Barbershops and salons have been a staple of many Black and Brown neighborhoods for decades. Many Black and Brown folks identify these shops and salons as safe spaces to get a haircut/hairdo from a professional who uniquely understands the nuances of their hair. These are spaces where people meet, network, get counsel, feel safe, and leave with a new hairdo and a new level of self-esteem and confidence, which only comes from that great cut or style you can get at your neighborhood shop.
For minorities who may have spent many years of their lives stigmatized and traumatized, due to having different hair texture from their Caucasian peers, a fresh haircut or well-groomed mustache or beard can help boost how they perceive their self-worth. It can also give the confidence to walk in the footsteps of their community leaders and idols, who teach the importance of showing up to everything well groomed. The forced shutdown of salons and barbershops due to the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the whole country and, indeed, worldwide. For the Black and Brown community, the negative effects of the pandemic could leave a culture without a safe space that provides emotional support, confidence, friendship, and counsel in a sometimes biased world.
Many men of color who are trying to overcome traumas and economic and social barriers may suddenly feel more powerless as neighborhood establishments close- symbolic of yet another loss they must endure . Many feel that a well-groomed appearance is critical, but don’t know what to do with their hair, in a society where hair shaming can be an element of their professional review. Furthermore, they suddenly have lost the comfort and emotional support of their stylist, who they usually express their issues, worries, thoughts, feelings and troubles with, so they don’t burden their family with these. As Dr. Victor from Cedar-Sinai Medical Center recently found in his national study, “Barbershops are a unique popular meeting place for African American men” and almost like a social club for them.
How do you survive COVID-19 without your hair expert?