by Daria Kroupoderova
Paul Hinton’s clients do not need to tell him how to cut their hair.
“He is very consistent,” Byron Howell said as Hinton meticulously worked with his clippers. Howell has been seeing Hinton about once a week since Hinton was 18, with a five year break where the two lost touch. As a manager of a Men’s Wearhouse, Howell has to look sharp, which means visiting Hinton fairly often.
After selling his barbershop in Rainier Beach and taking a hiatus from South Seattle two years ago, Hinton reopened “Paul’s Custom Cuts” last November in the Skyway neighborhood.
“I have so many clients in Seattle so I needed to rent a spot to take care of them,” Hinton said. When he moved to Lynnwood two years ago to be closer to his wife’s family, he initially opened a barbershop there but it wasn’t the same. Only a few clients followed him there, and the shop proved financially frustrating for Hinton.
“Most of the people I met up there probably get a haircut maybe once a month,” Hinton said. He says he missed his South End clientele who would visit him often at the Rainier Beach shop to catch up on personal matters and sharpen their hairstyles.
Located on 11805 Renton Ave. S. in a suite above Ezell’s Chicken, the South End barber’s shop has three barber chairs, a TV, a bathroom, and chairs for clients to hang out while they wait to see Hinton. It’s the smallest shop Hinton has ever had, but he is happy with the space for now.
People keep coming to him anyway. He sees about seven to ten clients per day. Thursday through Saturday is usually always booked for him – even though he just recently returned to Skyway.
Hinton’s regular clientele includes judges, CEOs, retired professional basketball players and “everyday guys”. However, when they enter his shop, it doesn’t matter their job; everyone joins in the comradery Hinton encourages.
Building relationships is the most important part of his business. “I’m just an ear,” Hinton said.
On this day, Howell came in talking cars, finances, and dating, while Hinton worked carefully with his black hair clippers, listening attentively and adding comments and questions here and there.
Hinton first started cutting hair when he was 13. Growing up near Franklin High School, he and his friend Andre would give each other haircuts, but jokes that Andre’s cuts never quite lived up to his.
Hinton continued practicing on his friends and family since he seemed to have a knack for it.
“My older brother Terrell was my scratch paper,” he said. “He didn’t really care what haircut he got as long as it looked good.”
Though Terrell did have a long piece of hair that he liked to gel, making it curl up, and that was off limits to Hinton’s hair clippers. Their dad was not a fan of this look and offered Hinton money if he would ‘accidently’ cut it off, so he did.
“(Terrell) grabbed his drumsticks and chased me all the way down Mount Baker Boulevard,” Hinton recalled while laughing.
Hinton would put unusual designs in people’s hair such as multiple lines, words, images of Bart Simpson, and whatever else they wanted. When Hinton turned 18, someone took notice of Terrell’s hair and Hinton got his first official job working as a barber in the back room of a shop.
“I always wanted to keep someone in my chair,” Hinton said about his inaugural job. He wanted to be seen cutting hair so that future clients would see his work and maybe even want a haircut. Slowly Hinton built up his clientele. Currently, he has over a thousand contacts in his phone.
Hinton also met his wife, Sheree, while on the job; he used to cut her brother’s hair. They’ve been together for 17 years and she’s been supportive of all his business goals and dreams.
“It’s a blessing to be able to do what you love for a living,” Sheree said. “He is such a people person and has long standing relationships with a lot of people here in the city of Seattle.”
At present, he has two on-call helpers at the barbershop but is looking for someone to take over full time so he can eventually work by appointment only.
When not at the shop, Hinton likes to tinker with computers and considers himself a techie. He is also interested in real estate and hopes to obtain his license in the very near future.