Every time a guy sits in a chair for a haircut it’s an act of trust. One that most of us aren’t willing to engage with someone other than our favorite barbers.
When that barber wasn’t around for me, I’d hesitate and wonder: Do I go on faith and a prayer that the available barber would do a good job? Or do I pass and come back another time?
That act of trust isn’t granted to just anybody. That’s why I shuddered when my lady recently asked if she could cut my hair and line up my goatee and sideburns. I have naturally curly hair that’s wavy when it’s cut low.
Other times it’s known to take on a life of its own. Even the most experienced barbers have a hard time cutting my hair. So if my lady thought she could do a better job than them, I’d just have to take her word on it.
And I’m not alone. Several Black men interviewed for this story varied on opinions. One guy preferred the barbershop atmosphere over a trial-and-error situation with his woman; most said allowing their girlfriends to shave their faces was one thing, but letting them trim their crowns was a no-no.
Among them was Abdul Ali, a New York City transplant now living in Washington, D.C. The 25-year-old hasn’t gotten over his mother trying to cut his hair when he was 4 years old. To hear him tell it, Ali still feels the sting of his mother’s scissors accidentally snipping part of his ear. “No, I would not let my lady shave my hair,” he said. “Let’s just say I learned my lesson.”
Plus, there are incentives for him going to the barbershop. “It’s where men really ‘talk’ and swap stories about all sorts of things,” Ali said. “I enjoy going to the barber too much.”
Over in Oxon Hill, Md., Sting Appiah doesn’t even trust himself with his own hair. In fact, he’s got a backup barber for when his main barber is not around. And despite having a hard time growing facial hair, the 27-year-old said, “If I had a woman, I still don’t think I’d let her”—or any other woman—“shave my facial hair.”
As for the hair on his head, it will take a desperate situation — one where both his barber and backup barber weren’t around, and he really needed a cut — for him to let a woman barber touch his hair. “Nothing against women,” Appiah said. “I just prefer my barber.”
But Fred Joiner had another take on the issue. Since most women shave their legs and under arms more than guys do, he figured that makes them more deft than guys at handling razors. “So, in theory, I am not opposed to the idea,” the 34-year-old D.C. resident said.
It’s not uncommon for men with coarse and curly hair to suffer razor bumps, also known as pseudofolliculitis barbae. That’s when curly and wiry hair tends to curve back and re-enter the skin when it’s shaved, according to various hair care blogs. This causes irritation and possible infection.
Recent estimates from hair experts put the number of Black men who suffer from razor bumps between 60 percent and 80 percent. “This reoccurring condition causes major discomfort in the beard and neck area and can affect black men for years at a time,” according to an article on Manscience Androceuticals, an online resource for men. Those nuances are what Joiner thinks is lost on some women. Even so, it doesn’t change his decision on the matter.
“I don’t have any specific hair style or needs so I would be comfortable with this,” said Joiner, who’s never had a woman shave his head before. He added that he would be more comfortable if a woman used an electric razor. “The margin of error is less,” Joiner said, “especially if you…just want all the hair off your head and/or face.”
As a man deep in his 30’s, Patrick Washington, a husband and father of two, is even more self-conscious about his hair.
While he doesn’t mind his wife shaving his face, he won’t let her anywhere near his crown. “There are spots that don’t need to be made any thinner and women don’t understand that right away,” Washington said. “I never cared about hair that much before, but as I get older, it’s become pretty important.” He added, “I want to make sure that I keep what I have because I’d look crazy bald-headed”