The Proper Barbershop

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

Click here to read the last Q&A with Pig Barber.

Click here to check out Barbershops of America.

Click here to check out my barbershop prints.

“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!”

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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? 

Nope!

Eagle & Pig Barbershop

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.

Click here to read the last Q&A with Josh from Lucky’s Barbershop.

Click here to check out the book.

Click here to check out my barbershop prints.


“…..my “school” believes that being supportive is much more beneficial than being a dick.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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Lucky's Barbershop - New Hampshire

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

Click here to read the last Q&A with the nefarious Dr. Pugsly.

Click here to check out the book.

Click here to check out my barbershop prints.

“After escaping school, I ended up cruising around the country in a 1977 B-100 custom van with Aerosmith airbrushed on the back.”

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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.

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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!

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

Favorite bands?

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!

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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.

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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. 

Joe's Barbershop - Chicago

Joe’s Barbershop in Chicago is a rad place. And that’s a fact. Not an opinion. Maybe it’s the history or the general attitude of people in Chicago, but I really dig Joe’s. It’s got something special. Joe Jr. is an old school cat, so I loved hearing his brutally honest answers about what has happened in the shop since Papa Joe started it back in 1968. If you’re ever in town, be sure to stop in. You won’t regret it. I try to every time I’m up that way and he always takes care of me. Bastard got me rolling on a serious giardiniera habit that I can’t seem to shake though.

Follow the shop on Instagram @joesbarbershopchicago1 or on their website at www.joesbarbershopchicago.com

Click here to read the last Q&A with Steve Purcell; owner of Uppercut Deluxe.

Click here to check out the book.

Click here to check out my barbershop prints.

“You don't see plumbers wearing gold plated monkey wrenches around their necks…”

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1) What did you do before becoming a barber?

I have had my fair share of jobs in my 39 years on this planet. I have done everything from selling 18 Wheelers, to doing contract work for Harley Davidson corporate, to washing cars at a Lexus bodyshop. Most of my "career" could fall into the marketing / advertising world I guess you could say. Not going to college for a piece of paper always got me in the door at the lowest level, and then having to prove to upper management that I wasn't a complete piece of shit I would rapidly move up the ranks. I hate corporate America for the record. 

You sold 18 Wheelers???? How did your random jobs prior to Joe's translate or help what you do now?

Indeed I did. At the ripe age of 23 I handled the largest fleet accounts for a local freightliner dealer pretty much next to O'Hare airport.

It wasn't a bad gig, but it was more a career then a "job" so to speak. You cant just start in a job like that and expect to make any money. The older guys I worked with had been their 10-15-25 years and due to that were making a very nice living. 

My list of random jobs before I started in the barbershop has definitely helped me for sure. I always say I am glad I did have other jobs before starting in the shop with my dad, rather then just going right from high school to the shop. I have had both cool and asshole bosses, had to work holidays, had to miss events and such because I had to work, etc. Plus even today I consider myself a shop barber first, then an owner. I would never expect or want something out of my barbers that I wouldn't want to do myself (if that makes sense). 

2) Your old man started Joe's in 68'. Did he encourage you to follow in his footsteps? 

He didn't. If anything he told me to "stay away" from barbering all together. Just like his father (who was also a barber) told him not to get involved in the trade. All I heard growing up was , "use your head not your body" and " don't deal with the public" but here I am working in the shop. My father started teaching me to cut hair when I was in the 7th or 8th grade. One day an old Paidar barber chair ended up in our small 1 1/2 car garage. I didn't think anything about it because weird shit was always showing up on my pops garage (usually to be sold in the barbershop as back then it was more stolen merchandise trading post then barbershop). But no, that chair was there for a reason ! So for the next year or so every other Sunday before I was allowed to do anything I might have wanted to do I had to give my pops a haircut and a shave. Each time he would change it up on me, as last time I gave him a #3 on the sides with alittle off the top, and now this time he wanted a full cut done with shears left full in the back. Not knowing then what he was doing I thought he was just being difficult (which he still does very well at 72 years old), but now as I'm abit older I realize he was showing me different ways to cut hair. For the next few years I would cut my neighbors hair, friends, relatives over for holidays and such, etc. I bought my first car (a 1985 Toyota Supra) off the money I made doing garage haircuts.

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3) What was the transition like when you started there and later convinced him to expand the shop? 

My father didn't want me to get into barbering, let alone work next to him in the then small / 250sq.ft. shop that he had called home / sanctuary away from his family since 1968. So after getting some of his family and my mom to talk to him he agreed. I graduated barber college and started full time @ Joe's in September of 2010 and literally could do nothing right (still cant in his eyes). At that time it was a two chair shop and with abit of effort and using what social media was around then we started to get busier. About 6 months in I started telling him we needed to clean up the shop abit and add a third chair (which we could barely fit). Of course this was answered with a no and a shaking of the little mans head. How could it be a good idea if his son was the one who thought it up? So after a few months of fighting he finally let me add the third chair. After hiring on a third barber it wasn't even a week before that third chair was part of the shop and we could of used a 4th. This was also around the time that our part of Chicago aka Logan Square was going through a change for the better aka "gentrification" if you wanna go down that road, so allot of young dudes were moving into the area around the shop and needing a good haircut. Fast Forward to 2013 and the shop had become a monster. We were winning every sorta social media "award", mentions in national publications, being used for tv and movie shoots, etc. Open 6 days a week with 5 barbers working 3 chairs (in rotation) six days a week averaging a 2 hour wait everyday. We extended our hours and just got busier. We raised our prices and just got busier. Sounds good on paper but was hell working in the shop back in those days. So after another year or so of fighting and bitching with the small man I finally convinced him to let me knock out the back 2 bedroom apartment and expand the barbershop to its current size. The conversation went like this:

“Dad, we need to expand the shop.

No

Dad, we are losing 20-30 customers a day due to them not wanting to wait. We need more barbers and more room. 

No

Dad, Those 20-30 people leaving could be taken care of by the addition of more barbers. We need to expand. 

No

Dad, I worked with some banks and I will pay for the expansion out of my pocket.

OK, Do it..”

So basically when I told him I wasn't needing or asking him to cough up any money to expand the place he was cool with it. Typical old man Italian. So a rough timeline is the shop was opened in 1968. I started in 2010. Added a third chair in 2013. Expanded the shop to its current 1400sq.ft / 7 chair size in 2015. I officially took over ownership of the building and the barbershop in February of 2015. 

4) You're both characters and seem like pretty hard headed guys. Describe your relationship in the shop. How has it changed over the years?

This is a easy one. My father and I have NEVER got along. Not when I was little. Not when I was just starting off in the shop. Not as I write this. Not sure if its because we are too much alike? Are both super hard headed? Who knows. It is literally his way or nothing when it comes to me, and just me. He is not that way with his customers. He is not that way with my older sister. It is literally his attitude towards me and only me. Flash back to 2013 when the shop was insanely busy and I remember him and I got into it on a Friday night after the shop had just closed. I remember sitting him down in his chair and me sitting across from him and saying and I quote, "Dad, I can not work with you anymore. So, you are either going to retire, we are going to expand this shop so I can get alittle bit of distance between you and I, or I am going to drown you in the toilet by your size 6 feet." The expansion started to gain steam about a week after that. Fast forward to present day and my 72 year old father is still working four 10-12 hour days a week and is more feisty and up my ass then ever before. Him still working is really why I have the schedule I have . Working just 4 days a week in the shop and only working 2 days with him. Two too many...

How does your old man feel about where the shop is today? 

My father is the definition of " old school". He doesn't show emotion, and is definitely not going to give me any sort of praise for what I have done to / for the shop. It's just how he is so it really doesn't bother me. I have seen him be that way since I can remember. The proof is in the business the shop is doing, the amount of haircuts we complete every day, the amount of repeat business we have, and so on. That's how I measure success, not Instagram followers or how many t-shirts the shop sells. Hell, I give more shirts away then I sell. I am not one to hype myself up online, post pictures of haircuts, pictures of famous shop customers, or any of that crap you cant help but see online. The shop itself and what it is/has become is all the "creditation" I myself need. A smooth running shop with good barbers and good customers is all I can ask for, and I bust my ass to maintain that. 

5) Joe's is as I see it, a Chicago institution….

Tough question. I see it kinda in two ways. 1. Yes, 50 years, family business, son taking over from his father and expanding/growing business, etc.

2. No, Its a barbershop that has stuck around because the owner may or may not have been to stubborn to close it down / move it when the neighborhood turned into a ghetto in the late 90's. By just plain luck the neighborhood that the shop is in now is "booming". Barbering is stronger now then ever before. So, I am always torn when thinking of the shop as a "institution", guess it just depends on who I talk to. I can tell you one thing, barbers as of late could care less if the shop they work in has been around for 50 years or 5. As long as their Instagram accounts are popping and they are making $$$. The days of opening up a shop with say 2 dudes and having that crew around for the duration of the shop is long gone. So to answer the question Yes, Joe's is something special. And, no matter who does or doesn't work in the shop the shop itself will continue to carry on through the years.  

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6) How do you manage a shop of 7 barbers? What do you expect out of them? 

Out of all the jobs / tasks I have had in my life up to this point the managing of people / being a boss has been the hardest. I work in my shop alongside my barbers so I try and make the shop / environment a place where I myself would want to work (as I do work there). From the expansion and more room to what's on the walls to the music being played to how well the shop is cleaned (which I do myself). Do I hang out with my barbers outside of work ? Do I not because I don't want to be seen as their "friend" but as their " boss" ? Do I play the roll of " cool boss" and let everything I don't like slide ? Do I play the roll of "stern boss" and sit down with them once a week and tell them what they are doing wrong ? Either way or direction has its good and bad sides to it. I have lost barbers due to things out my control, like how my father acts. I have lost barbers due to the shop down the street offering them 5% more per cut. I have lost barbers due to my "attitude" which is really just how I am. I have lost barbers who wanted to work in an appointment shop because that's what the cool Insta-Babers are doing now a days. So I really cant win. I have paid certain barbers more thinking they would stay working in the shop and they left. I have given certain barbers more leeway in coming in late / leaving early to try and keep them around and they have left. So now my approach is kinda the straight and to the point kinda thing. 1. This is the shop and this is how it's ran. 2. This is what your going to get paid per haircut and that's not going to change. 3. You have a job here for life if you want it. 4. If I happen to have a issue with your performance in the barbershop YOU will be the first to know. I would say that this method has been going well but I lost a barber about 3 months ago and will prob loose another by summer (have a gut feeling which I am usually not wrong about).So, if that does happen we do what we always do, keep chugging on. Everything in the shop has always evened out in the end.  

7) Joe's is everything I love about a barbershop. There is a lot of comedy and you want people to have fun, but you also don't want any bullshit fuckery. Talk about that. 

I do run the barbershop with a heavy hand, and I am well aware that some people don't "get" it and take it the wrong way. As I am an asshole or think I am the shit or whatever. I even made a website called " the dirty" a few years back (its still up there - just do a google search of my name) where an old customer of mine (yes I know who he is) posted a pic and article of me slamming me for being a "tough guy" with a crappy beard. Do I care that he did that ? No, and kinda take it with a smile that I got under his skin that bad for him to take his time and write that. Same as I feel about YELP reviews that say things like the haircut was great and the shop is cool but I was told to hang up my jacket and wont go back, 1 star. Atleast the haircut came out ok is what I think to myself when reading those kinda things. As said before I try and run the shop as I would want it to be as if it was a place I went to get my haircut. I don't want to see a bunch of peoples jackets thrown on the waiting chairs when we have a perfectly good coat rack. It looks sloppy and takes up chairs for waiting customers. I harp on my barbers to tell their customers to hang up their jackets but sometimes they just don't do it. People talking on their phones, people with the legs stretched out so people have to walk over them, guys wearing sunglasses inside the shop, people who waste beers, people who think the floor is a good spot to put their full cup of coffee, Men in flip flops complaining about that hair got on their feet, men in flip flops in general, etc. All things that drive me up a wall and you better bet people are going to hear about in my shop with my name in neon on it !

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My first time in the shop I was wearing flip-flops and took some shit for it. I’ll definitely be leaving a bad Yelp review…

8) What do you get into outside of the shop?

I really never am "off" from the shop. No matter how much I try it is part of me. I mean I live upstairs ! But in reality I do more for the actual running of the shop on my days off then when I am behind the chair. Weather it be updating the website, social media whatever, lunch meetings with people about say a photoshoot in the shop, etc. This is what barbers don't see, the behind the scenes stuff that a good owner does to keep his shop afloat and floating higher then the other shops in the area. Sixty8 Provisional is a small male grooming product company I started back in 2014 which takes some of my time. Everything from product formulation to marketing to sales to fulfillment is all handled by yours truly. We sell it here at the shop, as well as 5-10 other barbershops and retail stores across the US. If it grows cool, if not its something to do which only compliments the barbershop in which it was created in. Sixty8 = the year my dad started Joe's. Also have two other "start-ups" that are in their infant stages that should do pretty well once their up and going. I have smaller roles in those so hopefully alittle effort up front can gain me some added income which would be nice. Besides the above I am into hot rods and classic cars, motorcycles, black haired tattooed women in heels, good food and booze with good company, etc. I have always said I can sleep when im dead.. 

9) Random thoughts about what you do....

I am a barber. Barbering is a trade like being an electrician or a plumber. Barbering is the oldest legal profession in the world. Barbering has put food on families plates, sent kids to college, paid for houses, cars, and so on for years. And yes of course I take what I do and my trade seriously and with respect. But, I can’t get a date to save my life on these online dating apps because when a woman see's "barber" as a profession It might as well say "doesn't make any money" to her. I love it when a customer in my chair asks, " so what else do you do to make ends meat ?" Or, " you cant really live of a barbers salary right?" . Believe me their is nothing better then rolling up to Chicago Cut (one of the best steakhouses in Chicago) in my 55 Bel-Air and some snobby older guy asks what I do for a living and tell him I am a barber. Just to watch his face go into some weird questioning look. Then you have these Insta-Barbers wearing gold barber poles around their neck and surgical masks doing backflips into crowds at barber conventions. I don't get it, but to each their own I guess. You don't see plumbers wearing gold plated monkey wrenches around their necks. Or electricians walking around with attitudes because of what they do. All trades, but barbering has something weird about it. I try and let the shop itself do the talking, rather then me myself posting every haircut I do in the shop. You don't see "Joe Jr. " stickers and t-shirts being produced but we make 20,000 Joe's Barbershop stickers a year to slap all over the world and have been since I started back in 2010. The shop is what's special, I am just it's care taker..

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10) Best pie in the city? 

No one in Chicago calls it "pie" so I'm guessing you’re talking about Pizza ? I like all kinds of pizza so I have a few different spots for each style of "pie" as you put it. 

Deep dish = Peaquads  (Lincoln Park, Chicago) for sure. Thin crust Italian style = Gigio's in the burbs (Des Plaines, IL).  Thin crust square cut or "tavern style" = John's Pizzeria (Logan Square, Chicago). Napoli style = Pizza Metro (Wicker Park, Chicago).

Rooks Barbershop

I’ve lost track of what number Q&A this is, but that’s probably irrelevant. This go round is with Justin King of Rooks Barbershop in Portland, Oregon. We met a bit of over a year ago when I made these images. The thing that stands out to me about Justin is that he’s every bit a business man as he is a barber. Maybe even more so a business man, which isn’t common to see in the barbershop world. He’s got a lot of irons in a lot of fires. Good dude and I appreciate his willingness to say what he feels regardless of the outcome.

Follow him on Instagram @hellandgrace and the shops @rooksbarbershop

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

Click here to check out the book


“In the Army, I’d bring dudes into the barracks and fade them out for a few bucks here and there”


1) Where are you from and what did you do before barbering? 

I was born in NY and grew up in Miami. Before becoming a barber, I was a paratrooper in the US Army. 

Did any of your experience as a paratrooper carry over into the barber world? Where did you get your business sense from?  

I think my military experience definitely gave me a good foundation to work off of. It imbued in me a very strong work ethic; an ability to just “get it done”, no matter what. Pair that with an aggressive east coast mentality and you’ve got a recipe for success. 

2) What put you into this profession? 

Ever since high school, I wanted to cut hair. Growing up as a punk rock kid in the ‘80s, I was always the one cutting and coloring everyone’s hair. I’ve always been good with a pair of clippers.

In the Army, I’d bring dudes into the barracks and fade them out for a few bucks here and there, and when I got out, I decided to take it to a professional level. 

3) You're very political with your thoughts and posts on IG, which is something you don't see a lot of barbers doing. Talk about that a bit...

I believe in using whatever resources are at your disposal to affect change in the world. My business is my primary resource and, in this day and age, it’s important that we speak our against injustice, bigotry, racism, etc. They always told me when I became a barber, “never talk politics or religion on the floor”, but fuck that. I’ve never been one to not speak my mind and if customers don’t like it, there are a lot of shops out there adhere to that ‘rule’. Personally, I believe Rooks built its reputation by being real, and I encourage my barbers to be who they are. 

What have been the positive/negative outcomes of your public opinions?  

I’ve lost customers over my public political opinions. I guess you could say that’s a negative. I don’t think it is. I’ve had people “boycott” my bar and other businesses of mine, but I just think they’re funny. You can’t boycott somewhere you’re not welcome.

4) When did the first Rooks open? How were you able to take Rooks from one shop in Portland to having 3 there as well as another in Hood River? 

The first Rooks opened at the beginning of 2009 as a one-chair shop in a little shed attached to a pizza joint. I had worked as a barber for a few years at another shop in town and had built up a large clientele. I took a big chance, opening  up Rooks a half hour away and was fortunate enough to have a lot of clients follow me. The barbering scene hadn’t really hit yet, so nothing like this was happening in Portland. I was the first shop to offer straight razor shaves and booze, and my shop gained recognition pretty quickly. After a couple years at that one-chair shop, I moved a few blocks up the road and opened a three-chair, bringing a couple quality barbers onboard from out of town. I had to hire barbers from California because there were hardly any in Portland. A year later, I added two more chairs. By then, our little shop was constantly busy and we had some really solid barbers. So, a year after that, I decided to try a second shop across town to cater to a larger clientele. A third one went in right in the heart of downtown Portland a couple years after that and the rest is history. We had become a Portland institution and a nationally-known name. The fourth shop opened up a couple years later but, unfortunately, was lost in a building fire. We quickly recovered and expanded to Hood River, Oregon just a year and a half ago, and that’s now our busiest location.

What went through your head when the fire hit? 

My first concern was relocating my barbers so that they’d still have work. I can deal with a little financial blow like that but I didn’t want my barbers to feel that burden. I also immediately began thinking of the way forward. A couple barbers wanted to start a Go Fund Me campaign to help me recoup some of the financial loss but I wasn’t having it. It was my problem to deal with, not everyone else’s. I had to view the experience as an opportunity to grow in a different direction and, ultimately, it enabled me to put time and energy into opening up Hood River.

5) How do you manage all those shops/barbers?

Very poorly.

No, but seriously...I put a lot of stock in my barbers and give them ownership in their shops. My barbers are free to be who they are, manage their own clients, handle their own money, schedule their own breaks, etc. I think the key to a successful shop is keeping your barbers happy. I refuse to treat mine like children. They didn’t pay $20k for barber school to be bossed around and make shit pay. 

6) What do you get into outside the shop? Hobbies, obsessions, etc. 

Business IS my hobby/obsession. I love creating something, building a brand, getting my hands dirty with the buildout process, etc. Outside of Rooks, I also own a pomade brand, a bar and a motorcycle shop. I create businesses based on my hobbies, so I’m never really working; just doing stuff I like.

7) Notable life fuck-up that ended up being a great learning tool? 

Hmmm....I think all fuck-ups should be used as learning tools. 

I tried many businesses over the years before opening Rooks, to no avail. Each time was a valuable lesson; how not to waste money, who not to partner with, etc. 

I fucked up a lot in my life, but I wouldn’t have been in the exact place I am if I hadn’t.


8) Advice for someone who wants to take that first step from being a barber to opening their own shop? 

Every endeavor requires risk. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and take those risks. It’s scary. Putting money down on a lease, going in without really knowing what the outcome will be..it’s serious, and it’ll fuck with your head. Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly. Your business has to be your entire identity, at least in the beginning. Brands don’t build themselves. Don’t be in too much of a rush. Wait until you’ve got several years of experience and a large customer base. Try not to take a loan out, even if it’s from family. You don’t want to start up already in a bunch of debt. Choose your partners wisely and, if possible, don’t have one. Certainly don’t have more than one or you’ll never make money.Make sure you know your brand, but be willing to adapt and progress. Rooks isn’t the same brand that it was when I started and we’re better for it.

Always be true to yourself and don’t compromise. 

Respect your barbers. They’re your most valuable commodity.

And DON’T BE COMPETITIVE. Support other shops and keep open communication with them.

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

I love what I do. Opening Rooks has been the best thing I’ve done for myself and my children.

That doesn’t mean starting a business is the best move for everyone. Some people won’t function in that position, others will flourish. 

And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just as honorable to put in an honest days work as it is to be an entrepreneur. 

Good luck in whatever you do!

Is the barbering community in Portland supportive?  

If I’m being honest...no, I don’t believe it is.

It’s getting there, for sure. But, there are still a lot of shop owners who view each other as competition, and that’s absolutely the wrong mindset to be in.

Portland is saturated with barbershops and could benefit from a stronger sense of community.

Good Times Barbershop

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

Click here to read the last Q&A with Joe from Al’s Barbershop.

Click here to check out the book.

“We really didn’t learn much in there other than playing craps, smoking weed, and skate boarding all day”

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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. 

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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. 

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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!

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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! 

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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.....

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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. 

Al's Barbershop

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

Check out the last Q&A with Cory from Golden Crown here.

Click here to check out the book.

“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.

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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.

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Golden Crown Barbershop

Golden Crown Barbershop is located in Laguna Nigel, CA and it’s fearless leader; Cory Danger is the subject of today’s Q&A. Over the years I’ve had a few interactions with Mr. Danger (who looks quite royal in the first image below), and if I was forced to use one word to describe him it would have to be jolly. He always seems to have a smile on his face. There is even something happy about the way he walks, which all makes sense after hearing what he had to say. I’m a huge fan of his answers because they really come from him and they are all very positive as well as informative. A lot of people are afraid to be outwardly honest and positive in settings such as a barbershop, so this stuff is cool to hear.

You can follow Mr. Danger on Instagram @goldencrowncory and the shop at @goldencrownbarbershop. Or at their website www.goldencrownbarbershop.com.

Click here to read the last Q&A with Brian Burt.

Click here to check out the book.

“I try and give my guys a strong sense of self worth and ask them to conduct themselves appropriately. It’s very much a mutual respect.” 

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

I live in South Orange County California. Been here most my life. Before I was a barber I bounced around jobs. I’ve always worked since I was about 13. My mom started her insurance business in our home and I was her shipping department. I remember when I was 15 I asked for a phone in my room and the next day there was a fax machine and a box of fax paper rolls. I had to deliver her faxes whenever they came in and couldn’t use the phone during business hours. So it was all mine after 5 and weekends! 

How do you think that experience translated into what you do now?

Its created a priceless value on work. It doesn’t matter how small or large the work load is I do something everyday. It’s like a steam powered engine, the fire must always be burning to keep the train moving. 

2) Your shop(s) have a unique feel. Can you talk about the thought process of building them and why/how you run them the way you do?

I worked in a few different shops before opening my own, 5 to be exact. I built the stations with every comfort I ever wanted. I believe today it’s known as ergonomic. The counter is 42” high so I don’t have to bend to get my tools. Each station has a sink, lather machine, paper towels, trash can, register, air hose and plenty of power. We share a hot towel cabi. That was the center of my universe, the rest is just to look cool. More for the customers to have something to look at then me. As far as the way I run my shops I consciously made the decision to take everything I didn’t like about people I worked for and do the opposite. I also put a lot of value on a barber being an independent contractor. I try and give my guys a strong sense of self worth and ask them to conduct themselves appropriately. It’s very much a mutual respect. 

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3) As the owner of 2 (soon to be 3) shops, you’re the “boss” of a lot of barbers. Can you talk about what that’s like and how you handle all the different personalities while still keeping the culture the way you want it to be?

I lean heavy on that independent contractor ideal that I mentioned. I have a set of standards I expect and within those parameters you’re free to be whoever you want. My crew has helped me develop a very good system of self regulating. Being a walk in only shop if one barber isn’t in sync with the rest it can damage the whole operation. I’ve got a couple of guys that are managers and do a good job putting out fires before they catch my attention. I hate to be cliché saying we’re a family but we are a very bonded group of guys and our loyalty to the shop is greater then an individual. I’m only the “Boss” when I absolutely have to be. 

4) What is the thing that sticks out to you that separates good barbers from great barbers?

Customer service. We are in the service industry and that should be the first thing every barber learns. Leave your shit at the door, it’s all about the person in the chair, not you.

5) What’s going through your head as you’re about to open the 3rd shop?

Pure excitement. Each time I open a shop I leave the previous one and work full time at the new one. I get to experience being a new shop owner again while simultaneously being a seasoned shop owner. 

What are the biggest roadblocks or hassles with opening a new shop?

At this moment it’s the city and permits. Every city has different rules and regs and if you miss one box that you need to check off the form it could push the whole build out back 2 weeks. Lots of I’s to be crossed and T’s to be dotted.

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6) When you stop and think about being a barber, what makes you feel the best?

The immediate connection I have with generations before me. I can meet a 75 year old barber and within minutes share stories, frustrations, proud moments or whatever it is and be connected. A brother in arms if you will. 

One of the most obvious differences between the old timers and your class is first impressions.Most guys now are covered in tattoos, so I’m wondering how the old timers normally react when you introduce yourself as a barber?

When I was younger it was definitely met with a guarded response. It almost seemed to start as an interview of sorts more then a conversation until I answered enough questions correctly. I’ve been a licensed barber for 12 years now, there’s no more vetting process. I can definitely say I’m guilty of carrying on that tradition of an interview introduction as well though.

7) What do you get into outside of the shop? Hobbies, obsessions, collections, etc.

I’m a single dad and I have a two boys that take all my attention when not working. I think now is a good time to say I don’t just cut hair and own barber shops either. I co-produce the MusInk Tattoo Convention & Music Festival here in Orange County as well as have several festivals I provide pop-up barber shops at. I’ve recently started an in house barber program for some action sports companies in the area as well. What I’m saying is my hobby and obsession is barbering and applying it to as many different avenues as possible. As far as collections go I collect old barber equipment and good times. 

I’m sorry, did you say that you collect good times?

Hell yeah man! I’m all about making memories and sharing experiences with friends and family. Forget a bucket list it should be a to do list. 

8) Where do you find inspiration within/outside the barber industry?

Entrepreneurs, rags to riches stories, the struggle! I love to learn about personal growth. I’m a biography fiend. Books, documentaries, podcasts, anything really. Real life happenings you know.

Within my world of barbering I don’t find inspiration, I find more comfort. I like the history of the trade. I used to joke that the last major breakthrough in barbering is when our tools became electric.

Are there a couple you’d really recommend?

Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table is an awesome documentary about a legendary restaurateur and New Orleans Icon. Petty: The Biography is the last book I read about Tom Petty and his life. Mike Rowe has a podcast called The Way I heard it. He does incredible 10 - 15 minute stories about all types of people through out history and reveals who it is at the very end. I think he's up to 100 episodes now, my kids and I like to listen to them while we're driving. 

9) Advice for someone trying to open their owns shop?

Don’t. Unless your city doesn’t have a good barber shop. If it has a couple shops already go to the one you can devote yourself too. That has a crew of guys you can celebrate and commiserate with. I’m guilty of stepping on toes with my shops but I’ve also had my toes stepped on a lot! Thankfully where I am it’s so over populated everyone can eat. 

10) Random thoughts on what you do….

Here’s some advice for anyone that’s been licensed for 5 years or less;

Barbering has never been more popular and profitable then it is right now. Find an old guy and listen to what he has to say. Don’t fuck this up for the rest of us!

11) What is your biggest career/life failure that has in turn caused you to change in a positive way?

I've had failures in life and career but they've never been negative. Positivity is a mind set that takes constant practice and application. For example, I had a barber supply and men's grooming shop for almost 3 years that I closed down. It was a conscience and calculated closure that taught me more then I could have ever imagined. I lost money, owed money, had to shut down a website, liquidate fixtures and product fast and way below what I paid for it. Then I had to explain to customers and friends and family over the next year why I closed it, constantly talking about my "failure." I chose to see the positive through the whole process. I gained new business experiences and lessons that the barber shop could never provide. Now I can take that knowledge and apply it to the barber shop and other business opportunities that come up. Constant practice and application.


Great stuff, Mr. Danger. Thank you.

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Brian Burt

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.

Click here to read the last Q&A with Poo from Lefty’s.

Click here to check out the book.

“It’s not about how many tattoos you have….”

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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.

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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.

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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! 

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Ron Talley - American Barber

Part 2 of ? in my Q&A series with barbers from the book. This time with Ron Talley of Electric Barbershop in Riverside, CA. Met Ron about two years (?) ago at the shop when they had sort of just opened. He struck me as a very genuine dude. No bullshit. Not the kind of guy who tells people what they want to hear, which I very much appreciate. He's a good person while just being himself. The world needs more of that. Before opening his own shop, he worked at American Barbershop (Corona, CA), Stay Gold (Pomona, CA), El Catrin (Santa Ana, CA), Monty’s (Nashville, TN), and  American Vintage in Whittier, CA. You can follow him on IG @ron_talley and the shop @electricbarbershop. 

Click here to read the first Q&A with Adam from Syndicate Barbershop in Long Beach, CA. 

Click here to check out the book. 

"I was trying to figure out what I was going to do. Didn’t have a car. Drivers license was suspended. Didn’t have a place to stay...."

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1) Where are you from and what led you into barbering? 

Born in Houston Texas. Moved a lot. We lived in a cabin on the Buffalo River 17 miles outside of  my mother’s hometown; Hohenwald, TN. My parents got divorced when I was in grade school. My dad and I moved to Redondo Beach, CA with family then finally settled in Diamond Bar, CA.   I was around 11/12 years old & that is when I met my friend and co-owner Roman Ybanez. His brother was one of my first friends that I met when I started school in the neighborhood. Growing up in Southern California was probably the best thing for me. Lots of different cultures and scenes. I was about 19-20 when I first met Dylan Johnson. He was a barber at Hawleywoods Barbershop. That is when I saw something special in Barbering. The conversations, laughs, shit talking, & everyone having a great time. Not because of the shop itself, because of the barbers and the relationships they had with their customers. 

I started barber school in Orange, CA at Hair California in 2009. I felt like dropping out the first day of school. I had zero experience in cutting hair and struggled more than most of the students in my class. School was exactly what all of my friends said it was going to be. A lot of youngsters that were there just because mom and dad told them school or work, and people that just weren’t taking it serious. For them it was more of a thing to do. Our instructor was a licensed cosmetologist that just received her barber license. She was great when it came to how to pass your state board test (extremely important) but most of the senior students had more knowledge of men’s cuts & styles. Having zero experience cutting hair made it extremely difficult on top of having a instructor that was almost the same skill level on men’s hair. Most of all, I was just in a bad place. Lots of personal things keeping me down & failure. But failure is the best lesson in my opinion. 

1a) Can you expand on "lots of personal things keeping me down...?"

Not a problem my brother. Before finding barbering I worked all sorts of jobs. Construction, retail, maintenance man,  motorcycle fabrication... When I was getting in to barber school I was laid off from working construction & the fly shop at Bass Pro. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do. Didn’t have a car. Drivers license was suspended. Didn’t have a place to stay. My wife and I were dating at the time. I have no idea what she saw in me. We were living in and out of sketchy hotels and motels during the week and shooting up to my uncles cabin in Crestline on the weekends. Since there was so much going on, and so many things in my life that I had to clean up that I just fucked off as a kid, it was tough. Especially having zero experience cutting hair. My dad let me borrow some money to get in to barber school so quitting was not an option. At the time if you went to school for a trade the gov was offering unemployment. I was definitely lucky that I didn’t have to work and go to school part time. So that and side hustling cutting hair (shot out haircuts), I was able to have a little cash to get my life back in order. We got a tiny duplex in Corona, I got my license, and a bucket of a car. I stayed in school & went to visit my good friend Dylan Johnson to pick his brain and learn as much as possible. Eventually passing my state board test and getting my career started. 

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2) What did you learn along the way? 

The “what not to do’s”. Not to half ass and cut corners. Not just the cleanliness & appearance of the shop. All the tools in the shop; the stations, barber chairs, hot towel cabinets, lather machines, lighting. Literally everything in that place is a tool that makes your job & your barbers jobs easier. That goes for service as well. Longevity is key. How do you expect people to keep coming back if you’re providing terrible service or treating them like trash? Not to disrespect your barbers. You provide a space for your people to grow but keeping in mind that’s all you’re going to have; just a space without barbers. It’s nothing special without the people that work there. Your business will not grow if you don’t allow your barbers to grow. Never tell your barbers “if it wasn’t for me”. The sun doesn’t rise and set in your shop homie. Do not be dishonest with your barbers. At the end of the day we are in one of the oldest trades around. We are here to service people and take care of them. Customers give us the opportunity to make them look good, feel good, and provide for our families. Don’t lose sight of that.

3) Can you talk a little more about the relationship between barber and customer?  

This one is another one that gets me pretty fired up! Over the past few years this trade has become extremely popular. Because of that we are seeing a lot of change. Just like anything else you’re going to get some really strange personalities. Barbers that feel like they are doing you the favor. Instead of being humbled and grateful for the amazing opportunities that we have just from cutting hair, they take it for granted and always expect way more. Our customers are the ones putting money in our pockets, food on our tables, & the clothes on our backs. I do not care how bad ass you think you are. How bad ass are you if there’s nobody sitting in your chair? We are blue collared workers. One of the oldest trades period. We provide a service. You should never feel like you’re too good.

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4)  When we first met, Electric was really new, and I think you guys were still kinda slow? Can you talk about what you've done to grow the business to where it is now? What specifically did you learn at the other shops about what not to do? 

Yes! The good ole days! We definitely had our share of slow days! I feel like we’ve grown as a team. Everyone gets involved and we try to move as a unit. Helping one another whenever there is down time with everything. Social media, google, & yelp is huge! Doing our best to keep fresh new content and pushing our customers to leave honest reviews. Hitting the streets and pushing that hand to hand with business cards and flyers. I feel like that is a lost art. So many people are quick to send a DM or an email. We did our absolute best to get out in our community and meet people face to face and spread the gospel of Electric Barbershop. Most of all is just keeping a good vibe in the shop. Making sure everyone is on top of their game. Pushing out solid work with a great attitude, keeping a clean welcoming shop, & making people feel like they are a part of something that is really special. 

5) Random thoughts on what you do...

Barbering has given me the opportunity to open a business. It has also given me the opportunity to be an Ambassador with Uppercut Deluxe, some of the best people I’ve worked with in my career. It’s amazing to think you can travel, see new places, & meet new people just from cutting hair. It blows my mind and I feel fortunate and grateful everyday.  

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Barbershops of America

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??? 

www.robhammerphotography.com/store

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Barbershops of America

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. 

 

 

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Barbershops of America

It's been really rewarding to see the reach that my book has had. When I started this thing over three years ago, I hoped for exactly these kind of results. It's been written about in a number of places including CBS News, The Chicago Tribune, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Gaurdian, Photo District News, and Shutterbug (to name a few). Which I'm very proud of, but not as proud of the fact that people have purchased the book all over the USA and in 9 foreign countries. Very humbling. If you want to check it out, or pick up a copy for yourself, go to barbershopsofamerica.com