During a period of slavery, black barbers were simply another form of profit for enslavers enslavers.It was common for enslaved or previously enslaved people to serve a It was common for enslaved or previously enslaved people to serve a white clientele which made it extremely difficult for a black man to get a haircut. However, this system began to change as a new generation of people born after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation began to work as free men. This newfound freedom spurred the evolution of the barbershop. At the beginning of the twentieth century, barbershops were a great opportunity to both establish a place in the community and gain wealth and financial independence. Barbershops became a place for Black liberation activists to gather and have conversations regarding societal reform. These barber shops harbord the ideas that led to remarkable changes within society. Barbershops have continued to be safe havens and the centers of communities even today.
A barbershop is not just a barbershop, a sentiment that is reiterated by many historians, clients of these barbershops, and Henry Fairfax, the Head of School at Concord Academy. Fairfax decided to host a schoolwide event in his office. He flew out his personal barber from Philadelphia and invited everyone to stop by, have a conversation, and get their haircut. Fairfax spoke about the importance of the relationship between a barber and their client. He reiterated that for him and many others in the community, a barber is almost akin to a preacher. Loyalty to a barber eventually overrides the importance of their skill because of the community, connection, and conversations that are fostered inside that Barbershop.
Fairfax spoke about his hairstyles. His current cut, he told the group, is a first. For a while, he kept his hair short, however, during the COVID-19 lockdown, his boys were moved to ask him, “Dad, are you balding?” Offended, yet determined to fight back, he allowed his hair to grow out and his wife, Ivy, seemed to like the new look. The journey through hairstyles can be meaningful, marking different ages and stages of life. For Fairfax, he changed his hair to combat his children’s playful bullying.
Fairfax wanted to recreate the culture of the barbershop at CA. His goal was to foster CA’s core values in a new and organic way. This idea about how to forge community stemmed from his experience as a basketball coach and player. He considered how the icebreakers and diving into stories created personal connections and trust between specific players, and how these bonds ultimately unified the whole team. The bonds were built not by coexisting, but by having hard conversations.
Some of Fairfax's most memorable conversations of the night included one one spirited debate about some of the all time greatest musicians. He could not put the great Whitney Houston above some of the other unnamed artists.There were some lighthearted moments, and some deeper ones, and it was the culmination of these conversations that created the culture of barbershop.
Fairfax hopes to foster the same community and connection that he feels in his barbershop here at CA. Ultimately, Fairfax hopes to continue hosting barbershops at CA, and allow the event to evolve and adapt to the people and culture of the school. Because Fairfax’s event was so successful and impactful, Ivy will be hosting her own version of Barbershop named Ivy’s Hair Salon. The event hosted in conjunction with Frizzed and the Community and Equity Office focused on the education and styling of hair. This created yet another space within the school to foster community and deep conversations.