BEAUTY / Day Off

John Ziol shot by Casey Murphy in Philadelphia, PA

Did you grow up in Philadelphia?

I did not. Originally I am from Boston, I spent most of my public education years in Virginia going back to Massachusetts to see family every summer. After college I moved back to Boston, and then spent the next few years trying out different places to live as my job allowed me to live anywhere. NYC, various cities in California, I lived in Arizona; but none of them really stuck with me and in fact, I dislike most of those places. Coming back to the east coast, Philadelphia was just the right place. It’s an affordable blue collar city that still has something going on. Great food, awesome local business, museums, parks, and great bars and breweries if you like that sort of thing. I’m not much for going out so I just want a nice place to call home and somewhere to get food late at night. I enjoy the option of having anything at my fingertips, even if I am not taking advantage of those options. Philadelphia is still rough around the edges, a little grimy. That resonates with me. 

How is living and working in Fishtown?

The shop and the neighborhood it is in are both great. You could run the risk of not leaving your neighborhood living here because you don’t have to. What is funniest to me is that people around Philadelphia have this idea that Fishtown is a bunch of men wearing brown vests donning curly mustaches and riding Penny Farthings. However, it’s mostly young professionals, “bros” (for lack of a better term), and Fishtown natives. The shop is on the main thoroughfare in the neighborhood so we get a lot of foot traffic and we have established ourselves as a place to spend time. We even have a Saturday club that is in every other Saturday for a few hours of haircuts and beers. Being a part of the neighborhood we are located in is very important to us at the shop. We strive to be a customer’s “third place.”

When was your first notion to become a barber?

As I was going into my last year of college the thought occurred to me it was something I would like to try. I felt compelled to finish what I had started with higher education, so I did. Then I got a job that paid me well enough, started moving around a lot, and got comfortable in my work and lifestyle. Throughout this time I was cutting hair for my friends at home, just messing around and none of them were very good. Two years ago I made the decision to pursue barbering because I was tired of my career and wasn’t fulfilled, I was just enjoying a paycheck. It was the best decision I have made in a long time. I truly enjoy the work and work at the best shop I can imagine. It can be a scary leap to take, but all the hard work pays off. 

Do you feel an intimate experience with your clientele?

In my opinion, the act of cutting someone’s hair is inherently intimate, though not sexual. However, if you get a haircut I’ll be touching your head and my belly will probably be pressing against you (it’s unavoidable). For me it is very intimate, not sexual, but I won’t be dissuading anyone from fantasizing about it afterward.

What's it like for you to smoke a cigar?

I was introduced to cigars by my father. He is a connoisseur and has a deep appreciation for them. The scent carries a certain memory, or maybe even a longing for times long since gone. At the same time, I was straight edge for many, many years and did not begin indulging in cigars until I was a decade into being sexually active. I began smoking cigars as an adult almost in my thirties. I am in tune with my body and desires and realized that while smoking them I could get very turned on. It comes down to being of two minds on the subject, I could enjoy one simply for a sort of nostalgia, albeit a light and fleeting sense of, or as foreplay. It all comes down to my mood. 

How would you describe the relationship you have with your body?

Positive to a fault. I like my size, my belly. I like my cock, I’m just comfortable with myself. Recently I started training and lifting again with a close friend. I competitively fought for the first half of my life and when I stopped I gained weight. I like the way I look, but I am working to firm it all up and keep things where they are. Sculpt what I have into an even bulkier shape. I don’t concern myself with things I can’t change... the shape of my nose for example (it’s a honker), or the size of my ears (Dumbo-esque). There are things about all of our bodies that just aren’t within our control outside of augmentation, which I’m not opposed to but not interested in for me. I put in effort and hard work on things I can make the way I want and make the absolute best of the stuff I’m just stuck with. Present the man you want the world to believe you are. 

How was it for you getting your picture taken by Casey?

He is a very dear friend to me. We get each other, enjoy our commonalities and our differences. We both find the other highly attractive and I knew he wanted to take photos of me. It made me more excited about it knowing that he wanted to take them. He has an eye for space and seems to instinctively know when to take the picture — getting the most from the subject and the space around it. His photographs make me look far better than I deserve to be portrayed, they are strong images and I’m deeply flattered that he wanted to make them with me. We just hung out and did what we would normally do any other day, he was just documenting it, snagging a moment of what would have been a mundane encounter between friends were there not a camera involved. He enshrines a very natural and comfortable me.