It started with a pre-Thanksgiving conversation about how sensitive we (black men) are with our hair, a discussion sparked by a homie’s lament that he needs to find a new barber because his current one is moving out of state soon. And then one of us claimed, “In my lifetime, I’ve probably had more girlfriends than barbers.” Which seemed ridiculous. But then I thought, if we’re defining girlfriends as the women and girls you’ve been in committed and monogamous relationships with—and if we’re only talking those types of relationships and not hook-ups, fuck buddies, casual flings and complex situationships—then I’ve also had more girlfriends (four, counting my wife) than barbers (three).
Now, have more than three people cut my hair? Yes. (We’ll come back to this in a moment.) But there have only been three people I’ve referred to as my barber. Miss Ida at Wade’s Barber Shop in Homewood; Dre at East Liberty Kutz; and Eric at The Barbers Inn. And if you think I’m implying that the conditions and qualifications necessary for giving someone “my barber” status are similar to those when declaring someone a significant other, you’d be wrong. I am not implying that. I’m explicitly saying that.
Anyway, thinking about that segued into another question—exactly how many people have cut my hair? Sometimes barbers aren’t available. And sometimes you’re just between barbers and you’re playing the field for a bit, allowing yourself to be wooed, wined and dined by niggas with clippers (N.W.C.) until you find the right NWC for you.
As best I can remember, here’s my list, in chronological order.
Random barber nigga: (There’s a passage in my book that expounds on this, but I’ll just say for now that my first trip to the barber wasn’t great and almost resulted in a fight between my dad and the random barber nigga who cut my hair.)
Miss Ida at Wade’s
Me, that time when I was 7 or 8 and tried to cut my own hair with a pair of scissors.
“D” at Sean’s House of Masters in Buffalo: This was the shop I’d go to when I was in college and actually had enough money to go off campus for a haircut.
Damone James: Damone was one of the assistant coaches at Canisius, and he was nice with the clippers and would hook us up from time to time. (Which, I realize now, might have been an NCAA violation. Oh well. Vacate deez.)
Andre Fleming at East Liberty Kutz: The aforementioned book passage is in a chapter about the relationship I had with Dre and how, in the time I spent going to his shop (from 1998 to 2014), we watched the neighborhood (East Liberty) gentrify.
A woman whose name I can’t remember who was a student at Canisius and had her own barbershop side-gig/hustle in her dorm room.
Kenyatta Burden: KB was one of my teammates in college and remains one of the five funniest people I’ve ever met. He’s an anesthesiologist now, and when he first told me he was going to school to study that, he said: “Yo, I’m gonna be putting niggas to sleep, B. Watch!”
“Light,” “Mane,” and “Reg”: In the 16 years I frequented East Liberty Kutz, there were multiple times I needed a cut but Dre, for whatever reason, wasn’t available. When that happened, I’d sit in one of their chairs. As any barbershop regular knows, you need a couple emergency-cut niggas (ECNs) at your disposal. I had three.
Raymar Hampshire: Raymar has the dual distinction of being one of my best friends and one of the best barbers I’ve ever had.
A barber at a shop in Washington, D.C., when I was in town for a thing and needed a cut.
Eric at The Barbers Inn—my current barber: The reason(s) why I stopped going to East Liberty Kutz and started going here are complex (and expounded on in that chapter I keep mentioning). I’ll just say that it was a difficult decision and I’m glad I made it.
That’s 14 names for me (15 if you count my new ECN, who sits in the chair next to Eric.) I’m curious if my experience is typical (or atypical) for a black man my age. I’m also curious if the women who go to salons and beauty shops and get their hair done instead of just cut have similar stories and head counts. I guess I’m just full of curiosity today, which probably means it’s time for my weekly cut.