New Jersey’s Ghetto Barber Shops
And now for a post that isn’t about “Jersey Shore”!
Let’s rewind back to Fourth of July weekend. My hair (total Jew-fro) was getting a little too curly and unmanageable to be seen in public. I had a friend who had been cutting my hair for free for the last couple of years, but she wasn’t available. And, since I had plans to go out for the night, I needed a haircut that day.
I googled around for barber shops in New Brunswick. All the results I found fell into two categories: unisex hair salons or places bragging about their “street” and “Brooklyn” cuts. I have too much pride to go someplace with the words unisex and salon in its title, but I’m not man enough to go to one of the ghetto places. All I wanted was a barber shop catering to nerdy white guys. Since there weren’t any such places in New Brunswick, I decided to look around in the nerdiest town in New Jersey: Princeton.
Princeton is full of nerds, yuppies, and hipsters, so I figured I’d have no problem finding a suitable place to get a haircut. Google provided me with a list of several different barber shops in the town, and I entered the first address on my list into the GPS. I was directed to go through the town and ended up in the residential section. I saw an open parking space on the street before I passed the shop, so I took it and walked towards the place.
As I passed by several large houses, I was worried that this barber shop would be too expensive. After all, it was away from the town center and surrounded by these mansions. To my surprise, I soon found myself in front of a tiny little shack with a barber’s pole. I hesitated a minute but then opened the door and walked in. It felt like one of those movies where someone from out of town walks into a diner or something and the music stops and everyone looks at them. Yeah, it was exactly like that.
I wasn’t just the only non-African American in there, I was also the only person under 50. While I felt pretty out of place, what made me even more uncomfortable was that it was extremely hot inside. Though there were two little window air conditioners and a couple of fans, they did little to cool the sweltering air inside. I sweated a lot as I waited for my turn, feeling bad that the barber would have to attack my sweat-drenched scalp.
When it was time for the cut, the barber asked how I wanted it. I told him to get rid of the curls. As he bravely took on the task of weed-wacking my fro, he began talking to me. He asked where I was from, what I do, why I was in Princeton. Throughout the haircut, we discussed other things – Obama, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the heat. At the place I used to get my haircut in my home town, such conversations between barber and customer rarely took place. It was refreshing to have a conversation while getting my haircut, and the barber was genuinely one of the nicest people I ever met.
Unfortunately, that was the only refreshing thing. The heat was really getting to me. The fact that I was under one of those cape things to keep the hair off of me just made things worse. Aside from that, the barber was very meticulous about cutting the hair. It was taking forever. So, when he asked me if my hair was short enough, I lied and said it was good just so I could get out of there. Once he took the cape off of me, I looked down and saw that my shirt was soaked with sweat. Embarrassed and uncomfortable, I gave him a nice tip, ran to the car, and pumped up the air conditioning.
Although I was so afraid of going to a barber shop like this, I realized I had nothing to worry about. My patronage was welcomed, I had a nice conversation with the barber, and the haircut was pretty cheap. Sure, my hair wasn’t as short as I would have liked, but I made do with what I got. After playing around with a brush, I invented a new hair style. While guys with soft, straight hair like to give themselves a faux-hawk, those of us with coarse, curly hair just can’t do that. So, I unveil this new look, the fro-hawk (patent pending):
A month later, it was time for another haircut. I wasn’t going to wait another six months and look how I did in the first picture ever again. Now that I conquered my fear of ghetto barber shops, I figured I’d go to one nearby in New Brunswick. I got the address, drove over, and walked in. The first thing I noticed was the sharp chill in the air. This was already off to a good start. But I got a little nervous when I heard the Latino music and saw that the TV was on Telemundo. I sat down and saw that there were four barbers at work at the same time, all speaking Spanish to each other and their customers. Once again, I was the only nerdy white guy in the place.
As I waited for my turn, a nerdy Asian guy walked in. This made me feel a little more at ease. Still, I was nervous that the barbers only spoke Spanish and that I would have a hard time explaining what I wanted. However, it wasn’t a problem. When one of the barbers had an open seat, he called me over in English and asked how I wanted my hair.
While the guy at the other place was slow and steady, the guy here was really quick. Before I knew it, I had a perfect, nice and short haircut. Although, he wasn’t finished yet. He opened up a drawer and pulled out a razor blade. I got scared and thought I made a mistake coming to this place. But I soon realized he was just using it to clean up my sideburns and the back of my neck. I never had that done before, and it stung a little, but my sideburns never looked better! Judge for yourself:
Any of you white nerdy guys out there who have been afraid to go to a nearby barber shop because it seems too ghetto, I implore you to give them a try. Though I was hesitant at first, I met the nicest barber at one and got the best haircut of my life at the other. And if you happen to have a blog about life in New Jersey, going to one of these places will give you something to write about so your content isn’t all about “Jersey Shore.”
Has anyone out there ever been to either of these places? Have any stories about ghetto barber shops in New Jersey? Want to tell me how dumb my hair looks? Just leave a comment below!