Smitty's BBQ

I love BBQ. Everything about it. The smell. The taste. The smoke. The buildings. The pits. The process. Even the meat sweats. There really isn’t anything about BBQ I don’t like. Even take a lot of enjoyment out of the different sides that each place serves. Since I started road tripping X amount of years ago, there really hasn’t been a single one that didn’t involve BBQ in some way. That usually means eating it, but I’ve also began documenting it whenever possible, which obviously leads to eating afterward. Win win. Smitty’s down in Texas is as beautiful a BBQ joint as you’ll find anywhere. When you work up a mental picture of old school Texas BBQ in your head, Smitty’s is probably it, or damn close. Their pit room is the kind of thing I see in my dreams. Mouth watering smells, heavy smoke, and dark bricks that have been crusted over from cooking with fire for years and years. Smitty’s is the real deal. Love how the chopping block which was once a flat top is now worn in from endless hours of cutting and serving meats. I could hang out here forever……if there weren’t so many other good BBQ joints to explore.

FYI: If you visit Smitty’s get the sausage.

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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Pugsly's SideShow Barbershop

Way back in 2012-ish I met the Nefarious Dr. Pugsly at his original shop in Kingston, NY. No remembrance of how we came in contact or how I ended up at his shop, but glad I did. He’s an interesting cat and his place was the first of the “next generation” shops I came across where you could feel an immense amount of pride and a very high bar for service. His cuts are next level and it’s obvious that he wants his shop to reflect that. Since our first meeting, a lot has happened with him, including a second “sideshow” shop (featured below) not far from the original. During the final push for the last book I of course wanted to include his new shop, but the only time I had to photograph it on my trip cross country was Christmas Eve. He graciously took time out of his schedule to open up and even more graciously gave me a beard trim. Thank you, Dr. !

Give him a follow on IG @pugsly_dude or check out his website www.pugslysbarbershop.com

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

Click here to check out the book

Click here to check out my barbershop prints.


“This is a trade. It’s not a fashion show, it’s not politics”

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

So, I'm born and raised here in Kingston. I had the opportunity to spend some pretty personal time with most of our country traveling and playing music really early on. As far as formal work, I made most of my living around cars. I worked in a pretty standard repair shop for a while. Learned a lot. Basic car knowledge. Eventually found my way into car audio and custom installs. There, the crew had pretty free run of the shop. We all built a ton of rad stuff there! Lastly i found myself in a local Kustom shop. I'll always be grateful for that opportunity, the friends and lessons I took from that time. I fell in love with metal flake, fancy cast parts, and I received the nickname Pugsly. 

What is the meaning behind Pugsly? 

Pugsly was just a nickname I picked up in a small circle that spread a bit, for a min there. Sounded fun for a shop name... kind of low browy? Either way, that's why Pugsly!

What did you take from building cars that carried on to being a barber? 

Man, I worked in a garage with a group of my best dudes for years where we did audio by day and by night we had full range. We built some crazy stuff in that place! But we had some pretty gnarly work ethic.  You've never seen more organized boxes and work areas. We got really, really involved in our install work. I think I learned a standard there that I took with me.

2) You have 2 beautiful shops that I would say are on a different level from most. Can you talk about your process of putting them together? How does it start and how far are they from the original idea/concept? 

I built my first shop in last few months of 2007. At that time I was watching only a few different shops from the side lines. A couple of which were Lefty's, obviously out of San Diego via MySpace, and Robs Chop Shop out of Dallas who I had met and known personally through the car community. I was just trying to set up a very traditional, walk-in,  gentleman's  style environment. What I felt to be a 1940's style barbershop visually but my main focus was the product. Both the cut and experience riding the same level of importance. I pretty quickly established as diverse of a clientele as I had hoped. As time progressed minor, natural adjustment took place but for the most part Pugslys remains what it set out to be. 

The main problem I found with the original business model was the wait time. I was noticing negative trends concerning client retention. That sparked the idea for shop number two. Pugsly's SideShow was the solution. A small "SideShow" of a location that would except appointments only. With a little bit of a tongue in cheek approach in coordination with the name, the decor took a little bit more of a funky approach. It might be a little bit more representative of me personally.  The only thing I've seen changing and fairly rapidly with business model number 2 is the fact that SideShow started as a "small offshoot" but is quickly growing to the size of the original shop with the popularity of the more modern appointment set up. To be considered moving forward for sure.

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You seem like a fairly obsessive person? And I don't mean that in a bad way at all. Quite positive actually. Can you talk about how that translates into your shops and your cuts? 

So thanks? No, I think that's fair and I think that it helps with consistency and some organization within the shops. As far as the cuts and work ethic, I think our crew shares the same thing that the boys from Burts garage did. We feed off of each other. Push each other's standards a little. So it's good. I know we all get pretty nerdy about our haircuts sometimes.

3) Are there any specific factors that you can pinpoint which have lead to your success as a barber? 

I try to be cool to the people that make it possible to pay my bills. I'm hyper focused on giving the best product that I can start to finish. I feel very fortunate to be wired in a manor that I take pride in what I do. I think you have to really believe in what your doing if other people are going to believe what your doing. 

4) You have a great reputation for giving beautiful haircuts, but live in what a lot of people would consider a "small market". Kingston isn't in NYC, but it's also not really upstate. Can you talk about your decision to stay in Kingston as opposed to moving to NYC or LA or any other big market? 

I just wanted to open a barbershop. Every town needs one and my town NEEDED one. The little Hudson valley city that I grew up in was still moving pretty good when I was a kid and until the boom we've experienced in the past decade, I'm not sure how much I noticed the down time we went through. I've benefited from it, established a clientele I couldn't have predicted, but I guess I was just doing what I knew at the time.

 Would you ever consider leaving Kingston? 

Absolutely... We considerate it all the time. Just not sure what really gets better then this at the moment.  We got family, a cool crib, good people, the Hudson valley itself is just a rad place... it's hard to justify a move, right now anyway.

5) What kind of things do you see barbers today doing wrong? 

This is a trade. It's not a fashion show, it's not politics.

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6) What do you do outside of the shop? Hobbies? Obsessions? 

I'm a husband and a proud father. I love cars and motorbikes. I really like paint. I play music. Vacation state of mind.

7) Where do you see yourself in 5/10/25 years? 

Cutting hair. I couldn't have imagined almost 11 years ago that I'd have the support or clientele, established the relationships, or the crew that holds this whole project together. No matter where it goes from here I want to be cutting hair. I feel like that means slowing down sometimes. 

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8) Thoughts on the IG age of barbering? 

I've made so many friends, pulled so much inspiration, and traveled both domestically and internationally on behalf of my family from Australia, Uppercut Deluxe. All opportunities presented to me through IG. All though, I feel like I've seen some people loose balance a little when it comes to what really makes their world go around. 

9) Can you think of any major screw-up or failures in your life that ended up leading to something great? 

I mean, I guess high school was tough for me. Not that I couldn't do it, I just didn't want to and they didn't keep my interest. But I did invest myself in other things, some real deal collage at one point even, and one of them ended up being barbering. I'm pretty happy about that. 

10) Any barbers/shops out there that you look up to? 

Yeah! A lot of them! I don't even want to rattle off names because I'm afraid to miss someone super important... I have been in so many shops. I've taken so many things, inspirations, ethics, personality, from so many shops... it would be a big list. But my big brother shop is Robs chop Shop in Dallas. That's the guy that popped the bubble, made me think... I should just go to barber school already. 

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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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San Diego Festival of Books

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

Click here to check out the book.  

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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

Completely forgot to post last week about my gallery show for the Hoops Project in LA during All-Star weekend. Oops. It will be up there at Fathom gallery all month if you still want to check it out.  Also have another show at Culture Brewing in Encinitas for Barbershops of America starting next week.The book won't be ready for about a month, but I'll be showing a bunch of limited edition prints. Come on out to Culture and enjoy a beer. 

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Uppercut Deluxe

Working with brands that you naturally click with is such a rad thing. I've talked a lot in the past about personal projects,and their benefits, but this is the perfect case. For the past 5-6 years I have been working on my barbershop project. And to be honest, it hasn't been until the past year or so that I've put much effort into getting it out there. That effort combined with the social sharing by people who are naturally pumped about the project has lead to exactly what I had hoped. Brands within the barber industry reaching out to connect with me. That's amazing. Like any other industry there are schwappy companies, and then there are those that stand out. Uppercut Deluxe is one of the later. I dig their brand and what they are all about. Ironic that they sell hair pomade as I have a shaved head, but whatever. Doesn't matter. I dig what they do and they dig what I do. Rad group of people too. So when Uppercut reached out about a collaboration, I was really excited. After just a couple short conversations we developed a way to incorporate both of our "products", and the video below is the first sample of things to come. I love working on these so much. The barbers audio really brings the images to life, and is something that people can connect with on a different level. Check back soon to see more of this. 

Uppercut Deluxe

America

 Among the many lessons I continue to learn during cross country road trips, is that things inevitably come up. Things that cause you to deter from the original plan. And it's easy to get frustrated because you're time shooting in one place gets cut short, but it always seems to come back around. I used to be extremely high strung about this. When I got to a place, I couldn't relax until a shot was in the bag, which would sometimes take away from the whole experience. Now I like to have faith that the shots will come, just maybe not in the way I was expecting. Being open to that idea is a lot of the key though.  Sometimes the shots you originally had planned, turn out to be your least favorite anyway. So when you just go with the flow, and take advantage of situations that pop up, great things come about. This past road trip to Cape Cod and back was rushed due to other commercial responsibilities (a great problem to have). Even so, my time shooting on the road didn't amount to all that much. The set of images that resulted are far from my favorite. However, because I was rushed, it made me look for other places/times to shoot. And in the end, I am left with another batch of images and potential assignment/partnership that never would have otherwise happened. 

MORE AMERICA HERE

 

 

 

 

The Basketball Hoops Project

During my time on the road one thing I've always got my eye out for is hoops. I don't really see an end to this project. It will probably be something I continue to shoot for the rest of my life. That being said, it's getting harder and harder to find hoops that I actually like. Over the past 4+ years, I've come across some amazing hoop scenes, which means the bar is now set pretty high. So unless I find something at least as good or better than the previous ones, then I'm not shooting it.  These three are (in order) from Nebraska, Colorado, and India. 

Click here to see the rest of The Basketball Hoops Project

Barbershops of America

Been almost two years since I stepped foot in a barbershop with my cameras, but a lot has happened since then. Seeing the barbers out on the street in India completely rejuvinated my passion for the this project. Not just with the old school barbers that I originally photographed years ago, but for the new class of barbers that have come up. Since I put out the first book, barbering has exploded. And while I think most of the new shops are a dime a dozen, there are a large handful of guys who take a lot of pride in what they do. And that shows in their shops. Over the past couple months I've had the pleasure of visiting a lot of these shops, and have been very impressed with what I've seen. Not that I'm the judge or jury, but I've visited enough shops over the past 5 years (1000+/-) to know whats real and what's shit. So I've begun the hunt for more of the hidden old school shops across America, which will be included in the 2nd edition of BOA. And I've also begun shooting a completely new project on these new school cats who are doing things the right way. A few days ago I completed the first portion of shooting, which involved 8 days on the road from southern California, up the coast to San Francisco and Sacramento. Was really happy with what I found, and can't wait for the next trip (It's not far away. I'm ready to roll). Stay tuned for more on the next book. 

Go to the STORE if want a book or a print. 

Buffalo, NY

One of the many great things about road trips is the food you can find along your way. Some of it is totally random. And then there are places which are obviously known for a certain kind of food. Buffalo, NY is one of those places. Birthplace of the chicken wing. I'm originally from NY, so naturally have a deep appreciation for the chicken wing. Now living out in San Diego, it's hard to find a proper wing. So while traveling through western NY, I thought it only fitting to try the best. I'd never been to Buffalo before, and it seemed like a good enough excuse? Buffalo itself was a pretty cool place. Has a very "neighborhood" feel to it. Like everything is friendly and local. The outskirts though, were much different. Lots of deserted old factories. Great for shooting. And had it not been for the chicken wing, I never would have stumbled on this scene. Sometimes it pays to eat. 

TRAVEL.MORE. 

Rob Hammer