At Zero-Zero hair salon on Capitol Hill, politics and arguments go hand-in-glove with the haircut, especially if owner Todd Lucas is wielding the scissors.
"I break the taboo with some of my conversations," he admits. "I'm actually working on not being so heated. But it's hard not to be passionate about something you care about."
Though he plays down the political chitchat as simply a natural outgrowth of his personal interests, Lucas clearly delights in bringing the shop talk back to the barbershop.
"It's traditionally been the place in the neighborhood where you meet," he says. "It's a good arena to talk about these kinds of things. I have Republican clients. We have nice debates, share our ideas, respect each other's opinions. That's the sad thing right now. People don't talk enough. There's not enough dialogue."
It doesn't take but a few snips before Lucas (an Obama supporter) will mention the war or the presidential race. He's not afraid to voice his opinions, but he's also intent on what his clients have to say. And if the discussion spills over into the next work station, all the better.
Lucas says he's always been interested in politics and government, but this year he cares a little bit more. "Doesn't everybody?" he says.
His customers seem to be receptive. In a Yelp review of his visit to Zero-Zero, one first-timer wrote: "Todd is a smart, well-informed thinker. We started talking about the weather, as you do in Seattle, and then started talking about the diversity of microclimates all over. Then we switched to politics. Oh shit—politics, right? Bad conversation when a guy has got scissors to your head. But no! Excellent, well-informed, clear, specific conversation on the ups and downs of the nation."
But Lucas says not everybody's into it.
"Some people would rather talk about movies and shoes," he says, adding that he's careful to read a person's body language. If they hunch over, they're likely not comfortable with the subject he's broaching. If they lean back, shoulders relaxed, they're more likely to engage.
Lucas opened Zero-Zero in 2005. He'd been cutting hair professionally for 20 years and had for the past decade been working for Rudy's Barbershop, managing the Capitol Hill store and overseeing human resources for all of the chain's Seattle locations. "I'd hit my ceiling there," Lucas says. "They were going more corporate. It wasn't my thing."
He also wanted to create his own atmosphere, which he says is about keeping things fun, allowing for creativity, and "having a higher sense of responsibility for his stylists." He says encouraging lively discussion and debate is an important part of that effort because it makes for better camaraderie in the salon.
But he's also truly concerned about the country's future. Lucas, who recently turned 40, says events in the 1960s, like the Vietnam War and the reaction to it, affected America for the next three decades. He believes we're at that kind of crossroads again. "When there are opposing ideals and no dialogue, it's never good for history," he says. "If I can at least be a part of getting that dialogue going, it's a good thing to do."—Aimee Curl
Video by Darren Lund.