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Want to make a quick noticeable improvement to your appearance? Get a haircut. This week’s episode of Solo is targeted to men who need to shape up their head – both outside and inside. (Though the topics herein are likely useful for most anyone.) Peter talks to his long-time barber, Anthony Full, about the benefit of finding a good barber or salon professional.
Listen to Episode #11 here:
Dude, Get A Haircut.
This episode is targeted to men who need to shape up their heads, both outside and inside. The topics herein are likely useful for anyone. I talked to my longtime barber about the benefits of finding a good barber or salon professional. I hope you enjoy the episode.
Our guest is Anthony Full. Anthony is a 39-year veteran of the barbering and salon industry. He’s the owner of Rock Barbers, a modern-day old-fashioned barbershop. He cuts my hair and has become a friend, adviser and inspiration. Welcome, Anthony.
Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
To me, a barber should be part of a team for a man, single or not. I’m going to talk to other people who should be a member of that team. I like the idea of starting with a barber because of the dual role that a barber plays in a man’s life. That is shaping his physical appearance but also potentially shaping his internal identity, who he is, being a source of advice and so on. I’ll tell you a story. There’s this Bradley Cooper movie called Limitless. For the readers who haven’t seen the movie, Bradley Cooper is a struggling guy, a bit of a loser, but not fully a loser. He has the potential, he’s clearly a smart guy and he’s got this great girlfriend who ends up dumping him because he’s in a terrible rut. In the movie, he gets his hands on this drug called NZT. It’s a super drug. It turns him into a genius for a short period of time. I don’t know if you remember this in the movie, but the first time he takes NZT, he cleans his apartment. He’s spick and span. He tidied up his space. He throws out tons of stuff. The second time he takes NZT, he does a series of things. Do you remember the first thing he does the second time he takes NZT?
Did he finish his book?
He gets a haircut.
He got the haircut. He wanted to feel good.
Everybody loves a good makeover. When you look at a makeover show especially a makeover show for men such as Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, there’s always a haircut. The haircut is a big thing and then the clothing because those are the two things that in the near term you can change. It makes a dramatic improvement in someone’s life. Your motto for the shop is, “Dude, get a haircut.”
Yes it is. We’ve had fun with that. There’s plenty of marketing around that. Everybody loves that. We have a 1950’s businessman calling that out and it’s a little bit of a twist.
You think about this idea of limitless life and remarkable life. It helps to look good because looking good affects how people treat you and it affects the way you feel about yourself. I’ll give you an example from my own personal experience. I’ve always had not good to fair hair. No one ever goes, “That Pete, he’s got great hair.” As I started going gray a little early, I started thinning a little early, receding and so on. What’s interesting is when you have not so good to fair hair, it means you have to work even harder at making it look good.If you don’t try new things or put yourself out there, you’re limiting yourself. Click To Tweet
That would be the barber or the salon professional that has to work a little harder. You have to pay more lot.
You have to pay more often. I go more often.
The idea is how do we create something that fits your personality, fits your face, your profile, work with what you have to maximize, what you’ve got, and make it look balanced. Whether it’s the density, the wave, the color, or all those components build how we would create the best look for you. It can change over time too. We want to keep everybody current looking without looking silly and conspicuous. It’s our job to make you feel better and look better.
For a guy like me, I don’t want anyone to notice my hair. That’s the ideal haircut for me. It’s not even on the radar for someone. For other people, they have fabulous hair which you cannot notice it. When I was in graduate school at Ohio State, I spent two summers in Berkeley because my advisors had a summer home there and they invited me to come out to continue to do research. I was in my late twenties and I couldn’t pinpoint what made me do this. Something made me get serious about my hair. It might have been a woman or it might have been wanting to be more appealing to women. There was something that led me to do this. Despite being on a tight budget, I went to a very nice salon in Berkeley. This super sexy and cool hairstylist was there. I sat down in her chair and she said, “What do you want to do?” For maybe the first time in my life, I said, “I don’t know. What should I do?” She looked at my head and she’s running her hands through my hair and looking at all this stuff. She gave me the Clooney. It was in the late ‘90s. It’s a Caesar cut, which was a good choice for me. That had a big effect. I walked out looking and feeling way better. It was transformative.
She did her job and she did it well.
The second time that happened in my life was in my early 40s with you. You weren’t quite as put together as she was but my hair had changed a lot. I wasn’t still rocking the Caesar but I was doing something else that wasn’t quite right. I was contemplating starting to shave my head down.
I remember that. That would have been a not great idea. Apart from being a barber too is to talk people off the ledge because they’re frustrated. They don’t feel like they look great all the time and they want to. We can assess all kinds of things and give them the confidence that they’re looking for and ease of the actual way to manage that haircut and explain how this is done. It does make your day and it makes our day when we can achieve that.
In terms of making a change in your life, this is 101. One of the first things that you should do. Not everybody can come to Rock Barbers. I want to talk a little bit about this place because there’s something that I like about barbershops more than going to a salon as a man. Setting that aside for a moment, if someone’s reading and they’ve been going to Supercuts or Floyd’s. Thinking about what they should be doing, what advice would you give them?
The first thing that we want to do is ask them if they’re ready for a change. That would be where you start to build confidence. We’re going to lead them along a little path to find out exactly what they’re after. A lot of people don’t know and they use numbers, a two on the side and four on the top and that sort of thing, which is one approach except that you don’t always get the best result out of that because the head isn’t a perfect shape. You have to adjust. The density, color and wave take into account but we want to make them comfortable.
How do you find a barber who already has that orientation?
If you see someone that has a good haircut, you might want to say, “Where do you get that? Where do you go?” That would be a good starting point. When we all look at other people, we identify and say, “That haircut is something that looks like what I can do.” If my hair isn’t thick and wavy, why would I want to ask that person when I know I can’t achieve that? People are flattered when you ask them where they get their haircut. That’s a good start. You can look online and seek all kinds of reviews. That’s a slippery slope a bit but it gives you a starting point. The real proof in the pudding is going somewhere and sitting down and trying to communicate with that barber.
Recognizing your first try might not be a home run. I could have walked into that salon, sat down there and had a bad experience.
You could have and it might not be a home run. What you’re trying to achieve, which we do well here at Rock Barbers, is we create a relationship. That relationship builds that trust. We can talk about the hair and why this would be a better choice.
You’re looking for a barber who wants to have a conversation with you. What about the price point? Do you get what you pay for?
You get what you pay for but spending the most doesn’t necessarily mean that. There is a sweet spot. There are many great hairstylists and barbers that can achieve the results for you. It’s hard to say. It depends on their place that they’re in town, what is their rent cost, all those things go into the price point.
You have a sliding scale here depending on who the barber is.
Which barber and salon professional. It is based on many things. Their experience level, their client retention level, how in-demand they are. When you get people that want to come back to you all the time, then it’s this simple supply-demand.
You’ve raised your rates on me many times.
You can only do so much. That’s the thing.
We could talk to the economics of this at some other point. I get it. I always tell people who are good at their job to raise their rates even if it affects me negatively because I care about them. You’re looking for someone with experience, you’re looking for someone who can communicate, who’s going to listen, who you have some evidence that they know how to use shears and a razor and so on. Anything else, besides this idea of who’s going to commit to it?Be interested, don’t be interesting. Click To Tweet
If you walk into a place, it’s going to have a certain feel and ambiance and it’s going to speak to you in a way. That has been a big part of Rock Barbers but we want it to be guy-friendly. We want to have our toolboxes and our kegerator.
You’ve got basketball photos up. You’ve got this door from a Volkswagen Baja car on the wall.
We have guy-friendly products and it speaks to men. That is part of it.
There’s this primary thing which you’re there to get a haircut and then there’s this secondary thing, which is going to be there for 30 minutes or more. You might as well enjoy yourself. Having a space that is enjoyable ends up being important. One thing I like about Rock Barbers is it’s committed to giving men haircuts. You don’t do haircuts for women.
We will do haircuts for women but we focus exclusively on men and that’s our sweet spot.
You will do it for children but you don’t focus on them.
We keep the price point higher for children.
You charge more for children?
We don’t charge more but they’re not necessarily an easier cut.
Don’t you have a discount for kids?
We don’t discount for kids because we’re going to do a great job with them too. We do not fall into that trap. Since we’re in an adult environment, encouraging too many children imposes on our clientele in a way that sometimes gets out of control.
This place is female-friendly. You have female barbers, you have female receptionists, etc. It’s not broey.
It’s not. The idea too I want to express is that we don’t want to be that restaurant that carries all kinds of food. You lose your edge because you’re trying to do too many things. We know our strengths and that’s what we play to.
The story I like about this place was a few years ago, I was dating this woman and she had gotten interviewed for a story in Playboy. This was right around the time that Playboy had decided to go no-nude photos anymore. I was curious about what was this new Playboy going to be like, and so I subscribed. I travel a lot and what I was doing at that time was I would bring my magazines with me on the road. At that time, I have subscribed to half a dozen magazines. They would pile up at home. I grabbed 3 or 4 of them and brought them with me to the airport and I would read them at various times along the travel and then I would leave them behind for the next person, the pay-it-forward thing. This particular trip, I was getting my hair cut on the way to the airport. I stopped by and I saw you. I was early and I brought in one of the new Playboy without the nude photos. To be honest, it was a little slim. I was flipping through it in your waiting area and you have magazines in the waiting area like golf magazines and Men’s Health. You have some other fun Atlas‑y type of stuff and whatever. When I finished, I paid it forward and I dropped it into the stack of magazines.
I didn’t know you did that. One of the female barbers was rifling through the magazine and she’s like, “What’s this?” I’m like, “What do you mean what’s this?” She held it up and there we go. There’s the Playboy. I had no clue. How did this get here? Sometimes you get magazines sent. I thought, “At barbershop? Maybe they’re trying it out.” You got me the next time you came back.
I had forgotten I had done it. Four months later, it comes up in conversation among the barbers and the thing while I’m in your chair. I was like, “I know how that got there.” You’re like, “How?” I was like, “I put it there.” It was safe to put there, that’s why I put it there. I like the idea of having a barber who has a little patine. One of the things that’s cool about barbering is it’s making a bit of a comeback with young men. It’s fascinating this return to craftsmanship. You see this with 20-somethings and 30-somethings guys who are making knives by hand and so on. I see this rise of hip barbershops with sometimes having big beards or tats and stuff like that. Nonetheless, there is a seriousness about the craft. Going into one of those barbershops, it can be a good experience because you’re going to get a good haircut. It may be a little focused in a particular type of way, but at least the guys are using high-quality materials. They’re competitive. It’s a neat space.
Everybody’s got their edge. We consider ourselves handcrafters in the sense of that old-world craftsmanship. That’s what you’re describing. I see that all over the country now. It’s almost like micro-brewing beer. It’s the same thing. A lot of passion for it, a lot of detail-oriented people, and they’re interested in delivering the best service to their clients that they possibly can. It’s not Floyd at Mayberry anymore. It’s a cool interesting person that’s starting to grab on.
When I go to one of these guys, I get a good haircut and sometimes we have a spirited conversation. What ends up sometimes happening, not all the time, is I find that the roles might reverse. You’re ten years older than me but sometimes these guys are twenty years younger than me. To me, the cream, the gravy, the dessert is when you have someone cutting your hair which you can ask hard questions to, “I’m having this problem, what do I do?”
We find that regularly especially with my clients. Except for their immediate family, I know my clients better than their doctors and co-workers. It’s the sacred time during this haircut and we talk about everything like family, situations, divorce, relationships and we listen a lot. We’re like a psychologist almost. A lot of people say, “It’s a cheap way to get a psychologist plus I get a haircut.” It’s a gratifying way to build that relationship, maintain and build that trust between both of us.Live from your heart, do everything that feels good, and be proud of yourself. Click To Tweet
Without naming names, do you have any stories in terms of interesting things that’s happened in your chair or places where you feel you’ve had some effect on someone?
I would say regularly you make an impact. There was a client who’s very successful, a younger guy, active, he’s an entrepreneur to the nth degree. He was talking about how he was over-extended and it’s the first time in his life that he might have over-extended himself. In terms of responsibilities and financially because he’s taken that risk. He’s risk-tolerant. He’s younger, but anybody is entrepreneurial. He’s single and he can grab life by the horns. He was feeling down about this whole thing and it was something that he’s never experienced before. You talk them off the ledge and say, “Everybody’s got a trunk of evidence against themselves that’s worse. Everybody from the outside looking in does not see that. Step back and take a deep breath and you know how to do this thing.” At the end of it, we were feeling good. He was feeling grateful for the whole thing. We have a huge impact on a lot of lives. That would be one example. We talk about everything from medical issues to, “This is my first baby. My wife’s this, that and the other. I don’t know how to react to this whole thing.” We talk about relationships and dating a lot.
You and I talk about business and relationships mostly. I’m asking you about your business and you’re asking me about my work.
It is give and take because we’re always looking for advice too from behind the chair. We know our deficiencies and we know our expertise but we can always use a little bit of help.
You still haven’t fixed my major gripe which is I don’t want to have to run my card. I want to walk out of this place.
We’re developing some software that can do that for you the minute that you walk in, it recognizes you and we can miss that out. It’s coming along.
I’m excited about that. Men get a bad rap about their communication skills. What you have to realize is that the way men communicate sometimes can be different. There’s a lot of what I call parallel activity. It’s like you’re playing golf with your buddies, you’re playing tennis, you’re on a hike, you’re getting your haircut, you’re working out at the gym, you’re changing the oil in the car. I don’t think anybody changes the oil in the car anymore, but you know what I mean, these kinds of things. It’s that time where you’re not sitting, not like we are right now face-to-face, looking at each other, where a lot of stuff gets talked about. It’s not always over brunch. You may be at a bar, you’re sitting next to the person not across from the person. Barbering sets up the space seems safe. It’s a place you can say words that you wouldn’t normally say at work. You can curse, you can be a little cheeky, but you’re also not looking into each other’s eyes and having to say, “I’m scared about this.” It opens up that level of communication that some guys thrive in that style.
We do communicate eye-to-eye but it’s through the mirror. It’s not face-to-face but it’s sort of face-to-face. There’s a comfort when you’re sitting comfortably and most people like their head being touched or combed.
There’s work on this, it releases endorphins.
It makes them feel comfortable and relaxed. When you create that relationship, they’re willing to open up. I’ve heard a lot of things that I can’t repeat. I always say we make a priest look like a blabbermouth because we’re sure that we don’t breach that trust between a client and barber relationship but we’re willing to listen and talk and we do enjoy that.
I want to shift a little bit about some of the ideas around this show. I like this idea of you’re going to begin to live a remarkable life, “Dude, you should get a haircut.” There’s a lot more to that and I want to work throughout loud and these are not set in any way with someone like you, some of the ideas behind this. You know the guy who the idea behind this show might resonate with. He sat in your chair a thousand times. What got me thinking about this is you have a personal life vision that you’ve written down that you live by. Everyone starts each day with genuine optimistic excitement. I love the idea that I have a saying, every day is a big day. You get up in the morning and you’re looking forward to your day. That’s a good vision to have. To have integrity in your actions and achieves confidence and self-respect.
If you’re a high integrity individual, you can live a confident life and people are going to respect you even if they don’t always agree. Lastly, continued personal development leads fearlessly to your life’s passion and purpose. The idea that you’re never finished working on yourself. As I said when I opened this up, you’re an inspirational person for me because one of the things I like about you is you’re still hustling. You’re constantly working on shaping this shop, making these little changes. It’s a great shop. It’s doing incredibly well and you’re constantly honing little things, then you’re working out other. You’ve got this Barber’s Pole that you’re launching.
It’s getting close. In Barber’s Pole, what I’d like to do is to get this app into the barber’s hands and all across the country. We compare the question of the day from Manhattan or North Dakota and figure out what men are thinking in this world. We can compare that granularly zip code-wise. Nobody has to give out any information. It all lives on the barber’s phone. It’s private. We can gather a lot of data around what guys are thinking. It’s fun and interesting.
You’ve launched your own line of products. You have Rock Tools or shampoos and body washes.
Styling products and shave line.
Why give American Crew your money?
It’s almost like microbrewing again. We’re finding what we believe works and what’s healthier and better than 1950s chemistry.
You’re launching Buzz Box or mobile barbershop.
We got our second one in. We take that around to corporations or office parks where there’s a population of people and they can book online. They come right outside and get a great service in our toy hauler trailer that’s got 2 or 3 chairs in it. It’s a great service.
You’re doing this in your professional life. You’re doing this in your personal life. You’re fit, you’re healthy, you travel, you’ve got friends, and you have a family. You’re a good person to talk about these kinds of things. To me, this is about living a remarkable life. Sports have their place in life but it should have a small place in life relative to all these other things. Things like travel and talking about art and this idea of craftsmanship, entrepreneurship, and the kinds of things that can be incredibly stimulating and also rewarding in part because you’re doing more than consuming. You are creating. That’s another idea that I’ve been working through in my head.
I love that idea of creating because if you don’t try new things or put yourself out there, you’re limiting yourself. How can you be your best self? How can you expand without taking some risks and learning a few new things and experiences and stuff? It doesn’t mean you have to love it but the idea of experiencing it. I remember a long time ago we were talking about dating. It’s always stuck in my mind, and I’ve passed this along to a lot of people that are interested in dating but don’t seem to be connecting very well. You said, “Be interested, don’t be interesting.” Being interested is a magnetic idea. Being interesting is like you’re trying too hard. You’re living life and you’re interested not only in learning new things, but you’re interested in the people that you’re interacting with. That was what makes you interesting.
I’ll give you an example of something like this. I’ve been reading this book called Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. I’m sure Cal’s name will come up in the show in the future because he pushes this craftsperson perspective. This is a book about being optimally involved with your phone, your computer more or less, recognizing what a distraction is, recognizing how this is a brilliant device but also gets in the way and so on. He has a lot of prescriptions about how to make a change, how to reboot your relationship with your phone. One of the things that he said that I liked was, “Once a week, make something or fix something.” It was perfect timing because I have a TV, a sound system, an old DVD player like old school. There are a ton of wires behind that television and it’s like a rat’s fest. I’m a tidy guy. No one can see it but I know it’s there and it’s like, “I should get to that.” It seems a bit intimidating because I’m also not a DIY guy. Everything works. Why mess with it? I know I had to do it and after I read this thing, I was like, “Perfect, I’m going to fix something.” The nice thing about that is you’re not checking your phone in the middle of that job. I’m in there fighting the dust bunnies. I’ve got my zip ties and I’m unplugging everything.
You’re tracing all the lines, looking for the best optimal way to place.
It took me an hour. First of all, it didn’t take as long as I thought it was going to take. It seems daunting. I know I’m off on a tangent. When you’re reading books, when you’re going to the museum, when you’re going out nature, and when you’re having coffee with people, it allows you to be interested in doing these things is my point. It’s beneficial because your life gets enriched because of it. It gets beneficial because if you are interested in dating, now you have the stuff to talk about. You have stuff that you can do that your partner is likely to appreciate rather than talking about who’s going to win the playoffs.
All those experiences helped create you anyway.
You have these lofty personal goals that are part of your vision. It is important to have an overarching perspective when it comes to making something like this show. I’m wondering if you have advice for me as I move forward knowing who’s this for and what I might be thinking about.
I guess it was the Chinese who said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” I love the idea of moving forward, baby steps all the time. You’re never going to get it right all the time but you’re going to learn a lot all along the way. I believe that what you’re onto here is something that will be valuable, will be readable and provide not only the readers with some interesting ideas. For you, I believe you’re doing the same thing. You’re stretching, you’re trying new stuff and there’s nothing wrong that you’re going to do here so keep going.
It’s interesting thinking about that. The uncertainty associated with it knowing that if I do this well, there will be people who don’t like it. It’s funny, I teach this stuff. I have this lesson and I’m working on this new project called Shtick to Business. One of the lessons is called Create a Chasm. It’s about how comedians focused on their target market. They want people laughing and if other people are upset about the jokes, they don’t care as long as their audience is happy. I talk about this idea of don’t serve warm tea. You either serve hot tea or serve iced tea. You try to serve warm tea and make everyone happy, no one’s going to be happy. This show is an instantiation of the idea of how do I make hot tea for readers who want hot tea? In closing, reflecting on our conversation at these two levels, we’ve talked about two levels. One is the outside of the head and shaping that and then the inside of the head and shaping that. How can a barber help with both of those things? Do you have any closing advice that you would have for our readers?
My personal life vision is to constantly be striving and try new things all the time. Some will stick, some won’t, but it doesn’t matter. The action that you’ve done is the most important part of life. Live from your heart, do everything that feels good and be proud of yourself. That would be a successful life. Create something for yourself.
One of the things that you’re saying is this notion about development. It’s knowing that you can be proud to know that you’re making these kinds of changes, making improvements. Sitting with the status quo is not going to work for you very long. When you find deeply unhappy people, when you find people who are struggling, not like the entrepreneur that you are talking to but truly struggling, it’s because they’re not working on that growth. They’re not being proud that they’re working on the growth.
A smart guy one time told me, “The world does not reward those who dabble.” That’s what I would say is a solid way to go. Do it or don’t do it, but don’t dabble.
Anthony, thank you for doing this. This has been fun. I appreciate you opening your space and sharing your experience with us.
Thank you, Pete. Best of luck with everything. You got this.
- Rock Barbers
- Digital Minimalism
About Anthony Full
Anthony Full is a 39-year veteran of the barbering and salon industry. He is the owner of Rock Barbers, a modern-day old-fashion barbershop.
He cuts Peter’s hair and has become a friend, advisor, and inspiration.
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