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Nov112013

Chapter 53: Diamond Life – Ibn Jasper Interview

From Chapter 53: Diamond Life (Fall 2013)

Interview: Nick Ace
Photos: Alexia Elkaim

Who does Nick Tershay turn to when he wants to start a shoe division? With a brand as lucrative as Diamond, it made sense to start an unbreakable bond with Kanye West’s childhood best friend and barber, Ibn Jasper. For years the Chicago barber ruled the scene, and eventually applied his creative eye to large-scale projects including the Jasper Louis Vuitton shoe that now goes for no less than $3,000 on eBay.

Read below on how Ibn came to be appointed as the conceptual designer for Diamond Supply Co.’s VVS Line, and what MySpace has to do with it.

Go ahead and introduce yourself. Tell us your name and what you do.
What’s up, my name is Ibn Jasper. I’m a creative. I just got hired as the conceptual designer at Diamond Supply Co. for their new premium line, nah mean?

Have you been working with Diamond for a while? How did that come about?
I’ve been working with Diamond for a while I guess. You can say me and Nick have been friends for…damn, about six or seven years now. When I first moved to LA, Nick was already here; he just moved from San Francisco. I moved in and we met up and he was, y’know, on MySpace, ‘cause that was like the MySpace era. He was like, “I’ll give you free clothes for haircuts,” ‘cause we’re both barbers and whatever. So we would just hang out and then share ideas and stuff. Then we ended up doing a shoot together last year and that just kind of started our working relationship.

Tell me a little bit about how you came to designing shoes for Diamond.
Nick started a shoe division of his company. I worked with Kanye West and we had just come from working with the Yeezy, the Louis Vuitton shoe, and just on our little design things. So Nick let me know he had started a shoe department and I was like, “Oh, I got a few ideas,” y’know, just brainstorming on stuff. So I gave him about four ideas and he picked one; that ended up being the Jasper Chukka shoe that came out.

Nice. So you said you met Nick from MySpace and you had just moved to Los Angeles. Where were you coming from?
I moved to Los Angeles from Chicago, right when Kanye dropped his first album. He moved us all out here ‘cause I’ve been his barber since he was 17 years old. So he moved us all out here and then me being a skateboarder since 1985, I knew who Nick was, y’know? So that was how we started our relationship. Just like, “Yo, I know who you are and this and this, and I like your clothes and blah blah blah.” Then the Diamond Nike SB shoe had just come out so that was real hot on the internet. That was one of the reasons I was hittin’ him up, like, “Yo, that shoe is crazy.” We just always liked sneakers, so we always talked about that through the years.

I love how you mentioned you guys met through MySpace.
[Laughs] Yeah, that’s vintage right there.

So you meet Nick through MySpace and he’s like, “I’ll give you clothes if you cut my hair”?
Yeah, basically; but I never cut his hair though.

Has he given you any gear besides those sneakers?
Yeah, he’s given me mad gear. That’s why I’m like, “Man, I think I owe him haircuts.” [Laughs]

So walk us through today. What are you doing for Diamond right now?
Right now what I’m doing for Diamond with my new position as a conceptual guy is just bringing concepts and different ideas for his premium label. It’s more cut and sew, more technical. So just bringing in different clothes, photos, having ’em watch different movies, just all types of stuff. Just widen the creativity in the company, you know what I’m saying? And make some more premium products.
What do you hope to get out of it?
I just really hope to get my ideas out, that’s all. Also help the company grow and expand in different categories.

Does that go beyond things like sneakers and sunglasses?
Yeah. Nick says he wants to be the skate Ralph Lauren. So, I’m here to help him to be the skate Ralph Lauren. You know-—houseware, furniture, skateparks, whatever.

Let’s just go back for a second. One thing we didn’t touch on is how you came up as a barber first. That’s how you got your reputation. How did you get into that?
How I started cutting hair was through my boy, my best friend in the eighth grade, Baloau. He used to cut our whole crew’s hair back in Chicago. When I went to high school, my freshman year he gave me a pair of wall clippers ‘cause I would shape my hair. This is when we all had like high-top pumps and stuff back in the early ’90s. We all had high-top pumps and he would cut all our hair, like five of us. I would shape the top of my head so he wouldn’t have to and he could start on the next person. So it really just started out as a thing of being efficient. I’m really into efficiency.

So I started doing it that way, cutting the top of my hair, just shaping the top. Then one day he was like, “Yo, try to ball fade your hair,” y’know? He was like, “I’m gonna leave clippers here.” So one night when I was 14, I got two mirrors and hooked it up. I just started cutting my hair everyday since then. Skip forward three years, as a senior in high school, I started cutting hair at Uncle James’ barbershop as his apprentice.

In Chicago?
In Chicago. This is on 79th and Bennett, Starlight Barbershop, right on the east side…southeast side of Chicago. While being his apprentice, he got me on a list to go to McCoy Barber College early. So as soon as I graduated from high school, I went right into barber college. I started doing that, and I remember like the first week I got to barber college, I was on the floor by the end of the week ‘cause I just didn’t want to be in the classroom.

I did all the tests in the first week and then when I got on the floor, I was like, “Who’s the best dude in here?” Everyone said Frank B is the best, so I set up next to Frank B. The head instructor wouldn’t let me set up next to Frank B. He said, “We have to monitor your haircut before you set up next to anybody in barber college.” So I was like “OK, I’m gonna cut one head and then I’m gonna go set up next to Frank B.” So I cut one head and they was like, “OK Mr. Jasper, you can go set-up wherever you want to” [laughs].

That was always my thing, to set up right next to the best. I always want to be compared to the best. I want to be the chair next to the best to see how I compare to the best. That’s what I did and then Frank and me ended up being partners in crime. We’re the first two barbers to open up in the new Mellowswing Barbershop. It was a 3000-square-feet, two-story salon with a game room and we took over.

You and Frank B?
Yeah and we took over the city of Chicago right before Frank died on September 11, 2000.

To read the whole article, cop Chapter 53: Diamond Life.

Check the FRANK151 Chapter 53: Diamond Life playlist on YouTube for more video content.

More from FRANK:

Video: Watch Barber Master IBN Jasper Cut His Own Hair

Video: Nick Tershay Talks the Golden Age of Skateboarding for Chapter 53: Diamond Life