may 25

Hold still this Sunday for Tucson's first barber battle

2014-05-22T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T10:03:33Z Hold still this Sunday for Tucson's first barber battleBy Johanna Willett Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

For LaRon Cook, cutting hair is an art form worthy of battle.

At this Sunday’s Headliners Heavyweight Barber Battle, about 40 barbers will duke it out, the farthest competitor traveling from Wichita, Kansas.

Cook, who owns Headliners Barber Shop with six locations, organized the competition at Desert Diamond Casino to give local barbers a chance to make the cut at home. Usually, they travel out of state to exhibit their talent. This is Tucson’s first, national battle.

How it came to Tucson

“Basically, Tucson is just far behind,” said Cook, who has been a Tucson barber for about 20 years. “I travel and compete on a national level. … We have lots of talented barbers here locally, and now, as opposed to us competing somewhere else, we’re hosting the very first of its kind here in Tucson. This is a national barber battle, not just local people.”

How it works

Competitors sign up for one of three categories — lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight — and then choose to battle in regular cuts or freestyle designs. A panel of judges will select first, second and third place in each battle. For the freestyle battles, contestants get creative, shaving intricate images into the hair. Popular designs at the barber shop include Wilbur Wildcat.

“We want to give people a visual that ‘Hey this is a national show in Tucson that happens once a year,’” said Cook, who won’t be competing. “It’d be nice to have people say ‘Hey, I’m going to Arizona for a hair show.’”

Vendors exhibiting hair care products such as Johnny B. Hair Care gel will set up at the show, and a live DJ and hip-hop performance by Cook’s son will keep the event lively.

How it started

In 2011, Headliners hosted a pro bono barber battle in the Foothills Mall. Even with no trophies, Cook said they packed out the tiny space: “We knew that people wanted it, so now we were like, ‘Let’s dig a little deeper.’”

That same year, Cook won a Bronner Bros. battle in Atlanta.

This barber battle takes their vision to the next step. “This is the ability to be able to show and display the talent we have here in Arizona,” says Cook’s wife, Ursula, who has been part of the Headliners journey since the opening of the first shop in 2006. “It creates a platform, but not in the sense that we’re trying to get our name out there. This is something positive that’s being brought to Arizona.”

How cook finds inspiration

“What we’re doing is different,” said LaRon, who credits God for his success with Headliners. “We’re not just a local barbershop that says, ‘Hey, get a haircut.’ It’s a great thing to be different from everyone else.

“My passion is to be a leader and mentor to people who need jobs and need to see themselves in their workplace. … We’re making long-term relationships with people in many diverse ways.”

Contact reporter Johanna Willett at jwillett@azstarnet.com or 573-4357.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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