Prerequisite: Watch the Blackish Episode “Chop Shop”
Today, my kids experienced something that took them out of their comfort zone. Something that is their birthright. Something that I got to experience as a child and hold dear to me to this day. Today, I took the kids to The Barber Shop.
We are not talking to any barber shop. No. We are talking about Thee Barber Shop. A place that is a staple in the community. A place where people congregate to talk about a plethora of topics that may have nothing to do with hair – regardless of education (or actual knowledgebase of any particular subject). A place that is the center of fashion, social status, and well-being. A place where it is okay to own your individual style (especially if you are able to take some shit from everyone because of that style).
What my kids walked into that day was a venue like no other. They had no idea of the type of culture that existed in front of them. Laughter, loudness, languages, and hair. Braids, tapers, edges, fades, and braids. Hair lotions, spritzes, sprays, and gold chains. The smell of burnt African ancestral hair everywhere. They stood there, looking around – astonished and wide-eyed. And I, well I stood there like a proud father who had just walked his kids into Disneyland.
A taste of my childhood.
As per custom, simply walking into The Shop initiated the rituals of salutations – Acknowledging everyone in the building. There were enough pounds, head nods, daps, points in the direction of, and “wassups” to go around. As I turned around, I noticed the look on my kids’ faces, they now saw me as some type of celebrity.
“Do you even know these people?”
“Some. But that doesn’t matter when you are in The Shop. Everyone gets some sort of acknowledgement.”
We managed to find a place to sit down. As usual the place was damn-near standing room only.
“Walk in, or appointment?”
You damn right appointment. I sure-as-shit know better than to walk in an establishment such as this without an appointment unless I had half of the day to wait for an open seat. Don’t get me wrong, if you got the time, the barbershop is the place to sit and bullshit and/or catch the game, whether you need a haircut that day or not was of no importance. The wait was well worth it if you had a favorite barber. Plus, that kind of wait speaks to the quality of the shop. Longer wait = better haircuts.
“Dad, why do you have a winter cap on your head?”
I believe that this would be the perfect time for us to discuss barber shop etiquette. When at the shop, you:
- do not switch barbers within the same shop. You must stick with the barber that cuts your hair. If you decide to switch to a different barber, know that your actions are giving a clear sign that you think that he or she sucks. This will diminish your loyalty in the entire shop. Now, every barber within the shop will look at you with a side eye.
- always tip your barber. If you don’t have time to sit, make an appointment. But, if you tip your barber well, he or she will have your back when you are in a bind.
- never, ever, ever (ever, ever, ever) come inside the shop with a fucked-up hairline. At 38, my hairline runs faster than I do, so I save the money and shave it bald myself. I wore a winter cap because I wasn’t about to be the subject of ridicule on that day, or any other.
“It’s because your hairline is messed up, isn’t it?”
She got me.
I was not going to honor that with an answer. She knew what the problem was. The asshole smirk she gave me — my asshole smirk that I give out regularly — was very telling.
My son was called up to his seat. Having had his hair cut before at this shop, he was somewhat of a veteran.
He was still clearly out of his element. Every time he would look up, he would give me a nervous half-smile as if he were saying, “I’m okay, I’m okay, I can do this…” But it seemed too much for his anxiety.
“Why is he making that face?”
Twenty minutes later – a quick cut by any means, being that hairline perfection and presentation is key, and conversations are to be had both by barber and those in the vicinity – my son hopped off from the chair with a fresh cut that made him look much older, and much cuter.
“Do you like it?
“Can we go get ice cream now?”
He truly didn’t give a shit.
And away we went.