For the last three months, I’ve spent my Google Hangout work meetings wearing a Yankees cap. Despite being a born-and-bred New Yorker, I am not a Yankees fan at all. But it was the only cap I had in my house to cover my lack of a shape-up, my lack of a haircut, with barbershops in the city closed because of the pandemic.
Those edges that black women talk about keeping on their heads? Mine were gone. I was trying to hide what was left of my receding hairline.
For the last 22 years of my life, I’ve had the same barber. I’ve gone to him once a week; going so often is probably one reason I no longer have hair. And even though I’m going bald, I’ve never stopped going to my barber and paying him the $20 a week for a haircut. Friends tell me to just cut my own hair. But it’s deeper than that.
When people talk about the relationship between people of color and their barbers, they tend to forget that it’s not just that they raise your self-esteem and help you look good — they are people you can also share your life with, and who can share their life with you. And they aren’t your typical friend. They don’t come out with you to the bar. You may never go on a guys’ trip with them. You have those friends. But your barber is your part-time therapist, and sometimes you are his.
About a few weeks into quarantine, my barber, Jimmy, texted me a picture of his hair all over the place and a growing gray beard. I showed him my best attempt at a James Harden impersonation with my own beard. We had joked around then about becoming gray and old before we’d ever see each other again.
Finally, a few weeks ago, he told me that he was back to taking clients. He didn’t tell me that I would be getting my hair cut while sitting on a stool outside on the curb a few blocks from my apartment in Inwood. I was grateful for the cut, but I’m looking forward to getting back in a proper chair like the rest of my fellow New Yorkers.
And don’t worry: Jimmy wore a mask.
Here’s what some New Yorkers had to say about getting their hair cut on Monday, when barbershops around the city officially opened their doors as part of Phase 2 of reopening.
The Standard Grooming Co.
“I think the haircut process and doing that every two weeks or so was part of my own self-care. So I feel refreshed.”
— Brandon Evans
“I think that barbershops from the beginning of time have always been a place of self-healing, self-awareness and just love. So I feel like we needed to be open during this time, not really for the money but just for the camaraderie.”
— Troy D. Johnson
“I’m happy to be here with my family talking and chopping it up. With Covid and all the other racial tensions, being back in this space — I feel better, I feel actually better, being here, getting this haircut.”
— Jason Bruno
“I mean, the sun is out. I think it’s really important now for me to get back out and be myself again, how I used to be, looking fresh again.”
— Samuel Branch
Adrian Fanus Grooming
“I’ve learned to maneuver and figure out ways to cope with just having to do things on my own or just being without.”
— Danielle Magette
St. Albans, Queens
Hollywood Barber Shop
“I feel good, man. I couldn’t even sleep last night. I was so hyped up about getting back to work.”
— Cooper “Smitty” Smith, owner of Hollywood Barber Shop
“I told my daughter I wanted to be the first person to get my hair cut. Glad to know that the world is opening back up, because in my lifetime it never closed down like this.”
— Beulah Lewis
“I was cutting my own hair, but I wasn’t doing fades.”
— David Rhymes
Lower East Side, Manhattan
“I was so delusional and out of it from all of the drugs that were being pumped into my system. I don’t even remember almost dying.”
— Miles Martinez, owner of Tuft NYC, was hospitalized for Covid-19 in March.
“I live in a household with grandparents and babies, so I’m responsible for them too. It’s so nice to get back to some sense of normalcy.”
— Matthew Cortez
Little Italy, the Bronx
Antonio Hair Studio
“This is an art, not just a business.”
— Anthony Ferraro