With tats from his fingers up to his neck, Andrew Miller, 30, may look like he’s more at home in a tattoo shop than a salon, but he knows hair.

Miller, a.k.a. “Drew the Barber,” graduated from San Jose City Cosmetology before learning higher-end cutting and coloring in salons, traditional cuts and old-school barber techniques from Santa Clara haircutting legend Big Jim, and how to cut fades, designs and tapers in urban barber shops.

“I see myself as an artist, and haircutting is my medium,” Miller said. “I didn’t want there to be anything I didn’t know how to do.”

At the forefront of Cannery Park sits local screen-printing shop BG Concepts, and here, in a side-room with a single, red-leather barber chair, is Miller’s shop.

SanJose.com: What makes you an artist?

My haircuts aren’t cookie-cutter, pick-off-the-wall style. I try to make them specific to the client’s head, putting as much thought and creativity into my cuts as people will allow. My happiest clients are the ones who let me be the professional.

How’d you get into haircutting?

My stepmom suggested it. I laughed it off until I walked by a salon one day. There were pretty women, they were dressed nice, some were drinking wine, and I thought that doesn’t look half bad. I signed the waiting list at San Jose City Cosmetology and went in on a hope that something would come together. Nothing I had done had worked out up to that point in my life.

I made some bad choices when I was younger. I did poorly in school, was in and out of jail and got myself way behind the eight ball. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to learn this trade. I’m passionate about barbering now because it saved my life.

Does that have anything to do with the “Overcome” tattoo on your fingers?

Yeah, I got this at my deepest, darkest point as a message to not give up. I was tired of the consequences of my bad decisions. Now I’ve got my family, my friends. I’m proud of what I’m doing, there are people who believe in me and what I do, and I appreciate it all.

What are some long-term goals?

The guys at BG Concepts have been really good role models. Being here has helped me hone my skills not just as a barber but as a man, so this is like the shop before the shop. I’ve recently started up a clothing brand with a friend and we want to create a boutique/barbershop.

Another vision is running a program to teach young men in positions like I was—who don’t have job skills or training, don’t have a lot of education, or have a criminal record. I want to open their eyes to the fact that they can be good at something. It saved me. I want to give that to someone else.