The Caucasian’s Guide To Black Barbershops Part 1

By Michael Harriot

Hey Chase, hop in.

By the way, you know you have the whitest name ever, right? No Black mother would ever name her son “Chase.” It’s too much of a prophecy. You can go into any kindergarten in America and you won’t find many “Chase”s  or “Lynch”s. It’s like naming your son “Shotby Thepolice Jackson.”

Chase, I want you to know I fully support you and Amber’s decision to adopt a child, and I am so happy for you. As your friend, however, I must confess that I had one reservation when I found out you were adopting a Black son. Every time I see White couples with Black children, every one of them–from Madonna to Angelina and Brad–never have their kids hair done right. I have never seen a Black boy with White parents have a nice edge up. Never.

But you’re lucky, Chase. As a black man, I am going to be your guide to making sure y’all don’t fuck up this kid’s life. No, I’m not saying you will. I’m just saying your Whiteness might obscure some necessary lessons this child needs to learn, and I don’t want to run into you two one day and find your son wearing mom jeans and new balance sneakers like a… you know.

Luckily, I’m here to help. As a Black man I will probably never find out what it is like at a Klan rally, a Skinhead house party or the Republican convention. I know you’re thinking “but there were black people at the Republican convention.” You’re wrong, Chase. Not only are you wrong, but you’re racist. See, you are stuck in your antiquated way of thinking that race is determined by the color of your skin, or the ethnicity you were born into. No, my friend.  When you see people of color at Republican events, those people don’t identify as Black people. Omarosa is transracial, and we approve of her living her life as a caucasian, Muslim-hating Trump supporter. Y’all can have her.

Anyway, bruh, today I am going to show you how to take your new son to get a haircut, and you’ll get to see the deep guts of Black culture up close. Here, put on this Yankees cap and…

What? I know you like the Cubs, Chase, but Black people don’t give a damn about the Cubs. That’s one of those things only White people and Michael Wilbon cares about, and we give Wilbon a pass because he’s cool as fuck. Plus, a Yankees cap as nothing to do with the team. A Yankees cap is a universally worn piece of Black wardrobe, like how all women have a little Black dress or all White guys own a pair of Dockers and boat shoes–it’s universal. A Yankee’s cap is also a symbol for needing a haircut, plus, you need to put it on so no one will wonder why a white guy is visiting a Black barbershop. Unless you’re an undercover cop working a case, (unfortunately, one of the unspoken reasons for violence in many Black neighborhoods is brothers attacking barbers for fucking up their fades. It is a problem our community needs to address.) as a White man you have no business stepping foot in a Black barbershop. (If you walk in without that Yankee cap, the entire shop will get as quiet as Taylor Swift bedroom when she practices making her booty clap). If you pull the cap low over your eyes, though, they might think you’re Puerto Rican or just really light-skinnedededed.

Yes, Chase, I know I told you it didn’t exist but this is the only time you’ll ever see reverse racism.

Don’t worry, though. It’ll be fun. Just don’t tell anyone your name is Chase.

Choosing a Black Hairstylist  How will you know where to find a barbershop? Damn, Chase, that’s a good question! If you have to ask where to find a Black barbershop, then you are so far removed from Black culture you probably think the Electric Slide is a piece of playground equipment that lights up then you plug it in. There is literally a Black barbershop everywhere. One of the greatest pieces of legislation ever passed to help the Black middle class is the Negro Barbershop Act of 1972 which mandated that a barbershop or beauty salon be included in the opening of every strip mall, neighborhood subdivision and shopping plaza in America. Because of some amendments to that bill, all Black barbershop names must include one of the following words:  You-nique, Unique, Legends, Stylez, New, or  Cutz (here’s a secret: In Barbershop and beauty salon parlance the “z” is very important, because when you look in the phone book, there is no designation for “black” haistylist. It is the ‘Z’ that is the clarion call. As a matter of fact, one of the most famous stops on the Underground Railroad was the Detroit barbershop “Stylez 4U.”)

Finding a barbershop is never a problem. Finding a good barber is. It takes months of research, data, references, interviews and trial and error before one can choose a barber. In fact, when one finally settles on someone to cut their hair, they are bound together for life. As a white person you can go to any Supercuts and get straight, but choosing a barber who knows the acute angles to which your son must be faded, is a lifelong commitment. I’ve never seen my barber outside of the barbershop, but he is one of the most important people in my life. I’m willing to bet, if the average black man had to make a “Sophie’s Choice” on who they had to let die between their pastor, their physician and their barber, there’d be a lot of dead preachers and doctors tomorrow. It is just that serious. I know, Chase, this is a lot of power you have been endowed with, but you know what Spiderman’s uncle told him before he died:

“With great power comes great responsibility…

And always wear a cup with your Spiderman uniform. No one want’s to see Spidey’s junk mashed against his thigh.”

Sometimes they leave that last part out.

Visiting a Black Barbershop or Salon The first thing you should know is this, Chase: Yes, you made an appointment. No, it doesn’t mean anything. Appointment calendars are a white-world luxury for a reality that has three-martini lunches and weekend camping trips. Appointments mean nothing in a Black world. Black barbers treat appointments the way White cops treat constitutional rights. They know they exist. They just don’t honor them.

You smell that, Chase?

Ah, man, there is nothing so glorious as the smell of a Black barbershop. It smells like new paycheck and hope mixed with “fresh-to-def.” I believe the smell comes from whatever is in that spray that they spray on your neck when they take the cape and the paper choker off. I think the official name is “Barbershop juice.”

Now there is a very important protocol to sitting down in a Black Barbershop. Listen close, because you are going to have to pass these jewels down to your new son:

See what I just did there, Chase? When ever you enter a barbershop you must first address your barber. First. Only then are you free to address the other barbers. If your barber isn’t there, you treat that barbershop like you just walked into a room filled with naked women and you are a happily married man–YOU LEAVE! Immediately. You don’t talk to anyone. You don’t even greet anyone. Cheating on your barber is one of the most egregious violations of the Black man code there is. I don’t care if you’re about to be inaugurated or Beyoncé wants you to judge a twerk contest between her and Serena Williams, you don’t get a haircut from anyone but the barber you are betrothed to.

If your barber is in, the first question is “how many you got?” Meaning how many are in front of you. Then you have to do a complex algebraic equation (Truthfully, I can never figure out if the number includes me, or if there are three more heads, then me…) but you then multiply the number of people in front of you by the amount of time it takes your barber to cut and you know how long you have.

See the guy he just pointed at? He’s telling me that’s who I’m after. Some barbers won’t do that, though. Then you are left to watch the door like a bouncer at a strip club to make sure no one who comes in after you goes before you.

Now this is my Barber. His name is James. Even though James is a master barber, I wouldn’t recommend you bring your son to James because James cusses and talks about sex a lot. A lot. Plus, if you are ever too busy and your wife has to drop your son off to the barbershop, James is definitely  going to holla at your wife. And he won’t do it in a slick, but respectful manner. James is going to ask your wife if he can eat her bootyhole like a grapefruit. Unless you want to wonder what that even means, I suggest another barber.

By the way, every two weeks is how often your son should get his hair cut. Not on the White schedule. I’m gonna buy your son a Boars hair brush (I don’t even want to take the time to explain the nuances of buying a good brush), but Chase–I’m telling you–if I see your son walking around peasy-headed like you had an African adoption agency ship him here via Amazon Prime, we gon’ fight.

The Black Barbershop Experience See these people around you, Chase? This is Black America. This is a crosscut sample of the entire Black community. I don’t understand why Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton visit Black churches when they want to appeal to Black voters, because many young, “woke” Black people don’t go to church any more. That’s some old school, civil-rights era politicking. If you really want to get to the heart of any Black community,  go to a barbershop or a beauty salon. Everybody has to get their ‘fro fixed, Chase.

You see that lady right there? That’s Chante’. She’s a single mother who brings her son here every Saturday, except during football season, when they come on Fridays. She’s a strong woman, college educated and you don’t wanna fuck with her. She will cuss you out in a minute and carries a pearl-handled .25 automatic in her purse that she will put to your temple and say “don’t disrespect me like that ever in your life!”

I don’t really know her or anything…

I learned all those things in the five minutes after James asked to eat her bootyhole.

Hold on, Chase. I gotta answer this call. Pull your Yankees cap low and chill for a minute.

(To be continued…)

*Tune in tomorrow as we conclude Chase’s adventure into the world of Black barbershops


About the author

Michael Harriot is a renowned spoken word poet, the host of The Black One podcast and the editor-in-chief of NegusWhoRead. He is perpetually just getting warmed up because he has no chill. He is on Instagram and twitter as @michaelharriot

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