Photography by Ellie India Rose Carty
Interview by Esme Carty
One of Jody Sosa’s main driving factors in starting hair styling is making their clients feel good after leaving the barber chair, but after just a conversation we were in a better mood than when we arrived. The Greater Good Phoenix is quite literally Phoenix’s own greater good; earlier that morning everyone at the shop went to a local park to give haircuts to the homeless. Not only were they providing their professional service as barbers, but the humane service of making conversation, learning about who these people are and what interests they have as humans. We all have our own individual stories, where we come from, how we got here, and the navigation of life from thereon, this is huge reason why I was delighted to sit down and speak with Jody firsthand.
I: Your start in hair was not just about the hair, it was about the feeling people felt after their haircut and the art of it. What artistic mediums inspire your work, whether it be fashion, sculpture, architecture?
JS: Honestly, fashion and what’s on trend. One of my most recent hair colors that I’ve done on someone was a black on pink, it had that Y2K look on someone’s head. There were moments in my life where I wanted to go more traditional, old-school, which influenced the haircuts I did: more pompadours, more brushbacks. That’s the reason I got into hair, because it’s the cherry on top of fashion. It’s really what’s going to make or break your outfit, and that’s why I got more into fashion as well. They compliment each other. I get inspired just by people around me, by the neighbors in Phoenix, honestly. I’m originally from Vegas and I was a little bit of an oddball up there, I was a little different: people were like, “Dude that color! What are you doing with all that scissor? Yo chill out, just do what we’re doing.” I was like, no, I’m bored. I just want to do something different. I tried to come to Phoenix a lot and just surround myself with great people.
I: How did you find Phoenix?
JS: It’s a funny story, I was actually driving like a 24 hour drive from Mexico, not far from Mazatlán, Sinaloa; it’s like two states down, like 20 hours from there to Phoenix. I actually came for a quinceñera, initially that was the plan, and I was already a barber so I liked to visit other barber shops. I love traveling, so any city I go to I have to go to a barber shop because the stylists always know the good spots. So I was like, ‘What barber do I know in Phoenix?’ I kept scrolling, going through my follows and there was only one guy, it was Jesse, the owner here [at the Greater Good]. I was like, ‘You know what I’m gonna hit him up,’ and it was really cool because, coincidentally, that same day it was the one year anniversary of the shop he was at in Goodyear, it was called Nippers Clippers. His mentor–rest in peace–it was his shop, he was a big influence to the low riders community, so they had a whole car show there dude, it was insane. The whole neighborhood was filled with cars. It was my first day in Phoenix and I was like, ‘This is what Phoenix is! This is what can actually happen in a community?’ That’s how I got attracted to Phoenix. Since then, I would fly and visit show after show after show, and if I’m coming here to visit I might as well just live here.
I: What has your experience with the Greater Good been like, how has it added to your personal journey from here?
JS: Honestly, people always ask what the next step is, what’s the next move? I’ve told people, three years ago I never would’ve thought I’d live here. I go day by day; maybe one day I’ll think this or that, I don’t have a next move. I’ve had thoughts of going to New York, Chicago–it’s hair, you can take me anywhere, that’s what I like to say. I just have to plot more seeds before I make a definite answer for that.
I: That makes sense, it’s human nature. We don’t know tomorrow. I wanted to speak more on the art scene in Phoenix and how it’s ever growing and so beautifully interconnected.
JS: It really is, it’s all different types of people. It doesn’t matter if you’re big, small, dark or light. It doesn’t matter, boom, everybody is together. The show that I saw you at, Para La Familia, was an amazing show. It was all walks of life there; it was literally Phoenix under one roof. Shout out to the guys there, who had their art there, everyone was so talented. It was good to see.
I: Everyone dancing outside.
JS: Yeah, the homie Richie integrated, he’s an amazing DJ. Phoenix, they’re attracted to that, they want to be posted. I feel like out here–I’m not going to try and compare to LA, try and compare to Chicago–but it definitely has a little bit of everything, everything you need is here.
I: There seems to be more of a sense of community as well, people aren’t trying to gatekeep. Let’s do everything together, open our arms to everyone.
JS: Like I tell people, it’s the fifth largest city [in the U.S.] but it still has that small town vibe to it at the same time. Even coming down here, having support from people I’d met a year ago, a few months ago, just showing love. I got nothing really else to give but just be me, and that’s all people want you to be out here.
I: What have you learnt about yourself throughout this career?
JS: Five years ago, before I was a barber, I worked four years as a busboy working in the industry at a casino in Vegas and I had negative inputs on life. What I can honestly glean from this is a lot of positivity. It feels good to make somebody else feel happy even if I’m getting paid for it. Kind of like my teacher used to tell me, doctors have people who are dying come in, over here people just want to feel better and then you send them on their way ready to take the day on. The positivity is what I’ve got from this career, and obviously there’s freedom to it. I can talk to my clients and I don’t have to put on a straight face, I can just ask how they’re doing. It's freedom and positivity.
I: It’s, in a casual sense, like being a therapist. What is that like for you, can it be draining?
JS: Yes, especially after the barber shops opened after covid. It was a lot of negativity coming from people because what are you going to ask? “Hey, what are you doing today?” “Nothing.” “When are you traveling?” “Never.” “How’s work?” “I don’t go to work.” It was a pause on life, people would say how they had a family member pass or might lose their business because of it. In one day, I remember having eight haircuts and in every single conversation there was something like that and it took a lot out of me. Opening up though, for the most part, especially guys being guys, we just talk about the day to day stuff and just what’s going on in life. And women too, we put everybody in, that’s what is amazing out here in Phoenix. Shoutout to everybody coming into the shop. Hearing everybody’s stories is definitely impactful. You learn from people, day to day: you learn where to go, where to be, where not to be.
I: Have you built friendships with people who have originally come in as clients?
JS: One hundred percent. Especially out here, like you said, it’s a community. When you see somebody at a show, you say what’s up. Besides cutting hair, we’re going to hang out too: “You want a beer? Let’s get a beer!” Even if somebody sees me at a Dodgers game like, “You should’ve told me, we could have gotten a couple of beers,” I’m like, “Yeah, my bad!” Sometimes after talking ten hours straight, you do want to unwind and be by yourself, but definitely when I see people in the streets I’ll say what’s up. I’ll never act like, ‘No, oh shit!’
I: You’ve stated that your start in hair was by a fire being lit in you to just start; go to school, get the experience. What advice do you have for people hesitant to make that jump into a new interest/career field despite the risks?
JS: I hate to sound like Nike, but just do it. Initially, at 18 I did try to sign up for barber school but back then in Vegas it was like $12,000. At eighteen, straight out of high school, my very first job, that was a little much for me. I tried it, I backed out, I got my deposit back, and then saved money. I went to community college for a couple of years and that still didn’t work out, so I then went back to the first idea I had, screw it. Save your money and sacrifice. Sacrifice gets the best payout ever. The worst case scenario is the ‘what-if.’