Everything happens at the barbershop. At least that's what LeBron James said during an episode of his HBO series, The Shop. According to guests on the show, the barbershop is the place members of the black community go to discuss anything from family life to sports and music. The conversations are nothing but totally open and brutally honest.
Inspired by the show, I turned to Cameron Williams and James Jackson, III to see if this representation of barbershops was accurate. They assured me it was. I had never been to a barbershop, so the two of them introduced me to Melvin Graddy and Romone Vaughn, the co-owners of Brickyard Barbers in Millcreek, Utah.
"The barbershop is the man's country club," says Mr. Graddy. "People love to use us as therapy. We do a lot of that. I know everybody's business. Some good, some bad. Some I asked for, some I didn't ask for. Some people just want advice, some people just want to get things off of their chest." He adds that some clients don't even come in for a haircut, they just come by to hang out and talk.
I witnessed that firsthand. There seemed to be a revolving door of clients coming in and out of the shop at all times, all greeted by name. Some had scheduled appointments, some walked in hoping to get a quick cut, and others passed time on the couch while talking about anything and everything. I soon realized that it didn't matter what brought someone through the door, every member of the community was welcome at Brickyard.
While there, I met Jasen Lee, a reporter for the Deseret News who happened to stop in for a beard trim. As he awaited his turn in the chair he told me he comes into Brickyard often, and considers his time at the barbershop a form of "therapy through fellowship."
"I think of going to the barbershop as 'spending time with the fellas.' Sometimes we talk about things going on in the world, or sports, or family life," Mr. Lee says, making it clear that the experience is about more than just getting a haircut. "I just like being around and interacting with the people who come to the shop. Usually, when I leave, I feel better than I did when I came in, having shaken off some of whatever I may be going through."
"We keep marriages alive," Mr. Graddy tells me, with his clippers in hand, while describing his responsibilities as a barber. "We keep boyfriends and girlfriends [together]...