s keep it afloat. Other than that, give me about a hundred more years of this life and check back in on me. Until then, thanks to my family, friends, customers and anyone that was ever in my corner throughout this journey.
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.
Seems as though I’ve entered the world of podcasting. This is something that I’m very excited about, but will also require a large learning curve on my end. I’m not a great public speaker, so the format and concept of a podcast is quite foreign to me. Nevertheless, I plan to have a lot of fun with it. Why am I doing this? Because I enjoy learning about people’s stories, how they got to where they are, and using that information to help other people learn. Specifically though, I’m very interested in people who have taken a different path. People who have real ideas about what they want to create and do so without asking permission. Hence “Screw the Gatekeeper”. For a long time I was frustrated with the notion of only being able to do certain things as a photographer if I was hired by a client to shoot that specific thing. That frustration continued for years and years, until I realized my thinking was all wrong. Why should I wait to be hired to shoot something for someone else, only to make them a lot of money and build their brand? So much of my time (this goes for all photographers) was spent hounding people, brands, magazines, and agencies to get hired. 9.9 times out of 10 nothing came from any of that effort. Which I understand, it’s a numbers game, and there are a ton of photographers out there hounding the same people for the same jobs. But what if I took all that time and energy and put it into my own thing? I get the draw of wanting to shoot celebrities and famous athletes and having your photos on billboards. But why not create something for yourself that is uniquely your own? Something that shows your own ideas, that will attract people with the same interests as you, which will in turn attract clients of the same interests? The world is filled with enough generic bullshit. There are already far too many images of the Grand Canyon and Times Square. Create something different. That statement for me goes for everything. Every profession. I really enjoy seeing and meeting people who are doing things their own way, so that’s who I will be talking with on my podcast. Could be other photographers, craftsmen, chefs, brewers, artists, barbers from my book, whatever. People who are creating something unique.
I enjoyed talking with Ricky and hearing about his headspace throughout the process of growing their business to where it is now. Like most things, it wasn’t easy and that’s important to hear. Most people just see a successful business and think it was always that way. Which can be discouraging to anyone trying to start their own thing. If they hear someone working through all the ups and downs though, it can be inspiring.
Q&A number 4 in this series with a lot more on the way. This is a great follow up from last week’s post about Poo from Lefty’s Barbershop, as Brian Burt is the guy who originally started Lefty’s back in the day. Since then Brian has sold Lefty’s, started other shops, worked at some, and consulted on others. He’s been around, and to me, always seems like the the most professional of barbers. A guy that holds himself and other barbers to a very high standard. He embraces his less than legal past with no shame and uses it to better his future. Gotta love that.
FYI: These images of Brian were taken when he was cutting at Vinnie’s in Los Angeles. He now owns his own place (Lyle’s Barbershop) in Portland, OR.
Follow Brian on Instagram @lyles_barbershop.
“It’s not about how many tattoos you have….”
1) Where are you from and what did you do prior to barber college?
I'm from a small town in Washington State called Puyallup located about 30 miles south of Seattle. Days Before starting barber college I worked in construction part time and was selling and transporting large amounts of marijuana.
Can you tell me more about your time transporting marijuana?
Days before enrolling in barber college, I was a drug mule. I was spending on average 10 to 15 days a month transporting marijuana to other states via Canada. This was in the late 90's early 2000's and it was a big operation, I mean pounds of marijuana would come south of the boarder ( that's a whole other story) and I would fly up to Seattle from San Diego, rent a car, pick up the package, drive to Colorado or wherever and drop it off. Then I'd pick up the money and drive back to San Diego. I'd do this at least 2 times a month. I'd also invest in a couple pounds to distribute around San Diego as well, it was a very lucrative business for a 27 year old but once I hit my 30's the business was slowing down and I was burning out on all the traveling. I started transporting less and started working construction part time but I hated it. I hated getting dirty and being told what to do and the pay was terrible compared to the 8K a month I'd make on a transporting.
Back then I had hair so I was going to the barber shop every week. I was learning and studying the business model of this shop on my visits. And seeing that it’s a cash business and you're your own boss, it looked like my barber was having a good time and loving what he did. So in 2003 I enrolled and never looked back. Actually, I did sell my last 2 ounces of weed while in barber college.
2) You have opened and sold a number of different shops (including Lefty’s in San Diego). What was that process like and what lead you to sell?
Yes, I've opened 3 of my own shops, and consulted 2 other shops. I love the entire process of building a barbershop. I love walking into a empty space and having a vision of what the finished barber shop is going to look like. Selling or leaving a shop is always bitter sweet. You know, you've put all your love, energy, blood, sweat and tears into a space, then you’re walking away. But usually there is a nice stack of cash to help you feel better about your decision... lol
2a) What’s it like to see Lefty’s still pumping today as a staple in San Diego?
Man, seeing Lefty's up and running today is an amazing feeling. Knowing that a LOT of our original patrons are still going there today is mind boggling. I never thought a shop I started would be a thriving business 12 years later. I’m so stoked that it still looks exactly like it did when i opened the doors 12 years ago.
3) How have you seen your attitude change toward barbering in 15 years?
My attitude really hasn't changed much in the past 15 years as a licensed barber. I’m still hard on myself and my barbers. I still treat the client like they are the most important person in the room. I still have major OCD of keeping my work station and shop extremely clean and welcoming.
Can you talk more specifically about how the OCD plays out as a barber?
My OCD, has always been a struggle. Way before becoming a barber I always kept my car clean, shoes fresh ( wiping them down daily) so it has naturally carried on to my barbering. I dust off my patron at least 20 times during the service and get compliments from customers daily, " Brian, I can go straight back to work after you cut my hair, you never leave hair on me or my neck" lol... I clean and sanitize my tools after every single service, sometimes during the service as well. I make sure my barbercide jar is the clearest of blue as well. I used to post this barberside jar rant on IG and it would get a lot of feedback. My biggest pet peeve is a barbercide jar disgustingly full of hair, crammed with combs and a dirty straight razors hanging off the side, it would drive me nuts, lol..
4) After living and cutting in Southern California for so long, why did you leave and open a shop in Portland?
I moved and opened a barbershop in Portland for a better life. The pace of Portland is a lot slower than other cities I've called home, and that’s better for my sanity. The economy is booming here in Portland. Portland is a pretty big city but has a small town feel. I also knew with my work ethic and barbering style I could bring something special to Portland. There aren't a lot of "traditional barbershops" that look, feel and operate like Lyle’s. We are not just another barbershop. We’re a cornerstone to our local community, and we get thanked daily for opening in our neighborhood.
What is it about a smaller city that is better for your sanity?
The small city vibe is better for me. As I get older i don't like to be around a lot of people. In Portland there's less traffic, more parking, people are little more relaxed, there's a slower pace...I could go on and on.
5) Describe the mental roller coaster of moving to a new place and opening a new shop?
Man, the mental roller coaster is real, lol... upon moving to Portland I knew no one. I knew maybe 3 local barbers. I had to build Lyle’s by myself and the help of my wife and a couple childhood friends. When I opened I didn't have ANY clientele. The whole first month I was a sitting duck 7 days a week 10 hour days. Slowly but surely people started coming by and checking out the shop, then, thank goodness business started to take off.
What do you think lead to the increase in business?
I think we saw an increase in business because Portland doesn't have any shops like Lyle's or have many barbers carrying on the tradition like myself or Kris. Cruise around Portland sometime and see for yourself. Most of the "barbershops" look like salons or are run like salons. We focus on providing a traditional atmosphere and overall experience rather than giving beer and booze as an incentive. Things are changing around the world. Patrons are sick and tired of the gimmicks. They appreciate that we take pride in what we do and respect tradition. They want to feel like the barber gives a shit about them and the service we are providing. We don't do anything half ass at Lyle's. We not only wear smocks, we wear clean slacks and freshly shined shoes. We don't hide under hats or hoodies. We look our best because we take pride in the authenticity of being a BARBER! Even small details like music choice is carefully picked through out the day to set the ambiance and make everyone feel welcome.
6) Has the Portland barber community been supportive?
The barber community in Portland is very Supportive. Upon moving here, Rudy from Cowlick Barber Shop helped me out a lot with my licensing. The barber test in Oregon was not easy to pass. Once I was licensed, Sang from Throne let me work for him until I found space to open my own shop. So I’m grateful to have had that support. Now that I’m open, almost every week a local barber comes in for a cut, shave or to say hi and hangout. I like to say Lyle’s is your barber’s favorite barbershop. Barbers from all over the country have also made a point to come check us out on there visit to Portland.
7) Why do you run your shop the way you do?
In today's barber world I feel the barbershop has lost its roots and authenticity. 8 out of 10 barbershops around the world are looking more like a skate shop or tattoo shop. The barbers are dressed like they are headed to a music festival or something. Me, I was mentored by old ass barbers that had 40 to 50 years of barbering under their belt. So it was embedded into me how a barber should conduct himself, how his business should be run, how his haircut should be executed, how to show respect for the patron, and the most important part, how to provide the patron with best barber service possible. The patron should have the most positive experience possible. It’s making the patron feel at home upon there visit that makes them choose you. It’s not about how many tattoos you have. I could go on and on on this topic. But that’s just a couple of reasons I run Lyle's the way I do.
8) What do you get into outside of the shop?
Outside of work, I like to stay active and hangout with my wife and dog. As I get older my circle gets smaller. I enjoy cycling, riding my Harley, skateboarding, hiking, exploring Portland's food and bar scene.
9) Thoughts on the IG era of barbering?
My thoughts on the IG era of barbering: I LOVE IT?! lol ummm.. lets look at the bright side and then the down side. Some of the bright side, IG has opened the doors for so many barbers around the world. It’s connected so many barbers. IG has made it possible to be a successful barber without even owning or actually working in a barbershop. I personally know a handful of barbers that work out of their garage or private room or they just do house calls, lol.. It’s crazy to think that that's possible but with IG, it is. The downside we all know and see daily, barbers acting as if they are celebrities, or doing full on photo shoots after EVERY haircut, lol... its actually kinda sad seeing grown men/woman posting their every move, or selling there souls for a $7 can of pomade. I feel I'm lucky to have got into barbering before IG. It’s hard to explain, but before social media ONLY BARBERS WERE FUCK'N WITH BARBERING. Cosmos would never want to become barbers. Little Jimmy living with his mommy and daddy from the suburbs wasn't wanting to become a barber, there weren't any pomade or scissor salesmen, etc. But IG has opened the door to the barbershop without having to even step into a shop or talking with a old timer about the fundamentals of being a barber. So I feel IG has given a false reality of what being a barber is really about.
10) Where do you pull inspiration from inside/outside the barber industry?
I find inspiration in barbering from watching new and older barbers. I love seeing a brand new bright eyed bushy tailed barber cutting who respects the trade. They are always so excited and love what they are doing. The veterans are always inspiring to watch. I love going into an old ass barbershop that has an old ass barber in there, sit back with a bag of popcorn and a soda, and take it all in. Outside of the barber world I draw inspiration from the tattoo world, art world, and the service industry in general. We all have a very similar business model, we all work with the public, we all have to market ourselves. The more you work the more money you make, so I really like to keep an eye on how they are all moving in there own business worlds. You can learn so much if you sit back an listen. I'm still always learning.
11) Random thoughts on what you do…
Well, I feel we are all in this trade for the same reason to make money and have fun doing it. We go to work like every other job out there, but we are apart of something really special. Its hard to explain to people who have never set foot in a barbershop, but when you walk into a shop that's a well running machine, full of patrons, banter, talc in the air, bay rum spilling onto the floor, its a special thing. I'm so stoked that after 15 years of cutting hair I still have the passion and love for this trade. Barbering has given me so much, and that's why I try and do my part on keeping the authenticity of barbering going. We owe it to our forefathers that were standing behind the chair putting hair on the floor decades before we were even born. Whether you know it or not, all of us barbers make a huge impact on our patrons lives and our community. So show some fuckin respect to this trade got dammit!
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.
We had the release party last Sunday for my new book "Barbershops of America - Then and Now". The day was many things, but the word that comes to mind the most is humbling. There were a couple hundred people in attendance, with barbers that flew in from New Hampshire, New York, Indian, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, and Texas. That in itself makes me extremely grateful, knowing that the barber community trusts in me enough to do something like that. I'm also thankful to have been the perfect excuse to bring together so many people that support each other but have never actually met. Social media has connected them via the internet. The party though, gave them the opportunity to actually hang out. Barbers for the most part are characters, so it was fun to see so many of them in one place just hanging out and drinking beer. It seems from the response that everyone is really pumped about the book, which is all that I can ask. This project has been going on for 5+ years, and was/is an enormous amount of fun. When I look at the final product there are some things that really chap my ass and keep me up at night. Not sure there is any way around that unfortunately? In this kid of profession, or whatever you want to call it, there will always be those things that you want to change or improve. When I really think about the book though, it was made for barbers. So to have them embrace it is all the payoff I need. Next up, Barbershops of the World???
5 more days until the release party and it's shaping up to be a great one. The power of social media has really helped to spread the word, and the response has been humbling. Barbers from all over the country are flying in to attend which is cool on a lot of levels. Mostly because I'm excited for all of them to meet for the first time, while drinking beer and talking about the profession that they love. If you're around, come on down to Pig Barber in Costa Mesa. We're gonna have a blast and there will be a lot of treats being raffled off from Uppercut Deluxe, Irving Barber Co, Andis Clippers, and cold brew will be flowing courtesy of House Beer.
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.
Working with brands that you naturally click with is such a rad thing. I've talked a lot in the past about personal projects,and their benefits, but this is the perfect case. For the past 5-6 years I have been working on my barbershop project. And to be honest, it hasn't been until the past year or so that I've put much effort into getting it out there. That effort combined with the social sharing by people who are naturally pumped about the project has lead to exactly what I had hoped. Brands within the barber industry reaching out to connect with me. That's amazing. Like any other industry there are schwappy companies, and then there are those that stand out. Uppercut Deluxe is one of the later. I dig their brand and what they are all about. Ironic that they sell hair pomade as I have a shaved head, but whatever. Doesn't matter. I dig what they do and they dig what I do. Rad group of people too. So when Uppercut reached out about a collaboration, I was really excited. After just a couple short conversations we developed a way to incorporate both of our "products", and the video below is the first sample of things to come. I love working on these so much. The barbers audio really brings the images to life, and is something that people can connect with on a different level. Check back soon to see more of this.
Been almost two years since I stepped foot in a barbershop with my cameras, but a lot has happened since then. Seeing the barbers out on the street in India completely rejuvinated my passion for the this project. Not just with the old school barbers that I originally photographed years ago, but for the new class of barbers that have come up. Since I put out the first book, barbering has exploded. And while I think most of the new shops are a dime a dozen, there are a large handful of guys who take a lot of pride in what they do. And that shows in their shops. Over the past couple months I've had the pleasure of visiting a lot of these shops, and have been very impressed with what I've seen. Not that I'm the judge or jury, but I've visited enough shops over the past 5 years (1000+/-) to know whats real and what's shit. So I've begun the hunt for more of the hidden old school shops across America, which will be included in the 2nd edition of BOA. And I've also begun shooting a completely new project on these new school cats who are doing things the right way. A few days ago I completed the first portion of shooting, which involved 8 days on the road from southern California, up the coast to San Francisco and Sacramento. Was really happy with what I found, and can't wait for the next trip (It's not far away. I'm ready to roll). Stay tuned for more on the next book.
Go to the STORE if want a book or a print.