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.)

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


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.