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The Caucasian’s Guide To Black Barbershops Part 2

We now return to the conclusion of The Caucasian’s Guide To Black Barbershops. If you missed the first part of Chase’s master class, read it at:

The Caucasian’s Guide To Black Barbershops Part 1

Chase, now that you know how to find a black barbershop and how to greet one, it’s time for you to learn a few more things:

Choosing a barber: As we discussed earlier, your choice of barber is one of the greatest choices a man can make. When choosing a barber for your son, you should be aware that once a man cuts another man’s hair more than three times, they are connected for life (I think that’s somewhere in the 4th chapter of Ecclesiastes:

For he that cutteth thine hair shalt be bound to you like Salt & Pepa, like wings and hot sauce, like Dwayne Wayne and Denise. Thus it shalt be written

It’s just that serious, Chase. The key is choosing a barber wisely. There are two ways to choose a barber. The first way is to take referrals. If you notice someone with a nice, sharp, even edge up, you might want to ask them who their barber is. Now, if there’s one thing I know about Whiteness, it is that you are equipped with guile and cunning. Well, if you ask someone about their barber, you are going to need it. Here is why:

No matter how close your relationship is with your barber, you don’t want him to have new customers. New customers are bad for you. New customers make your wait longer. New customers means your barber is in higher demand, therefore he may raise his prices. People will lie to your face if you ask them who cuts their hair, so you have to figure out how to slide in the question in a slick manner. My favorite is to accuse them of acting like they don’t know you. I ask them, “Hey, how come you didn’t speak to me when I saw you at Mad Stylez yesterday?”

They will usually reply with something like, “Nah that wasn’t me.” Here is where you have to use your White people deception powers.

“Yes it was, man. I saw you waiting for a haircut. James was cutting your hair. I spoke, and you acted like I didn’t even exist! Is it because I’m White? Come on man. I didn’t even vote for Trump!”

They’ll respond by saying “Man, I don’t even go to that barbershop. Quinton at Dope Cutz is my barber!”

That’s when you got’em.

The second way to choose a barber is the trial and error method. You can go from barber-to-barber until you find one that you like. It says in the barbershop constitution and in the Bible that a barber and his client doesn’t officially “go together” until 3 haircuts. There are a few things you must remember about the trial and error method, however:

  1. There are some drawbacks – The problem with the trial-and-error method is that you have to walk around for a week or two with a fucked up haircut. You must be ok with that, and have enough confidence to pull it off. If not, that’s why they make Yankee caps. Most people don’t know that people didn’t use to wear baseball caps outside of a baseball diamond until 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. When he came to the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was forced to find a new barbershop. A barber in Jenkins Cutz and Haberdashery messed up Jackie’s low ceaser the day before he stepped onto the world’s biggest stage and he continued his trial and error phase that entire season. He covered up his bad haircuts by wearing a baseball cap, and Black people have been wearing baseball caps ever since. Thank you, Jackie.
  2. No intra-shop switching – You can switch barbers after a haircut, but you can’t go to another barber in the same shop. That is like sleeping with your ex-girlfriend’s sister–you’re instigating pain and just asking for trouble. When you go to one barber in a barber shop, the only way you can switch is if your barber dies, or you initiate a sit-down between your current barber, your proposed new barber, the owner of the shop and one other eyewitness. Reparations must be made and it will still be uncomfortable.
  3. Never pick the barber with the empty chair – Nah, homey, its a trap. If you go into a crowded shop and there is one guy who’s chair is empty, DO NOT let him cut your son’s hair! He is definitely going to fuck it up! There is one guy in every barbershop like this, and it is your job to suss him out. Sometimes it’s a new barber who is still learning his craft Sometimes it is the old man who owns the shop who can cut afros and shags like a motherfucker but can’t really do any other hairstyles (What’s a “shag?” Chase, a “shag” is the black equivalent of a mullet. Business in the front, party in the back. It’s like having a built-in hair neckroll).
  4. Go to the woman – If you enter a barbershop with a woman barber, go to her! She is probably the best barber in the building but her clientele might be low just because she is a woman. Why do I say that, Chase? Well it is the same principle for Black doctors, lawyers or any other profession–If you see a Black doctor or lawyer, they are usually twice as good and had to work twice as hard to get there, so they are usually better. I only go to Black doctors because the Black doctor was probably the smartest person in his elementary school, the president of his middle school, valedictorian of his high school class and graduated cum laude from college. The White doctor’s father was probably a physician, so he did it too. That’s why women barbers are usually better, and Especially if she is a good-looking woman. What does good-looking have to do with it? Well, if she’s good looking, guys have probably hit on her, and when she turned them down, they had to find another barber out of embarrassment.

OK, Chase once you find your barber, you still haven’t finished. Even though your barber has skill, there are still a few things you need to know like:

  • What is his (or her) cut speed? – There are some really good barbers who are slow as hell! The key is finding a good fast barber. If you have a great barber who takes 1 hour on every head, you could be in there forever. Some barbers take a long time because they talk too much, while others are just slow. I once had a barber who would stop cutting and have full-fledged conversations while he was cutting my hair! I couldn’t even say anything though, because his high-top fade game was phenomenal!
  • Are they rough? – Some barbers will grab your head like their hands are one of those claws in the vending machines that steal your money by making you think you can grab a teddy bear with the mechanical arm. others will dig their clippers into the side of your head like they are carving out pieces of skin.
  • What is their breath like? – This is very important.

Conduct After you have successfully chosen a barber, you must learn how to conduct yourself in a barbershop. You will hear conversations in a Black barbershop that you won’t hear anywhere else. If you really want to know the pulse of Black America, you have to go to a Black barbershop. Every black barbershop is a combination of ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption, Meet the Press, and The Jerry Springer Show. You will hear philosophy, religion, race theory, auto mechanics, sex advice and almost anything else you can imagineNothing is off limits in the barbershop, but there are still rules you must follow.

  1. They’re gonna fuck with you – That’s what they do in barbershops. It brings you into the fold. I’m just gonna let you know right now, your nickname (no matter which shop you choose) is gonna be “White Boy.” I know there’s no complexity or nuance to that name, but you’ll know who they’re talking to. They are going to ask you everything about your life, especially how you got a Black son. Then they are going to roast you. It is going to be harsh and borderline disrespectful. I don’t know exactly what they are going to say, but I can assure you someone is going to ask how it feels to know your little son’s dick is bigger than yours.
  2. You must know who’s talking – See, no one in the barbershop knows what the fuck they’re talking about, but there is always one barber who is conversant in politics, medieval French literature, sports and health. He never loses an argument, and you will assume that he is a slick-talking barber who thinks he knows everything and likes to argue. One day you will see that same barber at a senate confirmation hearing and find out that he was working his way through law school cutting hair, and now he’s on the supreme court.
  3. Do not repeat what’s said in the barbershop outside of the barbershop – There is no confidentiality or client-patient privilege in the barbershop, but you still shouldn’t repeat what goes on there for one reason: None of that shit you heard is actually correct.
  4. Always bring extra cash – You never know what you can come up on at a Black barbershop. You can find bootleg DVDs for movies that haven’t even been written yet. You can find deals on electronics better than any Black Friday sale. I’m literally typing this on a computer I brought from a barbershop. In 2012 I brought my entire family’s Christmas presents while I got a shape-up. Legend has it that when Thomas Jefferson slept with his slave, Sally Hemmings, he took one of their kids to a Black barbershop. a slimy-looking French dude walked in and asked Jefferson if he wanted to buy some land for a few dollars and three bottles of hot sauce. We now refer to that transaction as “The Louisiana Purchase.”

There is one other thing you should remember about Black barbershops, Chase. I’m telling you this because if you are going to adopt a Black son, you should hear it. It will spare your son a lot of pain and indignity, and I plead with you to remember this for the rest of your life:

You are not a barber

One of the biggest mistakes in the Black community (besides thinking Hillary Clinton was a good Presidential candidate) is that almost every Black son has had to suffer because his father or mother watched a Black barber and thought “I can do that myself.”

You can’t, Chase. Please don’t have your son walking around looking like he was in a slapboxing match with Edwards Scissorhands because you wanted to save $7. There is enough pain in our community.

And there you have it, Chase. Now you are well-versed in the vernacular of Black barbershops. When you initiate you initiate your son into the ritual, you won’t have to explain all of this to him, he will learn through a process called “Black Osmosis.” You, on the other hand, should take this knowledge, study it and use it for good. And Chase, whatever you do, please remember that the key to fostering self-esteem in Black children is making sure they know they are loved, instilling discipline and confidence. When you take your Black son to get his first haircut–when they finish, as the barber is brushing hair off your son’s collar, pushing that lever on the chair to lower it to the floor, and holding the mirror up to your son to check out the haircut remember that look on your son’s face.

That is the look of Black pride.

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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