I will admit that my son is not the ideal client for a barber. He is fidgety, scary, and stubborn. But he is also only five. All his life, he’s had but one barber– his dad. I didn’t have to take him anywhere for a haircut. But since his father’s passing, I’ve had the awkward task of finding a good barber to cut his hair. Even though, I myself have little experience in barbershops, I was actually looking forward to passing the tradition of the Black barbershop onto my son. It’s an experience that all Black men should enjoy, and I wanted my son to take part in this enriching social experience.
I’ve taken my son to two separate barbershops to get his hair cut. Both were Black barbershops in two different cities. Both experiences in those shops were horribly disappointing. At both shops, my son and I were forced to endure sly remarks and bickering between the barbers about who would cut his hair. This is before my child even had the opportunity to act out or cry. Clearly, children his age aren’t easy clients to deal with and their reputation precedes them, but they are still customers, and most importantly, they are little kids who deserve some patience.
My first experience taking him to a barbershop, I was rudely received by a Black female barber who questioned why I would bring him in on a Saturday, the busiest day of the week. Clearly, like most other parents, I don’t have time to come during the week. Added to the fact that it was none of her business. But in an attempt to change her attitude and get my poor child’s haircut, I had to explain that this was his first haircut and I wanted him to look nice for his father’s funeral. Her attitude softened a little, but I shouldn’t of had to explain that to her. Yes, my son cried during the haircut, but it was his first experience.
Our second experience, I took him to a different shop. But still the barbers bickered over who would cut his hair. My son was quiet and delightful for the full hour that he was forced to wait for his turn. Which might’ve come sooner had the barber not been on the phone with his baby mama or whomever. When it was his turn, he didn’t cry, he was brave. But he was a bit stiff because he was still a little frightened, and fidgety because… well he’s just fidgety. So given my son’s disposition, I wouldn’t expect a perfect haircut and only asked the barber to give him a fade if he would be cooperative enough. The barber did just that, but at the beginning of the cut, I heard him huff under his breath, “I don’t have time for this.” You don’t have time to do the job I’m paying you for?! Given that he had already began to shave my son’s hair off, I just patiently encouraged my son to stop moving, and helped to hold his head still while the barber did his job. Even with my help the cut wasn’t perfect, in fact, my son’s front hairline was completely crooked. But that wasn’t the barber’s fault. I don’t blame him for my fidgety son. And I did see him trying to be patient, but he failed to recognize that he’s dealing with his five-year-old client, not a grown man.
There are plenty of great Black barbers out there, and this isn’t a judgment on all. It’s just the hair cuttery price to pay when you have a little one, I’ve only encountered a handful, who all happened to lack professionalism, especially when it came to how they handle their youngest clients. To all Black barbers, please be patient with our young ones. No, they may not be ideal clients, but they are repeat customers who will continue coming back to you well into their grown years. By just displaying some patience, you will have a lifetime customers because, let’s face it, Black people only change barbers when they move to far away to go to their old one. The food, retail, restaurant, and cigarette industries understand the importance of appealing to kids, why don’t Black barbers!