We all know what going to the barbershop basically entails: you show up, sit down in the barber chair, get your haircut, pay the barber and leave. Well, in a black barbershop, getting your haircut is only the warm up act to what really goes on in the shop. Everything from the how to deal with relationships to shaping and molding future black leaders of America happen daily.
Here, to celebrate Barbershop: The Next Cut – which hits theaters April 15, are five things that happen in the barbershop other than getting a haircut:
Talking about relationships
Men (black men in particular) rarely open up to talk about questions/observations about their relationships with women to other men. Most just internalize the problems and go at it alone. At a black barbershop, the audience usually includes men from all age ranges, social backgrounds and experiences to weigh in on any problems. Admittedly, some of the conversations can get raunchy and explicit, however, most of the ‘advice’ and encouragement is very positive and (mostly) helpful to the person seeking out the advice from the barbershop. Positive encouragement and advice from other black men is something that can keep a black man going back to the same barbershop and barber for years.
Keeping current on the newest released movies/watches/music/trends
One of the most memorable characters from the hit sitcom ‘Martin’ starring Martin Lawrence was named ‘Hustleman’ played perfectly by comedian Tracy Morgan. Anything that he could try to make money on, he would try to sell it. Every neighborhood barbershop has one of these. If its hot in the street, the ‘Hustleman’ got it for the low because the goods are usually a cheap knockoff or a bootleg version of the movie. The quality of the goods doesn’t really scare off the customers though. In fact, a lot of guys who go to the barbershop time their visit on when the ‘Hustleman’ might be coming around with his ‘goods. Where else can you view the newest movie, cop the latest Jordans, get a purse for your lady, and get a fresh-cut all in one place?
Keeping up to date with politics
Before Barack Obama was elected the President of the United States, a lot of black men only got their political news from the barbershop. We didn’t really watch CNN or the Sunday morning shows because it usually wasn’t from our point of view. In the barbershop, different conspiracy theories about politicians are shared along with the ‘who’s actually down with us or not’ arguments. Plenty of guys’ minds were likely made on who they were voting for due to conversations from the barbershop. Candidates’ campaigns now know how important the barbershop conversations are. Many of the politicians running for office will stop into a local barbershop spot for a photo-op and to gauge the neighborhood pulse from the visit.
Legendary sports discussions
Guy #1: ‘Yo, LeBron is good, no doubt….but he is nowhere close to being the best of all time. Until further notice, that title belongs to Michael Jordan’
Guy #2: ‘No way…you show me where in NBA history a guy who’s 6’9 and weights 275 can move, run and shoot like LeBron?!?’
These are the types of conversations you can catch at the barbershop around the way. Customers and barbers alike break down the action just as well (maybe even better) than the guys on TV doing it for the big bucks. An added bonus is that some of the people in the barber shops have seen local guys just as good or better than the pros and have the stories to prove it. There have even been a few commercials centered around guys in barber shops talking about past plays and memorable games. Anytime after a big game is played, guys can’t wait to get to the shop to give their thoughts and spin on it. Most of it is in good fun and guys always find a way to back up their point.
Guy #1: ‘Steph Curry can shoot, but his style wouldn’t have worked in the 80’s’
Guy #2: ‘What? Nobody in the 80’s could have kept up with Steph’
Guy #1: ‘I’ll give one player….Isiah Thomas!’
Everyone else in the shop: ‘Nawww!’
For a lot of guys, the barbershop was the place where they ‘grew up’ and learned the importance of family. Once you were in the barbershop, it can be like a family reunion or BBQ of sorts. You get to catch up on all of the news and rumors about the guys in the barbershop that you missed since the last time you were there. You have guys crackin’ on each other, talking about sports, etc. The barbershop serves as a gathering place for black men to let their guards down and say what’s on their mind with no judgment (for the most part). Lifelong friendships and partnerships have been started from guys’ time in the barbershop. Most of the barber shops in the black community are pretty bare bones: just barber chairs, seats for customers and a TV up in the corner. So all there is to do is to talk and get to know everyone. Lately with the smart phone craze, a little bit of the chatter may have died down because of guys on the phone, but the bonds are still clearly there.