Once we’ve found a good barber, and we’ve translated terms for one another, there’s the issue of our barber’s schedule.
Ever since the 2002 film Barbershop, people want to believe that all men like to hang out in them. But in real life, only old men and young children enjoy spending their time at the barbershop. Men like me, who are between say, 18 and 34, are usually impatiently watching ESPN—or, in this age of Obama, MSNBC and CNN—while we wait. And why is there always a wait? Because, for reasons never revealed to us, our barber doesn’t take appointments. And even though I’m usually entertained by hearing older men talk trash at Hair Company; even though I mix it up with other heads-in-waiting at Best Cuts about which rapper is better, Jay-Z or Nas (I say Jay); and though I enjoy sneaking a glance at the women who walk into Astor Place Hair Designers, it all gets old after about an hour of waiting. All I really want to do is get my hair cut and leave. Thing is, I and most men I know put up with our barber’s schedule because we’re just as vain as women.
Whether we have a job, or are currently between gigs, whether we have a date that night or no date, men are willing to wait as long as it takes to get a fresh haircut. Not only does a new haircut make us feel like a new man, it’s the most affordable style upgrade we can get. I go to the barbershop once a week, every week. Regardless.
What’s funny though is that in all the years I’ve spent in barbershops, there never seems to be a myriad of styles being cut. Like a lot of my friends who work in corporate America, I tend to stick with a conservative haircut, even though as a writer, and as someone who has worked in the liberal(ish) world of magazine publishing, I can, and on occasion do, exercise a little creativity. A few friends of mine have done the same, sporting locks, or the Michael Jordan baldy—but for the most part, the Caesar is to black men in corporate America what the flat top is to men in the military—standard issue.
Getting something like the mullet Kanye West rocked at this year’s presidential inauguration is asking for public ridicule, not just by outsiders, but by our own. Even style-savvy Jay-Z was given the Internet’s own special brand of the third-degree for growing out his hair while working on his latest album, The Blueprint 3—so much so, that he addressed the criticisms on “What We Talkin’ About:” “Check out my hair/ These ain’t curls/ These is peas/ Peasy head still get paid/ I’m combing through Gs/ Please…” I’ve never worn locks or braids, but I know men who have, and they all have at least one story about the prejudices they’ve experienced on account of their chosen looks.
As Chris Rock points out from the very beginning of the film, Good Hair was inspired by his daughter’s questions about her hair, so naturally the documentary is going to have a woman’s focus. But if Chris Rock had a son, or took the time to think about the evolution of his own hair (he now rocks, what else? A Caesar), he just might realize men’s hair tells stories, too.