The Intimacy of the Barbershop



The other day I went a whole two weeks without getting a haircut, simply because I couldn’t break from work to visit the barber. My barber is an expert at what he does, and I dare say one of the best in his profession. Therefore, it’s always a challenge in terms of time to see him for a fresh cut. Unless I’m the first person at his shop in the mornings before he even arrives, I almost always have to wait on at least 5 customers to trim. But it’s usually worth the wait.

The Barbershop means something to me, and I’m sure most men reading this can agree. Aside from it being a place to get groomed and feel a little bit better about ourselves, there’s a deeper symbolism many (men) are too “manly” to admit. The barbershop represents an intimacy that most of us men crave but are unable to articulate in a way that won’t make us sound or appear gay. So, before you get carried away let me assure you that this article is not going where you think it is going. I’m not about to challenge toxic masculinity or homophobia in the barbershop. I am simply, trying to explore a form of intimacy we (men) seldom acknowledge but know it exists.

The Barbershop is a forum first of all, for men to feel free and comfortable in their masculinity. In this space we are compelled to share our problems, triumphs, tastes, preferences and sometimes our hopes and dreams to an audience of men we anticipate will understand us. There is no judgment here in the barbershop. It’s a space where we can attempt to unpack certain trauma that we would be too afraid to confront otherwise on our own. I reckon, maybe there’s a connection between the cutting away of hair and the cutting away of our emotions as men. Nevertheless, you can understand a man’s frustration when he is unable to see his barber.

Then there is the physical intimacy, of another man touching our face – and us giving this man permission to do so. For many men, especially black men of African descent, our fathers never loved us in a physical. We were taught to rationalize our father’s love through their service to provide for us, their presence in the household and sometimes their words. But hugs or kisses or touch from daddy is unfamiliar territory for most.

That’s not necessarily okay, in fact, it’s terrible. Because now more than ever our boys need to be hugged and held by their fathers. It is a way of making them feel valued for their manliness, in a world that is aggressively trying to take it away from them. Sadly, these are the cards we’ve been dealt with generation after generation, and those who know better will correct it for their sons. Now, follow me: what if the barbershop represents a kind of emotional and physical intimacy that the black man has yearned for his whole life? An intimacy our fathers have been too handicapped to fully give, but that which is necessary to make us feel whole in this world? Or maybe I’m just tripping. Maybe.






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