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A Cultural Center
When you think of places around the city of Detroit where people love to congregate and share anecdotes or debate opinions, you might think of bars, restaurants or perhaps even the ballpark on a warm summer day. Where your mind might not immediately take you is to a small, unassuming room, possibly wedged between a pharmacy and a grocery store, where men assemble, sitting and waiting, to discuss the matters of the day, and, of course, to get their hair cut.
Barbershops have been a significant cultural appendage for millennia, but have developed into the functioning businesses that we recognize today around the turn of the 19th century. Prior to that pivotal turning point, barbers performed a much wider swath of duties, such as performing surgery, bloodletting and leeching, fire cupping, enemas, and the extraction of teeth. Safe to say that most all of us our pretty content not receiving enemas from our barbers, but we can really only speak for ourselves.
What we can generally assume safely is that folks like to come to a barbershop for much the same reason that they enjoy meeting at the local watering hole. Besides the functional element of lowering ears, people, generally of the male sort, like to flock and just basically be men. There may be less hooting and hollering than there is at the pub, but then there’s usually less booze (hopefully). Sometimes, though, there’s even more commotion and uproariousness, depending on what else is going on in the lives of the men present. If the big game is on the tube or the election is growing near, or maybe it’s something even more trivial, the barbershop is a place of discourse, an open forum wherein men can speak their minds and either be praised or shunned for have done so.
Whatever the reason that you may attend your local Detroit barbershop, be it a mere trim or a day’s worth of gossip and discussion, you should take comfort in knowing that it’s there, and that it’ll be there, come hell or high water, excuse the expression. It’s not just a business that offers a service, but it’s really also a cultural center where men can find, amongst all else, time to do as they please.
- Jacob Smith