Photographer Awol Erizku and writer Wilbert L. Cooper explore the American tradition that is the black barbershop.
Innumerable hours of my life have been spent in barbershops that specialize in cutting black people's hair, and the majority of my visits had nothing to do with getting my hair cut. The black barbershop is one of the last American sanctuaries and an American tradition. It's where you go to catch up on the news, debate about butts, play the numbers, watch the game, buy stolen sneakers from a hustler or bean pies from a black Muslim, and generally just shoot the shit. In other words, a barbershop's clientele is what makes it more than a place you go to get fresh. Arriving at the barbershop with a cool crew is paramount—how else could anyone endure standing around for hours while dudes get their hair styled into pagan symbols and geometric anomalies? So to exemplify just how crucial the black-barbershop experience is to American style and culture, photographer Awol Erizku and I assembled a cross section of notable heads and hosted the flyest striped-pole powwow ever. We enlisted the help of Tribe NYC, a creative collective of young people bound by their love of black youth culture and art from the late 80s and early 90s; Joshua Kissi, cofounder of Street Etiquette, a website that is pushing street style in a new direction while still honoring the fashion lineage of African American men; and twins Bruce and Glen Proctor, fashion designers with their own line of high-end bracelets called BruceGlen who also help run Sunday services as ministers at Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater.
The following photos of young, intricately hairstyled brothers showcases the latest wave in a long lineage of ever-evolving ways in which young black men express themselves and pay respect to their history through their follicles.
PHOTOS BY AWOL ERIZKU
CREATIVE DIRECTION AND WORDS BY WILBERT L. COOPER
Photo Assistant: Adrian Phillips; Hair: Rico London; Makeup: Stephanie Clouden Special thanks to Levels Barbershop in New York City