José Tapia is no ordinary barber. His cuts—ranging from Fresh Prince–style flat tops to wickedly (and weirdly) three-dimensional designs—have made this Santa Rosa haircutter an Instagram sensation.
And any of his 84,000 international followers can easily see that Tapia's work isn't work at all—it's a lifelong hobby and art.
"I thought it was cool, my friends all thought it was cool," said the barber to The Press Democrat this week, noting that he started teaching himself to cut hair, using his mom's clippers, back in 8th grade after he saw a video of a zigzag hair design YouTube.
After his emerging talent became sought after among his high school friends, he enrolled at Oakland's Moler Barber College and went on to win almost 20 barbering competitions. The rest, as they say, is history: At the age of 18, he landed a job at West Coast Cuts, across the street from a gas station in Santa Rosa, and now, a few years later, he's amassed a base of fans as far flung as Chile, Iran, and Brazil.
Soon, the barber will become the boss: Tapia and West Coast Cuts owner Jerry Herrera have plans to open a second, somewhat different location, in Los Angeles next year. "There can be a gangster in that chair and a cop in the other chair," said Tapia, who also hopes to attract affluent residents from Westwood as well as, of course, celebs.
Check out some of Tapia's recent cuts in the slideshow below and on Instagram.