Melding alternative cultures to create community
Photography by Tina Sargeant
Mixing the words “barbershop” and “skateboard” might conjure hilariously odd images of barbershop quartet singers in full red-and-white striped suits and white handlebar mustaches rolling on skateboards, or some kind of new über-hipster phenomenon. Admittedly, some of the problem in combining the two stems from the stereotypes associated with their conventional respective cultures — the barbershop as the black man’s haven and the skate park as the white dude’s domain.
Jairus Rutherford, the owner and operator of Lakeland’s Second 2 None Barbershop since he opened it in 2007, knows that nothing could be further from the truth. In his effort to create opportunities in our community and expand his business, Rutherford is blending the two subcultures.
From comedic films in popular culture to more serious scholarly examinations, the barbershop has been consistently associated with black culture. More often than not, the barbershop is positioned as an important community center for black masculine activity. The quality of the cuts, fades, and trims holds great significance, to be certain, but so are the conversations and the relationships.
You can see this at Second 2 None even in a short visit on a quiet weekday, just in the spectrum of the clientele. A father brings in his very young son for what appears to be his first haircut, and when the tot begins to cry and clamor for his father, barber Kenny Davis kindly but firmly says, “There’s no tears in the barbershop.” Darien Chase, who has been with the shop for seven years, points to the teenage boy in his chair and another waiting on a bench. “We’ve practically raised these two,” he says, not without some pride. The barbers share their stories of watching many of their clients grow up. In a way, they serve as the trustworthy uncles down the street whose guidance and even occasional advice is to be respected.
Rutherford’s own life experiences attest to the powers of the barbershop. It was the first place he was allowed to go outside of his house as a boy, and photographs of his old neighborhood barbershop in Plant City hang on the walls of Second 2 None in homage to its importance. A barber since the age of thirteen, Rutherford embodies the potential impact of this experience in a young man’s life. When boys grow up, they can participate in the conversations the barbers have with the older men in their chairs on any number of subjects, or sit in a comfortable silence, just enjoying the experience. However, Rutherford and the other barbers quickly point out that their shop is open to everyone, and indeed, in the space of this short visit, men of varying racial backgrounds take their seats at the chairs.
On the other hand, skateboarding is often associated with a white masculine countercultural movement, despite its current prevalence in the mainstream. Emerging out of 1950s California surf culture, “sidewalk surfing,” as it was then known, allowed surfers to take their activities from the waves to the street. By the late 1970s, the sport took on increasingly rebellious tones as drought-stricken Californians emptied their pools and industrious skateboarders used the rounded concrete surfaces to execute high-flying tricks.
Although public skate parks were opened at this time, low attendance and funding cuts caused their closure, and the 1980s saw the birth of street skating, when skaters rode handrails, sidewalks, and walls as new challenges. Thus, the sport became seen among many as a public nuisance, an activity for bored, unruly teenage boys. Since then, it has slowly shaken its negative connotations and become something embraced by the public as a common interest among multiple communities. As evidenced by the Polk Museum of Art’s upcoming Innoskate event, people of all ages, genders, and cultural backgrounds now take up skateboarding as a fun and challenging way to be more active.
In hair art, barbers shave and sculpt the hair on a sitter’s head in various ways
For Rutherford, sponsoring a skate team and starting a skate shop seemed like the next logical steps in his efforts to expand his business and build upon support for the greater Lakeland community. Like many local businesses, Second 2 None has long sponsored various community basketball and football teams, which Rutherford sees as good ways to keep kids busy and active. Signed college football jerseys from local players adorn the barbershop’s walls to serve as inspiration for his younger clients. When they in turn inform him that they will have jerseys on his wall one day, he gently reminds them that first they have to achieve the grades to be admitted into college.
Rutherford also helps raise funds for local causes by sponsoring different events, but his most significant endeavor has been his own Imperial Hair Show. As a competition judge for Paul Mitchell, Rutherford has connections within the greater professional barber world, and he has been able to bring the phenomenon of competitive hairstyling to Lakeland.
Scheduled for July 27, 2014, the Imperial Hair Show is part tradeshow, part spectacle, with the styling and barbering competitions being a highlight. Stylists and barbers compete to complete cuts in the fastest time or of the best quality. Of particular note is the hair art, in which barbers shave and sculpt the hair on a sitter’s head in various ways, most popularly, into portraits. Rutherford envisions the Hair Show as a major tourist revenue-generating attraction for all of Lakeland. A it’s positioned perfectly between Orlando and Tampa, he anticipates the show eventually attracting bigger audiences from afar that will stay in the city’s hotels, eat at its restaurants, and shop in its stores. Clearly, Rutherford understands his business’s position as a community center and takes it to heart.
Like the Imperial Hair Show, the Second 2 None Skate Team combines Rutherford’s interests in both his business and the community. The team is an activity that can help young people in the community stay active and out of trouble. Rutherford requires the participants to maintain good grades in order to remain members. As a former skater, he enjoys the sport and understands what the skaters need (although, if you ask him about his skating these days, he grins, shakes his head, and protests that those days are over).
The team is in its initial stages, with just a few members, but will likely grow. Second 2 None helped sponsor the first skate competition at Lake Bonny Park last December, and the Second 2 None Skate Team practices at Lake Bonny and competes in Tampa.
The skate team also fits into Rutherford’s plans to “mainstream” the shop. “Every shop needs a theme,” he says, and he has decided that his will be skating. He has outfitted the open space in the shop’s center with cases full of decks, wheels, and other accessories. Clients will be able to come in, get a haircut, and pick up a skateboard, too, if they wish. With this city’s increasing love of novelty, this should be a big hit.
Lakeland has been progressing in leaps and bounds because of its core — the people innovating for a better future. Rutherford exemplifies the best of us, as an individual with strong entrepreneurial ambitions and an enormous dedication to our city. He looks beyond the mire of stereotypes and race and combines different alternative cultures to create something much larger and more beneficial in this community. This kind of unprejudiced, guileless ingenuity perfectly suits Lakeland’s maturation into the great center of creativity and eclecticism that certainly occupies our future.
Second 2 None Barbershop
1320 North Florida Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33805