Since I started wearing my hair short in college, I have often gone to a barber shop to get haircuts. It can be quite troublesome trying to find a good salon when I move to a new place, but I can usually find a good black barber shop with ease. And, I KNOW somebody “up in there” can cut my hair. In fact, I went to the barber shop today to “fix my ‘do” and to “get my fix.”
I had to fix my hairdo (or my ‘do) because my TWA had gotten a little raggedy. I like a nice fade in the back, and the taper had definitely grown out. However, living in Iowa has made me appreciate my barber shop in some unexpected ways as well.
- The belonging. It’s like Cheers, “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name.” ( I may be dating myself with the Cheers reference.) When I walk into the shop, the barbers know my name. They speak or nod their heads, giving me the silent “what’s up.”
- The politics. I usually get a good dose of politics when I’m there. They supported Pres. Obama in his re-election campaign, and they also support local candidates for office. I appreciate the historical continuity of their activism in the community.
- The events. Concerts, poetry slams, fish fries, etc. I would have never known that some of these events were taking place if I had not gone into the shop.
- The conversations. Dramatic sometimes, often comedic, I get a kick out of barber shop conversations. I love the street scholars who know everything about everything. The debates are epic–sports, politics, music, television. You name it; they’ve argued about it. Think of Arsenio Hall and Eddie Murphy playing the barbers in Coming to America. Think of the Ice Cube movie Barbershop.
I used to find these conversations infuriating, but now I hear the black oral tradition when I listen. I hear “toasts,” and urban bad men tales like “Stagger Lee,” and “the dozens” (or snaps). The barber shop is where I get my hair fixed and my cultural fix.