The following is an extract from my article for CALM. Read it in full here.
I was 15 when I got my first real taste of the quintessential community barbershop experience. I was drawn into the sense of brotherhood and camaraderie, how everyone knew each other. It didn’t matter if you were in the chair, sweeping the floor, hanging around outside or the one cutting. These guys – as I’d learn over the years – are the ones you’d take a bullet for and none of us even knew each others’ surnames.
It was a bubble; a world in itself. Fourteen years on, and I still call it my barbers even though I no longer live in the town I was born in. I’ll come home once a month to see my folks for a weekend, already knowing I’d be gone for most of Saturday afternoon because a haircut at my barbers is so much more than a haircut at my barbers. It’s conversation. It’s arguments. It’s laughing so hard that the barber has to stop to catch his breath. It’s sitting in the chair twenty minutes into a haircut, on a hot afternoon, and having to sit twiddling thumbs because the barber’s gone to the corner shop for a bottle of water and a can of Fanta.
For all of its wants and needs, the place felt like an extension of ourselves. It was where we’d hang out after school, after college and when we’d reunite on weekends home from Uni. The topics would change, but the conversation would be exactly the same as always. Music, politics, homophobia, racism, class, immigration, parenthood, society, sexism, football, you name it. Conversations like those enabled me, and so many others, to speak up and voice our opinions, debate and understand and walk in other people’s shoes. Most importantly though, it taught us how to keep a situation from escalating, and learn how to carry ourselves.