10 Things You Need To Know About The Black Barbershop » VSB

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10 Things You Need To Know About The Black Barbershop

1. Breaking up with a barber is the most traumatic break-up a Black man will ever experience. One, because barber relationships usually last much longer than the half-assed, Tinder-generated exchange of Netflix passwords and seminal fluids you people call “relationships.” But also because the usual break-up excuses — “It’s not you, it’s me” and “I’m just not ready for a relationship right now” — just don’t apply. You decide to start going to a new barber, it’s definitely because the current barber kinda, sorta sucks and you’re just now accepting it and preparing to move on. And that’s a hard conversation to have. So you don’t have it. You just stop going to that shop…and avoid walking within a 200 meter radius of that shop for the rest of your life.

2. It is not uncommon to enter the shop with a terrible, Fraggle Rock shape up and a serious bout of depression and leave with a cut that bumps you up from a “hard five” to a “decent seven,” a smile, a new outlook on life, actual life insurance, and bootlegged copies of Straight Outta Compton and Booty Talk 72.

3. If entering the shop, be prepared to spend anything from 15 minutes to three and a half days there. Barbers are vital. But, since they’re aware they’re vital, they can also be divas. This means he might decide to pick up his lunch while you’re in the chair. And then eat the lunch while he’s cutting you. (And have the audacity to offer you fries!!! “No nigga. I don’t want fries. I want a line up.”) Or stop your cut every five minutes to do 20 pushups. Or allow the bad-ass nephew of this chick he’s trying to fuck skip you in line.

(If you are a person who wants to take the diva out the barber, there’s actually an amazing new app called Cue that allows you to engage with your barber on your own terms. If you’re new to a city, you can find/judge/select a barber before going to the shop instead of waiting until you get there and risk getting stuck with a shitty barber. It’s also barber directory/Uber, where instead of you going to the shop, you can “order” the barber and he comes to you.)

4. If you are new to a shop and don’t know who to go to, wait. Sit for 15-20 minutes and observe. It might feel awkward, but trust me. It’s worth it. Do not — I repeat, DO NOT — respond to the first person who asks if you need help, because this is usually a trick. And by “a trick” I mean “the way the worst barber in the shop gets a client base.”

5. If there is a White barber in the barbershop or a barber who happens to be a woman, they are probably great barbers. Black barbershops don’t practice affirmative action. So if a White guy or a woman is manning a chair, trust that they’ve earned it.

6. In every Black barbershop exists at least three posters of different haircuts modeled by regular folks. These haircuts will be numbered. No one has ever met an actual Black barbershop poster model, so don’t feel bad if you’re not asked to be one. Because these people don’t actually exist in real life. (Although I strongly suspect Trey Burke from the Utah Jazz might actually be one.)

7. Your face will never feel more clean than it does after your barber does his post-cut alcohol/spray/powder routine. You will be in that chair feeling like you just got a mud bath from Martha Stewart.

8. If you are a person who happens to be a woman, and you’ve ever entered a barbershop, you might have left impressed by their politeness and chivalry. Do not be fooled by this. Because, the moment you left the shop — like, literally, one second after you left — it turned right back into an 8th boys’ locker room. And, even if your butt is basically just an extension of your back, it was noted and mentioned. Sometimes in depth. And sometimes, um, not in depth. (i.e.; “Dat ass, though?!?!”)

9. Every Black barbershop has a back area. No one knows what goes on in the back. I suspect that’s where they stash the bodies of shitty barbers stabbed by irate clients.

10. A Black man’s relationship with his barber is his third most important relationship, behind only his significant other and his children. (Yes, more important than God, because even though God is all things and everything and all that, God aint hooking you up with a fresh fade and a beard line a half hour before the Friday happy hour rush. Because God is busy. God has other plans. Jerome in the third chair at Cuttin’ Styles will, though.)

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Aaron Smarter

    Yes. And yes.

  • kenyadigit

    #2 is nothing but the truth. Leave the shop feeling like a new man. Confidence level to shoot your shot at anything moving.

    • LogicalLeopard

      I will probably never get any spa treatment, massage, etc. The most relaxing thing in the world to me is going to the barbershop, sitting in the chair and almost falling asleep while my hair is cut, then leaving looking and feeling great.

  • LogicalLeopard

    Wait….but there are Barbers offering people fries? When Otis used to take a break before cutting my hair (around hour two) and turn around and eat Chinese takeout while watching Guiding Light, I never got a piece of shrimp, a fortune cookie, NOTHING!

    • Dcetstyle

      Look man I am sitting in my office reading this. I can’t be having these outbursts of laughter around these folks.???

      • LogicalLeopard

        *LOL* I’m sorry! But man, I am TOO salty about that. I would have been all in, if I would have had SOMETHING…..any day someone gives you free fries is a good day, and that’s totally worth the 5 hour wait at the barber’s office. But I got NOTHING! At least now I have a barber who will try to work me in wherever he can, and I can call ahead to see how many heads are in front of me. He has the decency to shovel down his food guiltily and only pauses while cutting my hair if a pretty girl walks down the street or maybe a nice car passes by. But I feel cheated all those years I spent with Otis. Seriously. If I would have known barbers were feeding folk, I would have been OUT of there! “Forget you, Otis, and your soaps! If I gotta spend my retirement here, at least throw me a piece of sweet and sour chicken! And by the way, it’s obvious Sara doesn’t have a twin sister, she’s got multiple personalities! So there!”

        • Jennifer

          LOL! You, Otis, Sara, and her personalities have been a lovely end to my work day. I thank you, sir.

          • LogicalLeopard

            No problem! *LOL* And that’s some real talk. I don’t remember how long I got my hair cut at Otis’s. It could have been a couple years, but it felt like half my life because of the waiting. *L*

        • Dcetstyle

          Lol!!! You are killing me. I thought that only happened in our lady shops! See for us the “stories” got us through them tough times when you are starving and your stylist munching on a chicken box with salt and pepper fries.

          • LogicalLeopard

            *LOL* Right! And you KNOW that you skipped lunch to go by the shop. You’re thinking, “Man….I know I need to eat, but if I don’t get the shop as early as possible, I’m going to be there all day.” And you show up, and right before you park, you see two other people go ahead of you. And you’re sitting there thinking, “I got this…I can handle it…only two people ahead of me. And right when it’s your turn, the barber/stylist pulls out that chicken, and eats it slow like they’re filming a commercial. And you just sit there, listening to the sad Sarah McLaughlin music in your head, feeling like a starving, neglected puppy.

    • At best they ask if I want something when they sending the sweeper to the store

      • LogicalLeopard

        *LOL* Right! That’s all you can ask for…..if your barber has a regular sweeper, instead of that shady dude that breezes by occasionally and is obviously using the money to get high or drunk

    • dadumdee

      It’s a perfunctory offer that they don’t intend to honor and is solely designed to mitigate the guilt of making a paying customer wait while they stuff their face.

  • YeaSoh

    So basically going to a barbershop is like going to a beauty salon… except there’s a bunch a dudes instead of chicks… not surprised.

    • uNk

      and it takes 3 or 4 hours less but yea lol

      • YeaSoh

        yes the ACT of cutting your hair takes 15 minutes but you’re in the barbershop for the same amount of time as us a lot of the time lol

        • uNk

          Ive had 2 or 3 women walk in after me and leave while im just getting in the chair….I cant count how many times Ive been in the barborshop and said to myself, “this cant be life.”

        • LogicalLeopard

          Yup. There are ways to pare it down. Never go around the 1st, a major holiday, or a Friday. A Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon is good, even if you have to take a longer lunch. Get your barber’s number so you can call ahead and have an idea of what to expect (even though five people can show up before you get there) And tip well.

          • YeaSoh

            same same

          • Fridays can work well…. If you get off early enough. In the past year, my schedule means that I can get to the shop by 5,and I’ve done OK.

            • LogicalLeopard

              Yes, getting there by five is usually good, or before, if you can. Get there at six, and you’re hit.

      • miss t-lee

        If you’re there half the day, it’s a neck and neck race.

    • Yellow Tail

      I remember when during college I went back home to get my hair done(back when I was still a creamy crack addict) and chick had me in the salon for 5 hours. I was skipped in line and everything! I swore to never go back and around that same time I inadvertently went natural. At first my experience in natural hair salons was just so good and refreshing. However, now that everyone has jumped on the natural hair train the natural hair stylist are turning JUST as bad as those salons I went to back in the day, smh.

      • Jennifer

        This is exactly why I went natural 10 years ago. And, I agree that some natural salons are getting greedy with my time. I request that first appointment or I do it myself I could be taking a nap instead of sitting up in a salon.

        • miss t-lee

          “This is exactly why I went natural 10 years ago.”

          Also.

      • FILTHIER

        I do my own lol, I will probably have this style for the rest of my life, but with grey twists in my old age.

        • SoCalGal

          Can you do mine, please?!

    • miss t-lee

      Exactly.

    • I’m really scared of the day daughter has to brave a beauty salon. Not haha scared, but “are these chicks gonna rag her for not having a mom and possibly get at my baby in a way that requires a crew of chicks for payback” scared. No one hurts my daughter. NO ONE.

      • Instagram SuperModel

        Ummmm, how would they know all that information, if you don’t tell them yourself?

        • For one, my daughter is a chatterbox. I stay telling her not to tell grown ups our business. Two, um…I don’t trust these heauxs. Too much drama with my child over the years.

          • Instagram SuperModel

            Mmmh.

      • YeaSoh

        The salon is a lot of things but it ain’t jail

        • I don’t know that. Then again I’ve never been in one (save for my cash) so there’s that…

        • I’m protective of my daughter especially around women of child bearing age. Sue me.

          • FILTHIER

            Sounds like you had a cruel mother or something. If you are looking for someone to love a child, a black woman of child bearing age is your best bet. #benjaminbutton

      • FILTHIER

        She doesn’t necessarily need to go if she learns to do her own hair. I do my own hair better than any woman at a shop. Far as I’m concerned they break your hair out at a shop.

      • FILTHIER

        Why would people be mean to a girl without a mother? Did I miss something?

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      Except my cut is gonna cost 20, not 200.

      • YeaSoh

        You had to rub that in didn’t you? jerk

  • uNk

    #3 has left me upset more than enough times! I litereally have to clear out half a day just to dedicate to the ifs, maybes and hopefully of walking into the barborshop. Like please dont let this man go off on another rant about not settling down at my age, and waiting till age 38. Some notable quotes I have had to say…..
    -“yea man i still work at (blank), I was working there last saturday too”
    -“I did try to edge my facial hair up couple days back, my fault fam you know I didnt go nowhere else”
    – *soon as I sit in the chair* “Im good bro, just heading out of town in the next hour, been crazy rushing all day”

    • LogicalLeopard

      I worked at a halfway house once, and residents were on strict time limits everywhere they were allowed to go. We had to talk to our white boss and tell her, “Uhm….look….these brothers need at least a 4 hour block of time to go get their hair done. Its the truth.”

    • Breezyx2

      But why are you not running?!?!

      • uNk

        Because ive been slacking lol Trying to find time between work and school….I got you this weekend tho!

  • That Guy

    I am so grateful I’m balding and don’t have to deal with that ish anymore. I hate the barber shop, I hate feeling like I got skipped in line, I hate making small talk, and I hate these people who don’t control their sh!tty kids when they come to the shop. Once this dude heard I worked in IT and asked me if I could help his cousin with his router. How I’m supposed to say no to that when you might mess up hairline out of spite?

  • Julian Green

    It just occured to me….I haven’t been inside a barber shop in over a year! I haven’t had an actual haircut in almost eleven years! Time really flies when you’re not spending $20 on shape-ups every week and a half.

    • PhlyyPhree

      Soooo…did you go bald or something? Grab a bowl and a youtube tutorial?
      #QTNA

      • tgtaggie

        I started going bald about 3-4 yrs ago. Was getting it cut lower and lower and eventually 2yrs ago. I shaved it all off. Was a little sad at first but couple of ppl told me I looked pretty good bald. Saved $30-40 a month.

        Last week was the first time I went into a barber shop in about 2yrs. That was to get my beard shaped up.

      • Julian Green

        Nah. I started growing dreadlocks when I was 15 and just decided to go full Nazarene. Beard, wooden necklaces, raw shea butter, Coptic tattoos; you know the type.

        • MsSula

          Why am I dead at this description! LMAO

        • Lana

          Full Nazarene .?! ha . love it.

      • Going bald was one of the better decisions me and mother nature ever made.

  • Whys_Words

    11. Immediately after receiving your cut, please get your inner G ready for the barbers homemade “alcohol-based” solution…as it will feel as though you have a line of fire burning around your new cut and you don’t want to make it any worse by having that lonely tear fall down your face! REAL MEN DON’T CRY……..in the barbershop!!!

    • LogicalLeopard

      Nah, man. My Inner G says nooooooooooooo! I get the spray instead! *LOL* Or you can sidestep it by buying some Tea Tree oil yourself and giving it to the barber to put on it, acting like you’re all phony natural and stuff instead of scared to have your neck napalmed.

      • Whys_Words

        Man there’s no way I walk into my shop with Tea Tree oil in my hand…talkin about yeah put this on…..without immediately falling into a 1hr jonin session! You better sit there and bat those eyes 200 times per second to hold the tears back like everyone else! LOL

        • LogicalLeopard

          *LOLOLOL* You’re right, you’re right…..If all else fails, you could just jump out of the chair with the ugliest Pookie from New Jack City expression on your face and scream, “Nooooooooooooo!!! I ain’t doin it no more, you hear me! I ain’t doin it! I had to fight all my life……”

        • dmcmillian72

          “You better sit there and bat those eyes 200 times per second to hold the tears back like everyone else!”

          THANK YOU for this laugh! I just finished a take-your-breath-away-can’t-even-make-a-sound-I’m-so-tickled laugh over this comment! Bwahhahahahahaaaaa!!! =D

    • Never flinch, I’ma thug

    • dadumdee

      Grit your teeth, expose them and breathe in fast through your mouth. That is the official sound of that moment.

    • AudTheBarber

      Lolol love this

  • Amen

    Made the mistake of trying to change barbers within the same shop when I was in HS. Worse than any break up I’ve experienced with a girlfriend. Taught me the value of money in a roundabout way.

    • Skye

      Man the ex barber probably staring at you with the side eye like “dat ungrateful mother focker”

      • Amen

        Yeah, it was bad. I was young too, so it was the added “I put you on” shade. I started coming on dude’s off day lol.

    • Whys_Words

      Bruh…I remember back in college I ran into my old barber in the club after a fresh cut from the new barber. I swear he gave me a look so angry I thought it was gonna push back my line! I felt emabarrassed like a husband who just got caught in bed with another woman! LOL

    • CrankUpThe_AC

      Aye don’t feel embarrassed b. If his work wasn’t quality then it wasn’t quality. You KNOW you messed up my lineup and aren’t gonna acknowledge it? Na son.No paper for you lol

      • Barbers always know when they mess up too and just ride it out, Idk how women date one so skilled at deception

  • miss t-lee

    “If entering the shop, be prepared to spend anything from 15 minutes to three and a half days there. Barbers are vital. But, since they’re aware they’re vital, they can also be divas. This means he might decide to pick up his lunch while you’re in the chair. And then eat the lunch while he’s cutting you.”

    Sounds like my very last hairdresser.
    I ain’t got 6 hours for you to f*ck with my hair, homegirl.

    • cakes_and_pies

      I started going a Black hairdresser who does it all at a chain store. They don’t play that at all. I’ve haven’t had a “lift the dryer bonnet to make sure you haven’ forgotten me for 3 hours” move since then.

      • miss t-lee

        Ha! I bet.
        I went natural 10 years ago so I really only holler at a braider every now and again when I wanna switch stuff up. She rents a suite in a location with about 30 tenants in business for themselves, and it’s appointment only.

        • cakes_and_pies

          I’m lucky enough to have a braider who block schedules according to head size, texture, and adult/child. She’ll tell you straight up she has three girl heads and a crotchet and will only book you on an alternate block.

          • miss t-lee

            ‘Tis a beautiful thing.

        • Amber

          I usually only book my braider for an 8:30 saturday morning appointment. She only books one person at a time and by 12 I’m out the door and enjoying the weekend. I’ve had friends go to the regular shop at the same time I go get my hair braided and I still get out before them.

          • miss t-lee

            Yup. I won’t go back to that other way of living ever again.

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