Since we have been receiving overwhelmingly positive responses to our queer hairstyle features and barber interviews, I decided to reach out to L.A. barber Alana Lucia for an interview. A few months ago, Rae Tutera, founder of the style blog The Handsome Butch and subject of a new HBO documentary, introduced me to Alana via e-mail and shared this image of Alana cutting Rae’s hair. (Note: Aside from the obvious badassery of this picture, this image is extra special because this was the first time Rae did not crop her chest out of a photo that was to be published on the Internet!!)
When Alana and I first connected, she was in the process of moving from New York to Los Angeles. Now that she’s settled into The Golden State, Alana shares with us her take on queer cuts, her approach to quality service, and where we can book an appointment for one of her awesome cuts.
dapperQ: Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Alana: I’ve been cutting my own hair and friends’ hair since I was 17. I studied psychology in college, but I knew when I was completed that I would attend beauty school. It didn’t occur to me to go to barber school, even though I had no interest in cutting long hair and short hair was always more my thing. Four and a half years ago, I decided to get serious about cutting and I started assisting at the TIGI Advanced Hairdressing Academy in NY. After that, I worked my way up from assistant to hair stylist and educator at a salon in Chelsea called Antonio Prieto Salon. Although these experiences shaped who I am in my career, I always felt I would feel more at home in a barbershop. I think it was fear that prevented me from making a move sooner. But finally, with the help of my best homie Rae Tutera, I walked into the Blind Barber and asked for a job. They welcomed me with open arms and hearts. The head barber, Rob McMillan, showed me some of his techniques and tricks. Within no time, I was cutting hair at the new shop in Brooklyn, feeling just right.
Rae Tutera after an Alana Lucia cut.
This is where things changed for me. In just a couple of months, my clientele was growing, but especially my queer clientele. Rae posted on her blog that I was cutting hair at The Blind Barber and what happened was incredible: My queer following grew, and I felt a new purpose in cutting hair. I felt honored to be able to create a safe space for fellow queers to come, get groomed, have a nice chat, or not (because it is totally okay to sit in silence FYI), and leave feeling like they have been truly seen by the person who is doing their hair.
I decided to shake things up and move to Los Angeles. It pains me to think of my clients I left in New York; But, at 29 years old, I had to make the move. I knew in my gut if I didn’t leave at this point in my life, I would never leave, and I didn’t want to regret that. I am hoping my name gets out there to the queer community and that people know I choose to work in safe, open environments for anyone and all to come see me. I work at The New California Barbershop Thursday-Sat. 11-7 and Sundays 11-5 in Echo Park (walk in only). I also am at The Blind Barber Mondays 12-9 in Culver City (appointment only).
dapperQ: Queer fashion sites like dapperQ and Qwear are often asked, “What is queer style?” Does it exist? And, if so, what sets queer style apart from other aesthetics? Along the same lines, many of our readers ask us about queer hair styles (e.g. is there such a thing and where are the best places to get one). Do you believe that “queer hair styles” are a discernible aesthetic? If so, what makes them unique?
Alana: To me, queer style is all about mixing it up and feeling good about it. It’s not conforming to a set of rules: If you put something on, or cut/style your hair a certain way, knowing that it isn’t deemed traditional or expected. Maybe you even think some people will be uncomfortable with how you look. Then you take a step back, look at yourself, and you feel just right inside. That’s queer style.
dapperQ: What are some trends you are seeing in queer cuts?
Alana: The fade. I am a sucker for a fade, no matter what the haircut. If someone comes in just to get their side buzzed, I will taper them out. I love the art behind creating a fade. Whether it be a heavy weight line or really smooth with minimal weight, I love it. My queer clients usually want something slightly different from a classic cut. Disconnections and asymmetry are some ways to attain that. I have to use my brain in a different way whenever someone comes in and I can tell they are not looking for a classic cut. That excites me.
Marina, one of Alana’s clients
dapperQ: How do you understand your clientele different from the way a classic Barbershop does?
Alana: I think my training in a salon has taught me to really dig deep within my consultation at the beginning of each cut. It is important to me that the person feels that I am really understanding the image that they have in their minds as to how they want to present themselves. I never assume that because someone comes in presenting as one way that is the way they want their hair to match. I absolutely take in the information of how they are dressed and the essence they are giving off, but I don’t make assumptions. It’s all about asking the right questions. I hesitate from using the words “masculine and feminine” to describe a haircut. Asking questions about how much effort someone wants to put into styling their hair, whether they prefer softness around the ears, or clean and tight – if they want movement in their hair or they like it super styled and combed to the side and back. These are ways in which I figure out what cut is best for ALL individuals. I consider it a big responsibility, and I am pretty hard on myself. I try to make sure I learn from each person to be better for the next time. I am not saying they don’t do this in a classic barbershop, because I can’t say that for sure. I am just saying it is what I do.
Alana Lucia at the Blind Barber
dapperQ What are your rates?
At New California Barber Shop: $35 cut, $10 beard trim
At Blind Barber: $40 cut, $15 dollar beard trim (Plus complementary beverage from the bar)
**I do not do straight razor shaves