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10 Things You Need To Know About The Black Barbershop

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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.

  • Skye

    Never make eye contact with the barber who has an empty chair.

    • Amen

      Hate going to a new city where you don’t know any barbers. One time, I walked into a barbershop in Fort Worth, TX that 4 empty chairs in a 5 man shop. I walked right back out, don’t have time to gamble.

      • miss t-lee

        Those odds sound rough as heyll.

    • Its the closest thing men get to Street harassment

    • YeaSoh

      I like your avi… rwaaaarrrrrrrrrrr

  • shalonda282

    Learned #4 the hard way by taking my little cousins to the barbershop. Oh so many jacked up hairlines, lol. I can laugh about it now but the time spent waiting to have the decent barber “fix” it, then trying to explain to their moms what happened. Just no. Now I need a name, description, and back up barber before I do any favors involving the barbershop.

  • Used to go to one barber where every time was an adventure…I was either in and out in 30-45, or I was able to take a 2 hour nap and still be there for another hour. Best cuts I ever had though. But since I am grown and have a job that wouldn’t be cool with the 6 hour lunch break, I only go to places where I can set, and they honor appointments! #AintNobodyGotTimeForThat

  • Also, fuck barbershops that automatically include tip plus tax

    • What kind of buckfoy BS is that???!!!

      • A lot of newish ones in Queens do it. The one by the Jamaica center E/J/Z train does it. Like I tip 40~50% to quality barber’s. Why you taxing me bro?

        • Brass Tacks

          D**mn. So what happens if the fcuk your hairline up. Do you get reimbursed?

        • I know the newer ones will be a bit more expensive, as I go to one. Still, you get a better cut with less BS. They seem more professional with it.

        • Agatha Guilluame

          Yo…I didn’t realize you were that close to me…my hackles just raised.

          Have you ever tried the Underground or Shortcuts (across the street) by Hillside and Parsons?

          • I haven’t. I don’t venture around Jamaica as much as I used to. I’m far more likely to be hanging out around Forest Hills than there these days.

            • Agatha Guilluame

              Hanging out in Forest Hills…doing what for goodness-sakes, aren’t you like 26? Other than a couple bars near the LIRR…everything closes in Forest Hills by like 10 most nights.

              • I just go out there to eat in moderately priced places. Only so much jerk anything with rice and peas I can eat.

    • Square changed the game

    • Instagram SuperModel

      Which boogie azz barbershop do you frequent that got taxes?

  • Sigma_Since 93

    #7 I just need for my barber to play my superhero theme music when I get out the chair cause you can’t tell me nutin!!!!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35UmdgsYcy0

    I’d probably tip him extra too.

  • 1. I dumped my barber, and I made the mistake of going shopping in the supermarket across the street. Real talk, it was easier to tell my wife I was divorcing her and taking the kid then to have that conversation. And the way he reacted, I should have just told him I raw dogged his girl up the @ss to soften the blow.

    2. Accurate…except Booty Talk is up to 99 as up November 2013. Seriously. And that link is Not Safe For Work!!!!!111

    3. The upshot is that you can’t really tell how long the wait is. I’ve blocked out an afternoon for a haircut, left in 15 minutes and wondered what happened. And I’ve blocked out 2 hours for a cut and ended up waiting 3.

    4. Facts

    5. Never been to a shop with a White and/or female barber, but I agree.

    6. I so want to find those dudes. They are lucky to get such fresh lineups like that.

    7. This is doubly true in the winter. I don’t know why.

    8. And this is why I hate when women who aren’t obviously mothers aren’t there. That’s when I have to start thinking of cover stories to hide the freak offs I’ve been involved in. If you believe my barbers, you think I’m borderline virginal.

    9. I snuck into the back once. It’s where they eat and stash the liquor for the place at the spot I was at.

    10. And most women don’t get why that relationship is so important. I moved to a predominantly White town, and my then-wife wondered why I traveled an hour to get a haircut. Man…that’s one of the myriad reasons she’s my ex. LOL

    • Epsilonicus

      1. I broke up with a barber like 7 years ago. I bumped into him a few months ago and he was tsill mad. I left him because my brother became a barber so I felt I needed to support the fam.

      3. My wife doesn’t get this

      5. I have been in a shop with a White female barber and let her cut me. She was actually really good.

      8. Depending on the woman decides what kind of behavior you get. If you the shop jumpoff, its a middle school locker room. Anyone else it kinda calms down.

      9. This is where the liquor and the jumpoffs go in my shop.

    • Andie

      This is hilarious!

    • SoCalGal

      I had a female barber once, and she was amazing. She turned me onto to barbers instead of stylists in the first place. Then she up and disappeared. Called for an appointment, she answered, then hung up on me. Called back, she didn’t answer. Never saw or heard from her again. WTF

  • cakes_and_pies

    Number 8 Only happens if you’re cute. If you look like Ma Gorg about the face, the regular conversations continue as if you’re not there.

    • Epsilonicus

      Exactly. Or if you someone grandma aint nobody doing number 8

  • CrankUpThe_AC

    lol nobody has Friday afternoon barbershop time. I go on like a Tuesday at 6.

    • Breezyx2

      But then your line up isn’t fresh for the weekend. Its like my lawn, I have the guys come out on a Friday because if I plan on entertaining over the weekend the yard looks fab. Crank you needs to go on a Friday and watch your Happy Hour game prosper. You’re welcome.

    • Gotta take a long lunch break and squeeze one in at like noon, nobody be there

  • Breezyx2

    So no one noticed the wall decor of a naked woman with one of her tiddies exposed?!? Is this Todd’s barbershop?!? If not, does Champ’s wife know what’s really going on when he says he is going to the “barbershop”?

  • My first Barber got deported, this was like 2001, but I still blame Trump. After that I had a woman barber she was legit, then one of the barbers smashed and passed and she stopped coming around, ninjas never no to lay off the merchandise. And since then I been a nomad, I have a very simple cut, 1 1/2 with the grain, line up the beard, it’s easy a caveman could do it. The dude who gave my last two cuts was okay but idk if I’m ready to put a ring on it, I’ve been hurt too much

    • dadumdee

      Yeah, every self respecting, well-groomed brother I know has essentially a barber shop quality level of clippers, mirrors, and clubman products for exactly that reason. I’m a single dad with a teenage son, so I got enough tools for Cube and Cedric could show up at my crib today and start shooting sequels. Wahl Seniors, T-edjers, Andes masters…all that.

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