Daddy, affectionately known at the shop as “Scottie”, would choose my no-style ‘hairstyle’ and join whatever conversation was taking place. Once my ears adjusted to the cadence of the now popularized Jamaican patois, I could keep up with all the news. Sports, music, women, world affairs, I heard it all sitting in that chair as a “likkle yoot”.
I didn’t realize it then, but those trips provided some of my earliest introductions to politics (I always liked Jimmy Carter), economics (Daddy did taxes for many of the Caribbean-Americans in the area), and socio-cultural interaction (there isn’t anyone more conservative than old Caribbean folk). I did not become a man at the barbershop, but I did learn a lot about manhood and what was going on in the big world outside my nurturing but sheltered Trinidadian-American home. The barbershop was my on ramp to independence. It was a place where I could accelerate, at my own pace, into the flow of American life, with all its opportunity and appeal; temptation and danger.
When I got a little older, we moved out to Central Islip, Long Island and I started going to a Black-American barbershop on my own. I sat in the chair like a “bigga yoot” and got my high top fade. Every week, I talked smack with my friends (hip hop, sneakers, and fly girls were the conversations in heavy rotation). I pushed out even further, emotionally and intellectually; no longer just listening but contributing to the dialogue. Sometimes I even held court and set the debate (politics and sports were strong suits early on). The barbershop was like my gym as heated and clever verbal sparring allowed my confidence to grow right along with my stature.
The second thing I did when I went away to college, after cruising the freshman girls’ dorm, was check my own dorm for a good barber. After the first week, everyone knew who had skills and who needed to keep their clippers to themselves. Even in the dorm, conversation would always spark up while heads were being cut. The rhythm and hum of the clippers, music (Brand Nubians all day freshman year) and video games were was the soundtrack to our life on an HBCU campus.
Three years of law school in Washington D.C. introduced me to power in the real world and to a troubling social dynamic at the barbershop. For all the barbers and patrons who were proud of my progress and lauded my professional trajectory, there were a few haters who, for whatever reason, preferred the lowest common denominator when communicating. Fortunately, I was a student of life long before I became a law student and I had learned that sometimes you just need to keep it moving… Besides, on the whole, D.C. brothers are as thorough as they come.
It is not an accident that the barbershop has become an integral part of my life. The barbershop is an integral part of the lives of all Americans. It is not an accident that every neighborhood has at least one and the good ones have loyal customers for years.
My own quality of life is greatly impacted by the quality of the barbershop where I go to get my hair cut. The skill of my barber is but one aspect of the experience at the shop. The warmth and generosity of the barbershop can improve your day, much like a visit with a good friend or family member. If you are an entrepreneur like me, a good barbershop is a networking goldmine where you can meet like minds, headed in the same direction. And then there is of course good conversation.
You can step in the place and get a jewel dropped in your ear by a bus driver or a banker. The barbershop is a truly level playing field where common sense, logic and facts reign supreme. It does not matter who you are or what you do, if you got a good point and can articulate and defend it, you WILL carry the day, and like they say “can’t nobody front on you.”
WELCOME TO BARBERSHOP WIT
All of the foregoing brings me to the reason why I am writing this blog. Right about now, I have a great barbershop that I go to in West Orange. 8 to 8 Barbershop is right on Main Street if you can believe it and this blog is a digital reproduction of the enlightenment, rhythm and love that I get whenever I visit there. This blog endeavors to share the warmth and generosity of 8 to 8 Barbershop. This blog also will bring like minds together. If you believe in constant elevation, in doing better for yourself and those around you, check us out every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and participate in an exchange of ideas that will take us all higher.
Of course, if you want a fresh cut from my man Jason or the rest of the team, you have to come through yourself.
No subject is off bounds and the only ground rules are to: 1) come correct with your arguments and 2) love and respect your neighbor as you love and respect yourself.
Seeing as I am writing the blog, I will take the liberty of picking the subjects and setting the agenda, but feel free to let me know what is on your mind.
I’ve already got a few topics in mind so let’s keep the dialogue going and until next time, stay sharp.