Stylish vintage barber chair. Professional hairstylist in barbershop interior. Barber shop chair. Black and white.

OPINION: Guide to Manhood — The Haircut

by Troy Landrum


The haircut is a bonding moment for son and Father. This is an experience for you to see one of the many identities/roles Father takes on around other men. You get a glimpse into a world that is sacred to Father and important to the development of a son’s social skills. It is important for a son to pay close attention to the interactions: to learn how to compose himself, respect himself and others, and also how to approach the barber and other people whom he will one day interact with outside of the shop. You will be able to distinguish and study what type of man you want to be as you get older. The day will come when you will be taking this journey on your own. 

It is important for a son to speak up for himself. If he doesn’t like something about the performance of the Barber, he has to be honest so the barber will change tactics. The son also needs to be aware of how important grooming is for himself and how he presents himself in public. He needs to be aware of how good he feels about himself after getting a haircut. It is a form of self-care. Grooming and taking care of oneself is a sign of self-respect, it will lead others to take the son seriously when maneuvering in professional settings. Embrace this time with your Father and store it in your memory. So that you can refer back to these memories when preparing for your own child. These steps will be repeated for future generations of Fathers and sons. You can get creative, but hold on to the core values.

Black-and-white vintage photo depicting a young Troy (front) with his sister (middle) and his father.
Troy with his father and sister. Photo courtesy of Troy Landrum.

Prep: 5–10 mins (the talk)

Cook: 1 ½–2 hrs

Total: 2 hrs 10 mins

Serves: 2

Ingredients 

1 cup of Father prepping young man for chair experience

2 cups of independent research of top haircuts (Tell Father what you want)

2 cups of young man paying close attention to Father’s movements, presence around other Barbers, conversations he has with others, and also to subjects that you should know most about (sports, specifically basketball) and, most importantly, how much Father tips

1 teaspoon of comfortable clothes (athletic gear or clothes that won’t be ruined due to loose hair particles)

1 handful of candy placed strategically in young man’s pocket 

1 handkerchief (in case of a runny nose)

½ teaspoon of adding to the conversation between Father and Barber (Don’t interrupt, and speak up with confidence when Barber asks you questions)

3 cups of “What is said in the Barbershop stays in the Barbershop”

2 cups of respecting the culture of the Barbershop and embracing it

1 cup of never judging another 

½ teaspoon of being honest with Barber about the finished product (your haircut) and especially your hairline 

1 tablespoon of embracing the alcohol applied to your finished haircut (stinging but comforting sensation)

Directions 

(Steps 4–6 can be reversed with steps 7–10 if necessary)

Step 1: Preheat memory and active learning part of your brain for 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2: In a bowl, mix 1 teaspoon of comfortable clothes (athletic gear or clothes that won’t be ruined due to loose hair particles),1 handful of candy placed strategically in your pocket, and 1 handkerchief (in case of a runny nose). Whisk ingredients until thoroughly blended and allow to sit for 5–10 minutes. If allowed to sit longer, frustration will reach Father and that could disrupt the following steps.

Step 3: In a separate bowl, mix 1 cup of Father prepping young man for chair experience with 2 cups of independent research of top haircuts (Tell Father what you want). Take time to stir ingredients lightly together until mixed thoroughly. Important to take your time because this step serves as the foundation for the entire recipe. If a step is skipped or stirred heavily/forced, the dish will not come out as planned. Let it sit for 5–10 minutes.

Step 4: Add 2 cups of young man paying close attention to the Father’s movements, presence around other Barbers, and conversations he has with others; also, pay close attention to subjects that you should know most about (sports, specifically basketball) and, most importantly, how much Father tips. This ingredient should naturally combine.

Step 5: At this time, add ½ teaspoon of adding to the conversation between Father and Barber (Don’t interrupt, and speak up with confidence when Barber asks you questions) to Step 3.

Step 6: Pour all ingredients into a skillet. Place top on and slow cook on medium low for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

(At this time, it is the son’s turn to sit in the Barber’s chair)

Step 7: Mix 3 cups of “What is said in the Barbershop stays in the Barbershop,” 2 cups of respecting the culture of the Barbershop and embracing it, and 1 cup of never judging another in a bowl. Stir ingredients together until blended. 

Step 8: Pour method 6 into a pan, place in oven, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Step 9: In a separate bowl, whisk ½ teaspoon of being honest with your Barber about the finished product (your haircut), especially your hairline, and 1 tablespoon of embracing the alcohol applied to your finished haircut (stinging but comforting sensation). These can be used as a final topping for the dish. 

Step 10: Plate as follows: Place slow-cooked ingredients on plate and use as the foundation. Place baked item on top of slow-cooked dish and lightly pour method 8 on baked item, thoroughly covering.

Photo depicting Troy Landrum in a barber's chair, hair freshly cut.
Troy Landrum in the barber’s chair. Photo courtesy of Troy Landrum.

Reflection

One foot after another. My steps quickly match the pace of my dad. The wind is silent but cool against my skin, resembling the swift slam of the passenger side door of the crème 2005 Cadillac CTS. The gravel underneath my white Nikes reminds me of the rubber of the tires against rocks. The sound, the meditative movement. In front of me I see in bold Apple Chancery letters a sign that spells out “The Barbershop.” The only unique characteristic is the sign’s fancy font. A blue background accompanies the black fancy letters. It seems as though the strong winds from earlier have caused the sign to slightly slant. It’s midafternoon on a Saturday which is usually the busiest time of the day at The Barbershop. My dad usually gets his haircut every Friday, but on the weekends we are together, he switches to Saturday. My stepmother usually makes us breakfast before we leave on those mornings. Her specialty is sausage-and-egg sandwiches wrapped in aluminum foil. The egg yolk is extra runny, painting the silver aluminum like a blank canvas. After we eat, we find the aluminum foil a home in the closest garbage bin. Dad and I open the black-framed glass door of The Barbershop to the smell of rubbing alcohol and oil sheen. The sounds that accompany us as we walk inside are the rhythms of clippers and hair liners 

zzzzzzzz,zzzzzzz,zzzzzz_________zzzzzzzzzzz 

Rhythmic sprays meet our pores like the mist of a hot iron 

spppshshee,spppshshee________spppshsheeee 

We sit in our regular seats. Before I can get fully comfortable, I am signaled to the barber’s chair. It is my time. The cushion relaxes and molds itself into my buttocks and lower back. I have been through this ritual so many times that my skin has adapted to the small unwarranted, unpredictable cuts and nicks that periodically show up during our sessions. The sound of the clippers begins to be as hypnotic and alluring as Miles Davis’ genius song “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down.” I close my eyes to the deep voice of my dad and our barber. I intermittently glance up at the progress of my cut: It’s turning out to look exactly as I instructed. The barber’s hand guides my head like a massage therapist. I have learned never to resist. Make your movements predictable to the artist, move to his beat and never try to make your own. My eyes open to the lineup, no sudden movements. The artist usually reveals this specific piece before revealing the entire masterpiece. 

Perfect. 

My eyes squint slightly to prepare for the jarring but soothing sting of rubbing alcohol. This is the finishing touch. Approximately two sprays, front to back, of the oil sheen. One full spray accompanies the twirl of the chair like a tornado. This is the conclusion of my time in the chair. My barber unveils me with a quick swoosh of the black cape that separates my clothes from the loose hair. It’s my dad’s turn. I stand up, take a seat in our chair, and, this time, I play mere spectator to the process. The only difference from one masterpiece to another is the use of a razor on the goatee on my father’s face that signifies his manhood. My adolescent peach fuzz needs more time. My dad places a nice sum of money into the hands of our barber who looks at my dad with a gratefulness I have rarely seen in interactions between two men. My dad and I take one more look into the mirror before departing. It is a tradition we have stood by for many years and a ritual I use to this day.


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Troy Landrum Jr. is a native of Indianapolis, Indiana, and is currently a bookseller at Third Place Books and recently graduated Masters in Fine Arts at the University of Washington Bothell Campus.

📸 Featured Image: Photo by Body Stock/Shutterstock.com

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