Earl is a hair artist, fashion enthusiast and father of five. He spoke with us as someone who strives to live life on the road less traveled, and how this has affected his approach as a father.
Give us that, that quick "You were born — to here." Like what brought you to this point?
OK, 40 years in 40 seconds. Let's go.
I just grew up in Temecula, Murrieta, just Riverside County area, having the joys of going to San Diego and LA, once I got my license and friends and our guys would pile up in our car and go skate any ledge that was on a pro skate video.
But that was part of my life and in creating who I am. Because of the Brotherhood I had at the time. And it was like more of a subconscious brotherhood, but we just like, you know, just friends — guys doing things and making stupid videos that we only laugh about.
I played sports in high school and stuff. So I was like that guy, like kind of sportsy. So I played basketball, football, and ran track; basketball was my main sport.
What broke me into who I am today, too, was — I always had a soft spot for just humans. So I was — even though I was the man that played basketball, everyone knew me as "Coop" and I dressed a certain way or whatever — I would still go hang out with like what we would call back in the day, the band geeks or the drama geeks, and there's just, they were just so fascinating because it was art.
And when I was in sports, I didn't look at it like that. But now that I'm a hair artist, I'm like "Oh, that was like the beginning of me being attracted to like my own kind. That like to create. So it was just really cool.
And yeah, I've just been doing my thing. My creative juices have just been flowing through hair pretty much this whole time. And I've just recently stepped into more like branding and fashion. And like now, playing around with these hats, it's been pretty fun.
Yeah, tell me what you've really liked about that.
So, I've always liked hats. I'm a hat guy.
I've always liked the customizing of these kinds of hats. And it was always fascinating to me, especially when they first started popping off. Probably like seven years ago, 10 years ago. They've probably been doing it before, but that's when I first noticed it.
And I'm like, "Well, I'm just gonna do it." I just looked up on YouTube University, YouTube, and bought, you know, a wood burning tool, and a torch, and some accessories.
And I did — the first initial burn was like little scary, super scary. It was edgy for me. But I did it. And then this is what happens, you know. And so I kind of take that concept in my life as well. I mean, in my art, as a father and as a husband and as an artist.
So would you say there's anyone in your life that you got that creative bug from, or that you feel like they were an inspiration to you, in developing that creative side?
I feel like I'm the only one in my family that at least tapped into it. So I've like, not only broke, like ancestral curses and stuff, but like the bond of like, being free and being a creative in my family because it was so like my dad played sports. My mom just was at home. Like there was no like — I'm the only, I'm like the black sheep creative out of the family. I didn't really have too many in-person creative inspirations.
What was your relationship with your dad growing up? Because you were the more creative type, did that create tension in any way?
Yeah, so the whole basketball thing — I kind of got senioritis.
So my senior year I stopped playing pretty much before season started. And everyone was just sitting there like, "What's going on?" So my dad was like, "What are you doing?" He was slightly living vicariously through me, because he was supposed to be in the NFL but then he started having kids.
So he's just kind of like, the only time we connected was like, on the court when he was coaching me or like, running drills with me, or we were watching a game.
So when I did that, he kind of questioned here and there and ended, like, our relationship almost.
My dad just kept questioning me and just like, slowly but surely stopped asking me questions. And so I started asking him questions, and he just kind of turned off.
I'm like, That's so crazy. Now that I'm a dad, I could never, like —
I've turned off with my teenage boys before, in resentment, because possibly, that's what was taught to me. But then I'm in this mold of recreating things in the fatherhood spectrum, and I'm aware of that, so I'll wake up — "Okay, so you're just being a teenager." You know, it shakes things up a little bit.
But besides that, I would never like, like, legit, like, not communicate with my kids, you know?
So now with your own kids, what sort of things do you kind of try and do to — I don't know — enable or foster that sort of experience, or that relationship with your kids?
Every kid's different. So I have like, certain little, you know, I would say like handshakes or like kisses good night, and different things for each of my kids to keep that consistent attention and love — because we have five kids. So like to like, keep that going. Like the nightly routine is pretty long. Like, "Okay, let's pay attention to you." "Let's pay attention to you."
And then my teenage boys. So there's a 10 difference — 10 years ago when they were this age, or, you know, seven years ago when they were younger, I didn't have this mature level or the years and experience and stuff. So like it was a little different. And so now that they're teenagers, there's a little bit of resistance that they see how I am with the kids now, so there's a little bit of resistance of "Why didn't I get that?"
And it's for me to like, not shame and go through that in my head as a father, like, "Oh, I was terrible father," like, I was doing what I was given and what I knew at the time. And so all I can do is try to find some way to connect with them now, and then move forward and have my apologies, and do all that.
That's what I know, like how to manage to just stay present — focus with each one in a different way.
If we fast forward 40 years, 50 years from now — that's a long time — but how would you want your kids to describe their dad. So when I say "What was your dad like?" what would make you the happiest to hear them say?
This is something I'm definitely still working on. Oh, man, 50 years, 40 years, 30 years from now, I would want them to say that he was happy. And he was always there. And always was there for, you know, to listen, and to like, give advice when needed. And he was playful and you know, he just had a handful of dad jokes, you know.
And in that personally, as a father, showing up in those mistakes, or the things I didn't know, in the past. I'm still taking that journey of years of patterns in my actions, and trying to rewrite that story. So I'm like, mid shift.
So when you ask that question, it was the edge for me because I know where I'm at now and where I want to be. And it's a good question, because I'm like, "Yeah, that's definitely where I want to be."
You know, as your kid's growing, you're growing as a dad, you know? I'll tell my kid "I am learning, just like you're learning. I haven't been in this situation before, just like you haven't been in this situation before. So, you know, I'm sorry."
So what about being difficult makes being a dad worth it to you?
I feel like my purpose in life — or just trying to understand life, because there's so many layers to it — is that everything comes down to joy and love.
If and when you reach that, I feel like that's the gratifying — so it could be their laughter or them just, like, figuring shit out and just being able to say, "Oh, wow!"
And like the epiphany of like, they're moving up and, understanding themselves and, and moving through this world and moving through life.
So for me, the moments of "Aha!" and smiles and laughs — when we're together, and there's no sore thumb over here, teenager being this person, or I'm being this way, or there's a whole tantrum from my three year old, you know, who's screaming like a pterodactyl. You know, like, those moments where I'm aware, and I look, and everyone's just being in that joy space, or in that love space. Those are the moments that are like, "Alright, cool. I like this. This is, this is what it's about."
How do you think it differs, how your dad taught you to be a man or patterned or wanted you to be a man — how would you say it's different from how you are wanting to raise your boys to be men?
Yeah, so there are a lot of pendulums that are happening right now.
For me, the first step to that was re-parenting myself. And with that, like shedding some of the old programs and stories that I had, that my dad was, and it's really cool to witness me in that action — and I applaud myself for that, because we don't do that a lot, especially men, applaud ourselves— and when my dad would have put his hands on me or spanked me, for like, spilling milk, and he gets irritated, I've flipped the script. And some of the curses are broken, just based on my reaction to how I'm showing up.
So when [my son] River spills milk, it's like, "Hey, man, let me help you clean that up." And I'm teaching him how to clean it up. And it's more of an "Oops," versus like, "Why did you do that?!" I don't know, like how I grew up. So that's just an example of how I feed into it.
Would you want your kids to follow your same maybe windy road to where you're at now? Or would you want them to —choosing between the road less traveled, and just the straight, clear path, what would you want for your kids?
That's a good question. I feel like the obvious question is, I would want them to pave their own way, you know? So if that's given, if that's the answer, I feel like what I would fill in is letting them know that I'm here while they're going through it — because there's going to be some really tough, shitty times. And there's going to be — really it's like more of a roller coaster, and unsafe feeling, to pick that route, like versus going straight and [white] collar.
I think most of all, I would just try to say "Hey, I'm here for you on the road," and just reassure them or like — especially the boys in my life and you know the men for my experience, too — that the situation isn't life or death. You're not gonna die because your wife's mad at you. Like you're not — talking with other men, that's a big part of our shame is thinking that it's over. It's done. We just messed up.
So I would just explain stuff like that to them. And then they could choose. And if they want the straight and narrow, cool, I'll support them in that. And there's still ups and downs in there, too. So I definitely encourage — our house encourages — being yourself, totally taken on. And tapping into authenticity.