The barbershop serves as the epicenter of many Black men’s self-image. The first look in the mirror after a fresh cut confirms the words Black is beautiful. This helps make the barbershop one of the most transformative spaces in the Black communities globally. No matter how men walk into the barbershop, they are guaranteed to leave transformed. Transformed by the exchange of Black cultural thought and experiences, physically changed by the fresh cut, and mentally invigorated by the celebration of Black people.
Photography by: Joshua Renfroe
Stylist: Michael Debnam
Assistant Stylist: Jamie Dean
Groomer: Vincent Jamael
Words by: Michael Debnam
The Fresh Cut
On Saturday mornings Black men walk into barbershops to get bald fades, razor-sharp lines, beard trims, all-overs, high-tops, and line ups and leave crowned by the fresh cut. Crowned by the buzz of the blades shedding last week’s hang-ups. Crowned by the clippers creating sharp lines that frame the Black man’s beauty, bringing out the boldness of his Afrocentric features. The line-up is to a Black man what a laid edge is to a Black woman. More than vanity, it is a physical manifestation of confidence.
Black men of every station are guaranteed to have the need for a haircut. Pastors, lawyers, doctors, athletes, entertainers, educators, tradesmen, and students come into the shop with different ideas of how Black men should show up in the world. Their viewpoints consume the space with a spirit of infectious intellect through discussions about music, politics, family, current events, and more. In these discussions, Black men leave a piece of themselves on the table while simultaneously picking up someone else’s perspective. Hearing these different perspectives provide insights on how to survive and thrive as Black man America. A classroom, a therapist, a consultant and a networking event, the barbershop is a safe space where Black minds are sharpened, challenged and transformed by the exchange of Black thought.
The shop is a celebration of the complexities of the Black experience. For some, the weekday can be filled with empty exchanges where suppressing the rhythms of Black culture such as greetings, facial expressions, and style of speech is a means of survival. But Saturday mornings, Black men get to shed the week’s hair and be free. Conversations flow from which hairbrush is the best to sports, to politics, to the benefits of good credit and the challenges in obtaining it. In the barbershop Black men can comfortably present themselves and still still set admirable examples for the young brothas in the shop. Here they can be whole, safe, and celebrated.
Standard Grooming Salon
Tucked away in the streets of Bushwick, Brooklyn hides the Standard Grooming Salon. A Black Barbershop where men come for a cut but leave crowned. Crowned physically by groomers who lift faces to the sky to get fades right and beards tight. Crowned mentally by the exchange of ideas and experiences from the brotherhood of clients. Crowned by the conversation of Groomer and Owner Vince Jamal, who so carefully modernized the Black barbershop. Crowned by the joy and excitement in Groomer Troy Johnson, who greets every client like his favorite cousin. Crowned by the warmness of Groomer and Owner Autumn Ardrey, whose curiosity makes everyone feel safe. These skilled groomers have taken the experience of the Black barbershop, bottled it up, and added everything it wasn’t to make it everything it is. The barbershop is a coronation for the Black man.
Originally published in Bleu Magazine Issue 67.