Last time we were in San Francisco was literally back in 2013 when we filmed two of our early YouTube videos with James Lizotte at the then recently opened People’s Barber on Polk Street. Since then we have seen People’s Barber grow, as has our video production over the years.
Back then, we were very new to YouTube with only a few videos under our belt from India, Turkey, and Europe. People’s Barber was the first shop in the USA we approached to film with. We were a little worried about how we would be received since we only had a handful of videos to showcase our work and what we were doing with our YouTube channel.
The Very First Barbershop We Filmed With In The USA!
Well thankfully, James agreed to the filming and welcomed us into the shop! We filmed two videos: The San Francisco Haircut and The San Francisco Wet Shave.
For all of you who have been with us since the early days of our channel, you know we used to add background music to our videos. So many of you gave us feedback about just having the natural sounds of the barbershop. This ultimately aligned with our goal of recreating an immersive soundscape.
As we filmed more, we were able to improve capturing clean audio. Consequently, later barbershop experience videos on our channel focus on the natural sounds and do not have background music added.
With each new video we filmed we learned so much. When we originally filmed in San Francisco, we didn’t think about turning off the music in the shop. Thus resulting in music copyright violations with our footage. So we added a licensed music track playing loud to hide the unlicensed music, but unfortunately it blared over everything in the video.
The other thing is that talking with James and hearing his story about how he started out with cutting hair inspired us to begin filming the barber chair interview series.
When we knew we would be in the San Francisco area again we didn’t hesitate to reach out to James to suggest filming another video. It was also a great opportunity to catch up on all the exciting things happening at People’s Barber to share here on our blog.
It Began With Mohawks
For those who do not know, James is a partner and manager at People’s Barber in the Bay Area. James got his start in the industry in his youth as a “surfer skater little punk kid” from southern California who got chased off by Burt the barber after asking for a mohawk. James and his friends all wanted to be punk rockers so they had to have mohawks.
“We wanted to be punk rockers but we didn’t know exactly how to go about it, and we did know that if we want to be punk rockers we had to have mohawks.” -James Lizotte
Undeterred by Burt hounding them out of his shop with a shaving strop in hand and threatening to tell his mother, James acquired a set of clippers and promptly messed up all his friends’ hair. Eventually, James got it right, “next you know we all had mohawks.”
That was over 40 years ago and James still enjoys cutting hair today. Less requests for mohawks, more contemporary tapers and textured haircuts. “I still haven’t lost any of that joy of cutting hair,” James told us, “It’s just amazing.”
A Serendipitous Meeting
After moving to and working in San Francisco, it was James curiosity that got him to People’s Barber.
The original shop on Polk Street was in the process of being worked when it caught James eye. One day he wandered in and found People’s Barber founder Mark Cameron inside. After a long conversation about the shop and barbering James asks, “Who’s your hair guy?”
“Well,” Mark replied, “hopefully you!”
Shortly thereafter, they were working in the shop and Mark says, “Hey, I don’t like to do this kind of stuff alone. Do you want to come in with me and be a partner?” James replied, “Absolutely. We can do it. Let’s do it.”
James views himself as being fortunate and in the right place at the right time, but the work he takes very seriously and is present in the shops daily.
Each Shop Brings Out Its Own Character
People’s Barber first opened on Polk Street in July 2012. It took three years of building up and developing the People brand before branching out into a second location in Oakland. Another year later the Mission District location was opened and most recently a fourth shop was opened in South Beach.
The shops share their own character and culture. “Each one of them has an amazing personality just like the guests that come in here,” James adds.
“It’s one of the last real personal services.” -James Lizotte
People’s Barber is based on a premise that each shop and the services provided are truly for and by the people. An enjoyable place for barbers to work and share their craft. Bringing back the barbering profession with a new authority using current technology and customer service. “We work with the people by the people,” James adds, “to create a luxury service for all.”
“A haircut just makes you feel good. That’s what a haircut does.” -James Lizotte
Customers can also bring their experience home with a new line of People’s products. Currently stocked at all the People’s Barber locations, but a new website and online store will make them accessible to all very soon.
The product line is a consolidation of years of professional experience and customer awareness. The line is small now but growing and includes pomades, shampoo, and conditioner. Each product James worked closely on to assure a continuation of the People’s Barber experience beyond the brick and mortar shops.
“We now have our own shaving product line,” James adds, “which is amazing!”
James is in the shops everyday and calls himself a “fortunate man.” Referring to each one of the People’s Barber shops as being like his children. The result of lots of hard work and nurturing. The advise from James for anyone starting a project or business, and we could not agree more, is to be prepared to work hard, stay consistent, and “you’ll be rewarded no matter what you do.”
Peoples Barber & Shop
1259 Polk Street
San Francisco CA 94109