“I was born here, and I’ve lived here all my life,” explains Freddy Vazquez, the owner of Fade 2 Famous barbershop in Greenpoint, “and I just made twenty years cutting hair this year.” His shop is a neat space with six black leather chairs, big windows, and wall-sized mirrors, located on the same block as the fire station and across the street from the Key Food. When I arrive, two customers are having their hair cut and everyone seems to be a good mood: The perfect time to ask some important questions.
Freddy Vazquez: One of my best friends needed a haircut and I had a pair of clippers. I told him that I knew how to cut hair, but I didn’t really know how. I chopped him up and from there he asked me to cut his hair every week. I’ve been cutting hair ever since.
How old were you then?
Sixteen. Back in the day, you used to work in barbershops as an apprentice until you got your own license. At twenty, I went to Atlas Barber School on 3rd Avenue and then I worked in another barbershop. I had always wanted to do business with the owners, but they kept leading me on so I saved my money and now I have my own place.
It was on Craigslist. I had looked at a lot of places in the neighborhood, and I used to go to meet the owners. They’d look at me and go, ‘Oh, well, what kind of business?’ That was the first thing. ‘A barbershop business.’ ‘Oh, well, we’ll call you.’ They would never call me, until one day, I found this big, perfect spot. The rent was reasonable, and, thankfully, I got it.
What was the place before you turned it into a barbershop?
I asked the real estate broker and I think she said it was a deli. But it was all messed up, and I remodeled everything by myself.
Did you have any experience doing remodeling before you did this place?
No, but every time the contractor came up with a price, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ I was working at another barbershop doing 12 to 15-hour shifts just to get the money to fix it. Little by little, I started: First, I got the chairs up, then the mirrors, the stations, and then I got the sign, air conditioners, and the lights. It took time—eight years.
How many barbers did you have working here in the beginning?
Two: Alex and Reed, then Louis and Pablo came, then my boy, Jay. This is neighborhood people—like I said, I grew up here. A lot industry people also come here. Rappers and DJs, like Cipha Sounds, Flex, DJ Red Alert, and Mister Cee. But they’re like friends of mine. I’ve been cutting their hair for a long time.
What kind of haircuts are people getting now?
The neighborhood changed a lot since I’ve been here. The types of haircuts these guys are getting, it’s changing but it’s a beautiful thing. Before, there used to be a lot of fades and bowl cuts. Now, a lot of guys get the comb-over look or the beard. The beard is in style now. Basically, it’s more unique cuts.
What do you think of the neighborhood changing?
To me, personally, the changes are good—there’s more people. More buildings are going up, which will be more clients. Now, I think raising kids is good here but the neighborhood is a little expensive. I lived here all my life, but I can’t afford to live here, so I have to live in Queens. What’s not good is the rent. The rent on the commercial spaces is extremely high. I provide a service. I don’t sell merchandise or anything.
When’s the last time you went on vacation?
A long time ago. [laughs] I haven’t been on vacation for awhile. A client just asked me that. I just had a newborn, that’s why.
What is your vision for the future of your shop?
I’ve been here for eight years, and I would definitely like to open up another location. If any barber in here would like to open their own barbershop, I would be willing to help become their partner and have barbershops in different neighborhoods and boroughs. I would love to expand Fade 2 Famous barbershop.
What’s the best part of being a barber?
The communication with the people. To me, being a barber is the best job anybody can have. You make your own hours. You stay in AC. You see your friends. You have your phone next to you. You can watch TV, any sports. You can hear music. You can take your break when you want to.
Fade 2 Famous Barbershop is located at 213 Greenpoint Avenue. When he’s not at the barbershop, Vazquez goes to Bushwick Inlet Park “to the soccer field. I’m there all the time,” he says.
“This started off as a personal project to tie in with a course at ICP, but soon became more involved,” she adds. “The more photographs I took, the more I realized that the project was becoming a kind of archive of contemporary Greenpoint.”
Of more than thirty stores that de Belgeonne photographed over the last ten months, four have already closed (White Dreams, Violet Pepper, The One Well, Park Ave. Shoes). Her project is still in the works, and “it’s my aim to photograph as many stores as possible, culminating in a local show,” de Belgeonne says.