Welcome to Part 3 of – Barbershops of America. A passion project by Rob Hammer created as a respectful nod to the traditions of an industry steeped in heritage and nostalgia.
Kenneth Hogan Sr.- Cuts and Bends Barbershop-Oakland, CA.
It’s easy to say that people from the south have “soul”, but that’s not always true. Just like assuming everyone in New York loves pizza. Kenneth Hogan Sr. grew up in Vidalia, Louisiana, which is just across the river from Mississippi. Knowing that, you would assume he’s got a lot of soul, and in this case you would be correct. He does. Just walk into his shop and you’ll feel it.
There are piles upon piles of artwork and so many books that you couldn’t possibly count them all. And tucked far in the back is his chair, with no more room than he needs to walk around it during a cut. His chair is literally surrounded by a wall of books. It works though, and seems natural. None if it’s been done for effect. He enjoys having them there within arms reach for whenever things get slow. Kenneth is a quiet guy that doesn’t need to say much, but when he talks you know there is something behind it.
His memory is incredible. He can perfectly recall events from farther back than I’ve even been alive. Like his first run in with a razor, when he felt a sting on his finger but was confused because it seemed as though nothing happened. Then 10 seconds later, the blood started. Which as he
remembers it, was probably the start of his barber career. A career that started at 17 years old (1954) by accident. Kenneth would hang around the local barbershop as a kid doing chores for money. And one day when the shop was empty, someone came in and asked for a haircut.
Kenneth obliged despite having no experience, but did a good enough job that the man paid him for it. So it began.
Years later he attended barber college in Oakland, CA. This was at a time when segregation was still very much alive. Just like everybody else, he was trying to earn money during college, but because he’s black he could never move up to the front chairs. The front chairs got first dibs on all the customers, so Kenneth just got all the scraps. Nevertheless he made it through, and began pounding the pavement to find up job in the Bay Area. Didn’t take long for him to realize that working for someone else wasn’t his thing. So he worked up enough money to start his own place, and somewhere along the line learned that he really liked being a barber. “And I guess now I love it”. Kenneth’s love for barbering is obvious.
A shop doesn’t come to look like his without love. And listening to him talk about his career just solidifies those thoughts. “Whether I cut no heads or I cut 15 heads, I feel the same”. Kenneth loves being a barber and loves being in that space. He doesn’t understand why people stop doing what they do. He thinks once you retire, that’s it, you’re done. Barbering keeps him going. Keeps him young. Keeps him moving around and keeps his mind sharp. He likes being challenged by people in the shop.
Kenneth’s was very inviting and couldn’t have been easier to talk with. He’s one of the old timers that the young heads should learn from. A lot of the old guys are bitter and stuck in their ways, but Kenneth understands business. More importantly he understand people and life. I don’t care who you are, sit down with Kenneth and he’ll teach you more than a thing or two.