Philly Garcia is a sports fan and barber based in Los Angeles, and his clients are not your average walk-in appointments. He is servicing some of the top athletes, making house calls to give the best of the best a fresh cut. With the coronavirus pandemic hitting, those in his field have taken a hit, unable to work as they used to, but Garcia found a creative way to stay working while also staying safe.
With an immunocompromised wife and daughter, and also wanting to take the virus seriously for the well being of others, he came up with the plan to wear a hazmat suit to cut hair.
Garcia spoke to CBS Sports about how he landed on the idea and all the ways he is staying safe while cutting the hair of top athletes.
His process is about much more than just throwing on the suit, he uses a new one for each appointment as to not contaminate and has reduced the number of clients he works with a day, only seeing one or two people at the most.
To ensure he is not contaminating anything when he removes the suit, he looked up videos that teach how to do it safely.
His wife signed off on the idea, his dad provided the suits and soon he was ready to be back in business.
Some of his clients in the past include Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, but because no one is traveling now, he is only able to do local athletes. His clients since the pandemic have included LaMelo, LiAngelo, and Lonzo Ball, Danny Green and Troy Daniels.
Like most everyone during this time, athletes are in need of a haircut, and having someone in your life who is good with the scissors doesn't always turn out well.
With his phone lighting up with athletes in the area wanting a visit from the barber, Garcia decided if he was going to continue working, it would be in the safest way possible, no questions asked.
When some insisted they were clear of the virus, Garcia was adamant about not taking chances saying, "I'm acting like everybody has it."
Garcia told his clients:
"Alright, if we're gonna do this, I'm gonna do it the right way. It's gonna look funny at first but it is what it is. We all got a good laugh out of it."
Showing up in the hazmat suit, even though the clients knew he would be arriving in it, caused laughter from all parties.
After the initial moments getting used to the suit, Garcia said it was business as usual. "It was actually hilarious because as much as they were laughing, I was laughing too," he said. "But as soon as the clippers went on, it was super normal."
He said the athletes were not only glad he was able to give them a fresh cut, but glad he was taking so many precautions. "They were very thankful that I was taking it seriously, just as everybody should," Garcia said.
Garcia has been cutting hair for a little over a decade and has mingled with athletes in their own homes and at events like the NFL Draft. Building a relationship with the athletes and remembering that first and foremost they are regular people, just with tremendous athletic talent, is important to Garcia.
Despite rubbing elbows with athletes, he doesn't get phased. "To be honest I don't get star-struck, because my dad always told me 'Act like you've been there,'" he said. "When you meet these people you realize they're just normal, regular people that have god-given abilities that allowed them to get on this platform and you appreciate it more than just being in awe of them."
Having famous clients has taught Garcia a lot. He takes advantage of having the opportunity to work with successful people and picks their brains about how they were able to get where they are today. Success doesn't just take talent, Garcia notes, saying, "Whatever got them there besides talent, it has to be hard work, and why wouldn't you dig in deep with somebody's brain."
Garcia always gets something from his time with the athletes. "When they're in your chair they're on your time, and you don't want to push that time but you want to take advantage of that time in a respectful manner," he explained.
It's not just listening that allows Garcia to take something valuable away from each appointment, he learns from their actions as well. Garcia has also watched many of the athletes he's known for a long time rise to fame. "Sometimes it's not asking them, sometimes it's just witnessing," he said.
He has a different relationship with each client, some he talks to about faith, some discuss their other hobbies like photography, some he sparks random debates with and often he talks about music, but one constant is he is always laughing and having a good time with them.
Garcia is nowhere close to working at full capacity due to the coronavirus and is looking forward to reuniting and catching up with all his clients. For now, Garcia says he's talking it week by week, with enough hazmat suits to last him for a while.