Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month


Every May, we honor the history, culture and contributions of AAPI communities across the United States. Since the bill was signed in 1990, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is annually celebrated and presents a tremendous opportunity to share stories, educate and celebrate AAPI communities.  

Similar to what we did in October when celebrating Filipino American barbers, we’re honored to continue the celebration and give flowers to more barbers in the broader AAPI community. But before we get to the list, let’s take a moment to acknowledge some realities of being AAPI in America. 

Whether we admit it or not, four years ago, the pandemic revealed how some Americans view the AAPI community. There was heightened fear felt by many as we witnessed increasing rates of anti-Asian harassment and violence. Targeted hate towards our community sent a ripple of fear across many families as a normal walk outside could turn deadly. 

Typically unmentioned in high school history textbooks, what happened during the pandemic signals to many unjust events in American history. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the incarceration of Japanese American citizens during WWII and the murder of Vincent Chin. It’s disheartening that these stories have gone untold for so long. When we take time to learn about this history, it can validate and provide language for what many experience today. 

If you ask an AAPI barber in America if they have ever experienced negative comments or actions directed towards them based on their ethnic identity, I bet most of them have a story to tell. Some stories may even take place within the barbershop. Yet while we hold these painful stories in one hand, we also hold stories of resilience and creativity in the other. 

Let’s take a well-deserved moment to recognize these amazing AAPI barbers and their significant influence in the beauty and barber community. 

Sofie Pok 

Commonly known as “staygold,” Sofie is much more than an “influencer.” With one of the most decorated resumes of any platform educator and artist in the game right now, Sofie is a leader who has inspired millions around the world. But more importantly, we can always expect Sofie to be vulnerable and transparent. If you’ve listened to her barber origin story, you’ll know that her family was not supportive of her decision to drop out of college and pursue barbering.This is a common story for many AAPI barbers, the tension of pursuing a career outside of family expectations. For those who can relate, Sofie’s journey serves as a guide to help navigate tough family dynamics. 

Phil Alapati

San Francisco native and barber OG, Phil started cutting in 2004 and opened his shop in 2006. Always advocating for Samoan and Polynesian culture, Phil has consistently been about the community. As one of the co-founders of the Bay Area Barber Brotherhood, he’s inspired a whole new generation of barbers across the bay. 

Mark Jason Solofa

Founder of a premium men’s grooming lifestyle brand out of Northern California, Mark-Jason Solofa has developed a reputation based on service, community, and preserving the values of Traditional Barbering. If you visit his shop, you’ll notice an intentional incorporation of Polynesian (Samoan/Tongan) heritage into the overall shop’s design. A licensed barber, cosmetologist, certified barber instructor, former educator and platform artist, Mark-Jason has reminded us of what the industry is all about: service. 

Andy Tran

Before 12pell, there was Andy Tran. I lost track of the amount of times I sent his video Taper vs Fade to people. It seemed like Andy had discovered a need for a different type of tutorial. More than that, he also covered topics on photography, videography and technology. I’ll never forget when he was featured in a Google commercial. Representation matters. If you watch his content, it’s clear that his editing is on a different level and has likely inspired many barber content creators who started in the last couple of years.


Meet the “The Next Generation Of Hair Care Experts.”’ From the heart of Chinatown NYC, the barbers at 12pell have amassed over 2 million TikTok followers and have been featured on various news platforms including: ABC7, BBC, CBS, CNBC, Yahoo, Business Insider, Vice and Buzzfeed. They have transcended haircuts and taken the conversation to new heights. 

Many have likely binge-watched their haircut consultation transformation videos and even saved one to reference for their upcoming haircut. Speaking from personal impact, their content inspires the AAPI community at large to embrace their natural hair type and find a style that actually complements their natural features. I firmly believe they are a huge reason why clients have started to use phrases like “2-block,” “70-30”, “60-40” and “tapers.” 12pell is shaping hair care and the men’s grooming culture as we know it.

This list scratches the surface of the influence that AAPI barbers have had on barber culture. It may have taken some time, but it’s inspiring to see so many AAPI barbers impact the larger industry. Keep doing what you’re doing. We see you and appreciate you.

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Matthew Mendoza

Matthew Mendoza is a licensed barber, educator and consultant. He offers an online course that helps barbers pass their barber exam, hosts the podcast Beyond Barber School which provides emerging barbers with the critical guidance needed to start their business and writes a newsletter called theGuideline about the latest trends in the barber industry.

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