It’s been a couple years in the making but its finally here. We’re continuing 2019 giving you guys the most authentic and original material possible. A barbershop series has been a personal passion project of mine with two years in the making. The goal of the series is simple: tell your truth and leave it all in the chair.
I had the opportunity to travel out to Washington DC and step into the creative “dojo” of renaissance man and artistic entrepreneur Amir Browder of Homme DC. His studio stands as a communal ground that visually showcasing independent and emerging artists. From collection releases from designers, DJs, video screenings to even dinner parties, Homme DC is a platform with limited creative boundaries and has strings of creative works that fortify a strong community base.
Watch below the first half of this two-part debut as Amir describes why he built this place, what it means, and how developing a grooming routine is integrated in his as a stylist, business owner, son and more.
Be sure to check out more of Homme DC in the latest Washingtonian article here.
A new series spotlighting real life conversations in the barbershop.
In the barbershop, I had the opportunity to chat with a client on the sport of boxing. Let the record show: boxing has not been exciting over the last decade. Our major highlights include Mayweather making various lackluster appearances in shiny shorts and air-bubbled “hype.” For a moment, it looked like all hope was lost until our prayers have been answered with the nearly 250 lbs heavyweight Anthony Joshua.With a current undefeated (22-0) record, this colossal Nigerian-British titan is blowing down the competition left and right.
With a genetic makeup mirroring the greats like Mike Tyson & even Muhammed Ali, Anthony Joshua shows no signs of slowing down. After my client listed him as his favorite boxer to watch this year, it was only right I pulled up some footage for you to check out.
Step ahead Mayweather because you’re looking at the new face of boxing. Don’t believe me? See below for yourself.
The barbershop carries the reputation as a cultural institution but it also has the power of confession box. Future Hall of Famer LeBron James reignites his HBO speciality show The Shopand breaks new ground with the OVO leader. The balloon pops as Drake has a no holds barred conversation on his haircuts as a child to his response to rapper Pusha T. They’re accompanied by Ben Simmons, Victor Oladipo, Elena Delle Donne, and Mo Bamba.
Watch at the conversations heats up they discuss ones’ legacy, airing out Kanye West, Drake’s status as a father, and what’s in store as they transition in their careers.
“I rather fail being who I am than fail being someone they want me to be.”
– LeBron James
Did I also mention this show was shot at the shop I work at (Barber of Hell’s Bottom)? Be sure to tune in & watch the full episode HERE.
Now I know the idea of not going to the barbershop every weekend may scare some of you fellas, but listen up first. Like many kids growing up, the barbershop was a weekly routine. Every Saturday at noon I made my way to the shop religiously. I understood it; my mother wanted me to look tight for the up coming school week but was it healthy for my hair? No not really. What a lot of men don’t understand about going to the barbershop weekly is that this can cause a lot of long-term problems for your hair. Best thing you can do is get on a routine with your barber and here are my benefits to placing your haircut on a bi-weekly schedule.
HELPS YOUR HAIR GROWTH AND HAIR RECOVERY
Repeatedly cutting your hair can cause major negative effects on your hair growth over time. You may not see it at first, but the older you get it will have it effects. Your hair needs time to recover and grow. Giving your hair time to recover not only helps hair growth, it also helps hair strength.
SLOWS DOWN THE BALDING PROCESS
Lets face it, balding comes with age. Some men are blessed with a head full of hair their whole life. Some are not so lucky, but fellas lets not help our hair leave us to soon or to fast. Consistently cutting your hair low can stunt hair growth, weaken the hair over time, and it can also cause hair not to grow back. Everyone has sections of their hair that is weaker then others. Just take notice and be careful not to cut, pull or brush that section to the point of no return.
PRESERVING YOUR HAIR LINE
Your Hair Line is running! Your Hair Line is running! The town messenger cried out (don’t mind me, I have to throw in random history references). The common killer of hairlines for men are to many trips to a barbershop and getting touched up. Men want to look fresh all the time; its part of being a person. We as people want to look and feel good all the time and this is something we work hard daily to complete everyday. A reason like this is what really keep men in the barbershop every week. This is not so great for your hairline though. The less the clippers, or the razor, does not touch your hairline the easier it will be to keep it in place. You have to give your hairline time to recover before you touch it up again. This will save your hairline from receding and over time you will notice your hairline compared to others that’s in pretty good shape.
Placing your hair on a bi-weekly schedule would help you cover your bases and will prevent these common problems we see with a lot of men. Lets look at celebrities as a perfect example. They are always under pressure to look their best and this causes them to consistently call upon their barbers. As they age we can see the clear problems within their hair, lost of the hairline and the common bald spot in the back. Give your hair a break, let it breath and give it time to recover. Your hair will thank you in the long run.
There are some experiences in life for men that can be purely nerve wrecking. From visiting the doctor, to tying the knot with your loved one, or worse, sharing that first encounter with a new barber. Apprehension and uncertainty can go hand in hand with that barber visit. A first tinder date and barber visit share some similarities. New residents into a city are like fresh fish waiting to get caught and reeled in by the neighborhood shop. Sometimes it’s the price or the shop presentation that may spark some interest, enticing a guy to enter. Nonetheless, once that new barber has you in that vice grip of barber cords, your in his / her hands. But to help you avoid looking absolutely clueless, here’s a quick check list of critical questions and thoughts you should consider before a towel, a clipper, or cap comes anywhere near you.
Sanitation is more than half of the work when looking for a quality haircut. A barber who doesn’t keep their station garbage-free demonstrates complete negligence. That should be an immediate red flag. A professioal barber should be very familiar with the various ways to clean their tools. This is a sign of carelessness that may be reflected in your haircut. Nothing’s worse then a fresh haircut only to come home seeing razor and various hygienic reactions because he / she failed to properly clean their products.
Note: Be sure to observe if the barber washes and sanitizes their hands before beginning the cut and sanitizes the proper tools.
Training Facility and Licensing
The hairstyling industry has a tendency to keep some of its spotlight talent under the radar simply because some are not properly licensed by the state. It may be great that you’re in someone’s chair who can provide the dopest fade but it is lousy and lazy if they didn’t fulfill the proper requirements to be certified by a state to cut hair. Ask a simple question like, “So where did you study;” or “How did you get into the trade?” If the barber can’t answer, you may want to reconsider that next cut. I’ve personally seen barbershops, from high to low end, shut down because of improper licensing.
It’s 2017 so carrying pieces of plastic as payment for services is becoming more prevalent. It doesn’t hurt to ask if the shop or service accepts cards, or newer payment methods such as apps like Venmo, Paypal, Apple Pay, etc. These can provide for a super easy transaction process without having to run out for change or having to pay that dreaded ATM fee. Local barbers should be open to multiple methods of payment.
Gone are the days of the classic barber charts plastered on the walls. Barbers should be up to date with technology courtesy of Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook & any other visual portfolio. Browsing through a quick catalog of work creates another level of comfort as you take a seat in a new barber’s chair. So don’t be shy about asking to see their work before those clippers are turned on.
I’m sure a walk-in sounds pleasing and accommodating but the ability to schedule an appointment really makes a shop stand out. It speaks to a level of professionalism that ensures both the barber and client take the service seriously. A barber or stylist who is aware of the time will most likely be respectful of you and your time while they have you in the chair. This behavior includes not taking multiple breaks in between cuts, not picking up lunch while you wait, or – a personal favorite – not using the phone. So as a first timer, be sure to ask the shop if they are an appointment-based business. If you do it for a doctor visit, car repair service, or massage, why not hold your barber/stylist to the same level of accountability?
Mental health and the barbershop have a deep correlation that exceeds beyond a haircut and goes into the mind of a man. One of Groom Guy’s core values is celebrating diversity in the realm of barbering & overall grooming but we also spotlight the barbershop’s cultural significance within particular ethnic groups. Read full story below.
Hands On Barbers in Mount Rainier, Maryland is pretty much my second home. The tiny barbershop is tucked between an equally small Dominican beauty salon and a dusty antique shop walking distance from the nation’s capital. The neighborhood surrounding my safe haven isn’t the best.
There’s a growing problem with local residents abusing PCP, alcoholics wandering up and down the block with brown paper bags of booze, and abandoned buildings outnumbering the occupied ones. I know this doesn’t sound too appealing to the average person, but I am there every week due to my sometimes untamable facial hair.
If Hands On is my home, then the barbers, Will and John, are the older brothers that I never knew I wanted. Not only are they experts on black hair, but they are unofficially sports analysts, local restaurateurs, DC historians, and more importantly, therapists (their business cards only say “barber,” though). They’ve been there for me for years—and I’m not talking about just their crisp haircuts and beard trims either. I’ve talked with them about absolutely everything from job interviews and my personal health issues to my dating life and, of course, how shitty the Redskins can be.
It has been well discussed that many people of color are not fansof therapy. Taking it a step further, blacks have significant issues when it comes to trusting health professionals and are sometimes undertreated when we do go to the doctor. That, along with the Trumpcare on the horizon and 22 million people possibly losing healthcare in the next decade, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the black community.
However, the need to take matters into our own hands—which can mean self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, not expressing our issues, and a slightly healthier option: relying on communal spaces to vent where individuals have similar backgrounds and experiences. Places like church, or yes, the barbershop.
“In these public communal spaces, there is less fear of that type of racism which would be further detrimental to our health,” says Carlton Green, a psychologist at the University of Maryland. “For decades, the barbershop has been a place of self-definition where black people have this degree of power in a society where in most cases we feel inferior. In these communal spaces, we are not constrained to larger social norms.”
Being around other men who occupy the same neighborhoods allows for a level of understanding and makes it easier to open up about issues that aren’t discussed at home or in a doctor’s office. It’s as if they’ve taken a cue from British barbers, who at certain shops are actually given mental health training to help deal with the rising number of male suicides in Europe.
In the US, barbershops have been consistently used as research sites for communicating health messages. Nonprofits like the Colorado Black Health Collaborative (CBHC) partnered with healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente to create barbershops that combine health outreach initiatives. By combining the barbershop experience with interventions for hypertension, diabetes, and HIV for people of color, the program was able to expand from one barbershop to twelve. Health professionals are starting to realize that when it comes to treating men more effectively, it starts with being in the public spaces that we frequent.
“Barbershops allow African American men to talk about a myriad of issues impacting the black community,” says Larry Walker, a researcher who has written extensively about black barbershops and mental health. “Important issues including politics, economic development, and wellbeing are frequently discussed. Without barbershops, black men would have very few places to feel physically and emotionally safe.”
Every type of person walks through the shop doors on a given day. Police officers, city councilmen, addicts, family men, and their sons are all welcome. But once you sit in that chair, it’s like the walls we build come crashing down and every opinion comes out. For an hour or two, you can unapologetically raise your voice, call your cheating girlfriend everything under the sun, and walk out feeling and looking like a better man. It’s cathartic. But is it actually therapy?
“Barbershops are considered the black man’s country club and often there are men in there who are not even getting haircuts,” says Sula Hood, a behavioral and social sciences professor at Indiana University-Purdue University. “But the relationship between a man and his barber is a unique and trusting relationship. Barbers tend to chime in with their own personal experiences so the client doesn’t feel isolated or alone. That’s a different kind of relationship [than] a psychologist, who may not identify with you.”
Of course, there’s a big difference between getting treated by a mental health professional and working through some issues with a barber. Receiving cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) from a psychologist may restore a brain’s structural balance and ease chronic pain. For illnesses like bipolar disorder, cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) has proven to be an effective treatment. You won’t get those benefits hanging out at the shop—some people might even find being around large groups of people to be stressful. No doubt, the physical and mental benefits of seeing a professional outweigh the benefits of not seeing one.
That being said, there’s something about the safe space of the barbershop that gets men to open up, no matter how personal the subject matter. Three-time NBA champion LeBron James alluded in a recent barbershop conversation to turmoil between him, his wife, and his mother about potentially coming back to Cleveland in 2014. In 2015, rapper Killer Mike and then Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders had an extensive conversation in a barbershop ranging from free healthcare to social justice issues.
Yes, there are clinical differences between paying 150 dollars an hour for therapy from a psychologist and a 20 dollar haircut from my favorite barber. One is a licensed mental health professional and the other is not. But both have their place. This past weekend, for instance, one of my best friends, Brad, and I took the short drive to the barbershop for our Saturday morning ritual. After waiting my turn and conversing with the regulars, John offered his chair, and then he asked how my parents were doing.
In the wake of the Michael Brown shooting and the resulting unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, Shaun “Lucky” Corbett wanted to do his part to ease tensions his own community. A barber in Charlotte, Shaun reached out to his local police department to explore how he could help encourage and build stronger bonds between officers and the city. Shaun teamed up with Officer Rob Dance to start a mentoring program to encourage cooperation and understanding. And, so far, the program has been successful in opening up a productive and important dialogue between the police force and the community. Watch the full video below to get a glimpse into the program & its long term impact on the youth.
The programs include:
– Cadet training
– Transparency programs
Watch as Daily Show correspondent Roy Wood Jr. discusses how the African-American community uses Twitter to discuss social issues and finds out why that communication is unique to black culture in this hilarious new segment.
Shout out to the set direction in picking a barbershop and recognizing it as a cultural landmark. Whether you’re black, white, yellow, this video is a must watch!