Dig Baton Rouge

For the People: Local barber approaches profession as art

From paper to hair, one canvas to the next, Richard “SMASH” Payne is always looking for the next big challenge and way to make his mark through his artistry.
He and his staff at Smashing the City Grooming Lounge do more than simply cut hair. The intricate design work, shop aesthetic and conversations at the shop are meant to make every client feel like they’re at home.

Payne’s interest in art started at a young age. While he said he was good at it, creating images from pen and paper wasn’t enough of a challenge. At age 12, Panye started cutting hair and around 16, he began adding his artistic flavor into the mix by adding designs into the heads of his clients.

“[Creating art] on paper, is still and usually in a quiet setting,” Payne said. “You’re usually copying a certain picture and I lost my passion for it when I started doing it with hair. To do it in someone’s hair while they’re moving and dealing with the different textures of hair while making a clear design, it’s an act of perfectionism.”

CU Rich concentrating

His designs are usually made by using electric clippers, razor blades or a combination of the two. Some are freehand efforts while others are based on pictures suggested by the clients.

Payne said what makes designing and cutting hair fun is that it’s one of the most-seen art forms. Instead of travelling to the canvas, the canvasses travel around showcasing themselves.

CU kid's eye B_W

The workshop, better known as Smashing the City, has been open for seven years. The location on O’Neal Lane right below I-12 is a special place for Payne who started the shop when he was only 24.

In 2002, when his family first moved to Baton Rouge, he noticed there wasn’t a shop in the area that everyone could go to. He and all of his friends would have to travel to other barbershops just to get haircuts.

He decided that needed to change.

He said he didn’t want to open his own location originally, but felt the variety between Baton Rouge barbershops was so minimal that he had to look into starting his own that went along with his ideals.

“You should be able to create what type of person you want to be while inside that chair,” Payne said. “A lot of places, you can’t get that and the ones that you can are usually not black-owned. I wanted to create an environment where everyone is welcomed and when you come here, you feel like you’re at home.”

But even opening his own shop wasn’t enough. Payne has connected with people internationally through his social media and YouTube videos who have encouraged him to travel more and spread his artistic method to other shops.

“Being on O’Neal has led to so much success,” Payne said. “When people come out here, they come for us. We’ve become an entire brand for what we offer. We challenge ourselves to offer an entire package. We are not like other shops out here. We’re for the people and true to the people.”

Three years ago during a traditional LSU football versus Alabama weekend, Payne was tasked with cutting and painting the school logos into the backs of two gentleman’s heads. He said this was the biggest design challenge he’d ever had because of how important it was to those fans and the cameras surrounding him.
Passionately, Payne’s stated that more than cuts and designs are given at Smashing the City. Each client gets “the works” from the moment they walk-in to the second they leave. He said there is never “just a haircut” when it comes to interacting with him or his staff.

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“Everything is in the details,” Payne said. “Detail is what brings numbers back. You get what you pay for here. Premium clippers, the newest and best products and people who truly get to know you on a personal level”

After receiving the full treatment, Payne and his staff also sell products to help with hair growth and grooming such and sponges and beard oils.

Payne said SMASH is more than what the shop does when giving quality service, but it’s an acronym as well, standing for “Success Makes A Soul Hungry.” The shop is in a state of constant evolution, and so are its barbers who look at that mantra as a lifestyle.

row of chairs b_w

“Everything should come from you and be genuine,” he said. “If a person remains true to themselves, then everything else follows naturally. That’s what has led to this shop being so successful and I feel like we’re only getting started.”

Photos by Sean Gasser.

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