TRI-TAYLOR — Chicago barber Terrance Wills used to live like an NBA player, out on the road cutting hair for former all-star Joe Johnson. But after a couple seasons, Wills missed home.
“So, Joe sent me back with a pretty good tip,” Wills said. That tip was enough for him to get a new apartment, a car — and to think about opening up his own barbershop.
Now, many of the Chicago Bulls get their haircuts at Wills’ shop, Razor Red Grooming Solutions, 2234 W. Taylor St. in Tri-Taylor.
Bulls star Zach LaVine bought the barber chairs, Scottie Pippen is a chatty shop regular and, after a recent Razor Red cut, Lonzo Ball shot seven for 10 from three.
The Bulls are at the top of the Eastern Conference, and Wills, the man behind the clippers, couldn’t be happier.
“We’re a shooter and a big away,” said Wills, draping a Bulls barber cape over his chair. “I can smell a championship coming real soon.”
During a recent Bulls broadcast, TV play-by-play man Adam Amin marveled at analyst Stacey King’s tightly cut goatee, pointing to it on camera.
“Razor Red on Taylor Street, baby!” King said with a broad smile. “Shout out to him.”
Wills feels like a part of the team, and he’s even had his own barber chair inside the Bulls’ practice facility since 2010. His motto: “When you look good, you play good.”
The “small but big” Tri-Taylor shop, about a mile from the United Center, has walls that pay homage to the legendary 90s Bulls. Below, a team of barbers are locked in like athletes, snipping away in retro Jordans.
Celebrities and Chicagoans alike are welcome to walk in for a haircut.
“This comes natural for us. Because we are Chicago. You’re regular when you come in,” Wills said. “You can have the neighborhood mailman in here, getting his cut with a top 50 NBA player of all-time. At any given time.”
Wills smiled as he pinpointed signatures on the back wall: Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, Nikola Vučević, Patrick Williams, Jimmy Butler, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, Horace Grant, Stacey King, former Bears stars Matt Forte and Devin Hester. He’s cut “hundreds” of current and former NBA players. On Thursday, Wills went to cut Snoop Dogg’s hair.
“It still amazes me to this day how I got so much access to people just by building relationships and staying solid,” Wills said. “Chicago is love. I never consider myself to be the best, but what I would consider myself to be is blessed.”
Wills and his “shop family” manage about 70 heads inside the Bulls organization in any given year, from players to trainers, coaching staff to front office bigwigs. Shaun Hickombottom, director of player and team services, is the first to greet new Bulls players and help them get situated in the city. His next question: “Do you want a haircut?”
“And the person I send them to is Terrance,” Hickombottom said. “He can drop a dope fade. They call him Razor Red because his linings are the best. And you can just relate to him.”
Tattooed on the forearm that Wills holds his clippers with is “Rockwell,” the former housing project on the West Side where he began cutting hair at 14 years old.
“I used to get the worst, jacked-up haircuts from my mom. So I decided to pick up the clippers,” Wills said. “And I was pretty good. Coming up in the projects, it was rough. But through haircutting, I could stay focused.”
The young Wills made a name for himself around the city for his “signature move:” a shaved-out Nike swoosh.
Since then, his operation has grown organically. He’s never kept a formal calendar. On Thursday, Wills’ phone dinged with texts from rappers, athletes and regulars vying for a time to get a cut.
It was word-of-mouth that led Wills to cut hair for an employee at agency Priority Sports, who put him in touch with former NBA player and Chicago native Jannero Pargo. With a strong recommendation from Pargo, Wills was introduced to Joe Johnson and other pros.
The barber from Rockwell Gardens — just a five-minute bike ride from the old Chicago Stadium — started working in the Bulls locker room in 2008.
Laid back in a Razor Red barber chair, players are usually down to chat. Each sit-down with a celebrity is a lesson in humility.
“I learned how to stay grounded by talking to some of the greatest players. You learn that these are real people. They’ve been through the same we all go through,” Wills said. “We talk about how to invest your money, how to keep relationships solid. And if I can do all that while I’m making you look good for your game, that’s my blessing.”
Wills says building relationships with athletes requires authenticity — staying true to Chicago and who he’s always been. He’s been around the Bulls since the ’90s and owns the shoes Michael Jordan wore when he made his famous “Last Shot” to win his sixth NBA championship. Outside the locker room in Utah that night, Jordan trusted that Wills would always keep the kicks.
The ’90s Bulls were “truly rockstars,” Wills says. The early 2010s Bulls, led by MVP and hometown hero Derrick Rose, were the “most tight” teams. Wills said only one player ever made him starstruck: Dwyane Wade, a native of suburban Robbins who came to Chicago to play for the Bulls in 2016. Mustering up the confidence, Wills approached Wade in the locker room and said, “I’m going to be your new barber.”
Seeing his haircuts on TV never grows old.
“I love to show my kids,” Wills said. “It’s a joy. That I’m doing what I’m here for.”
In the back of the store, Wills’ three younger kids — Chance, King and Major — own and maintain the shop’s vending machine. Wills gave it to them so they can “learn to understand money. What I didn’t have.” The barber strives to empower the next generation of Chicagoans to start their own businesses.
“I like to show the kids that in the community, there is an opportunity for you to be out here and create. Create revenue or something for yourself,” Wills said. “I do a lot here because Chicago is where my heart is at. I’d be nothing without the people of Chicago.”
Wills gives out free haircuts for kids at local schools, and he helped turn a parking lot into a basketball court outside Willa Cather Elementary School. At the humble corner of Razor Red barbershop in Tri-Taylor, luxury cars line the street. Wills is proud they belong to his barbers.
“Everybody eats around here,” Wills said. “We treat everyone like family.”
Wills had to shut down at the start of the pandemic, but he kept his bills paid, “got the spiderwebs out” and reopened in July. All of his barbers are fully vaccinated. And the Bulls have the talent — and the razors — to make a real run.
“As a barber you can see the confidence in a person. And I think the Bulls are highly confident right now,” Wills said. “Everybody thrives off when they win. This is a sports city.
“I’m just a small piece of that big puzzle.”
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