Vintage Barber Shops: The Art of Manliness

Juan Landeros – California State University, Los Angeles

The U.S. Census Bureau noted that from 2008-2009 there was an 8% increase in new barber shops, one of the few growths noted despite a declining economy. Along with this growth, a wave of new, “vintage,” barber shops has appeared throughout Los Angeles, California, gaining popularity among men. Previous studies have focused specifically on African American barber shops as places where news, personal information and politics are exchanged. However, little attention has been given to the role of barbers as the main agents in promoting and delineating the personal masculine identity of their male customers. While on the surface the barber leaves an imprint on the client through the hair cut, below a more profound interaction offers a transformative effect on the client’s consciousness and identity. Beyond the rigorous training that barbers undergo, lies a deeper and more expressive area of knowledge that barbers extend. It is my analysis that barbers exceed their personal area of expertise and, in extending their views, capture and help shape the zeitgeist of masculinity in their community. [Text Originally in the AAA 2013 Program]