The warm atmosphere of the Chop Shop barbershop is immediately evident when customers first step through the door. The sound of shears whirring to life, the smell of hair gel and chatter about the latest baseball stats permeate the air as customers sit quietly along the wall, waiting their turn.
, located at 20 S. Court St., is a hole-in-the-wall retro barbershop where students and adults alike can indulge in a quick trim and conversation. Open since 2008, the Chop Shop is known for its edgy new styles, second generation barbers and open accommodation to all customers.
“The community within a barbershop was something that always stood out to me,” Andrew Swan, a junior studying mechanical engineering who regularly visits the Chop Shop, said. “People always talk.”
Despite its prevalence among big cities and in film, barbershops have become something of a hidden gem — a piece of history that has sunk comfortably into the background of the American lifestyle. As popular places of social gathering, particularly within small towns and neighborhoods, barbershops have come to represent something like of a safe haven.
“The barbershop has always been a big pillar within communities,” Justin “Jay” Smith, a 23-year-old barber who works at the Chop Shop, said. “Growing up, the barbershop was where I would go whenever I needed advice: what to do, what not to do, advice, funny stories. There were always barbers and mentors of the community that I could talk to.”
Smith has been barbering for 13 years and grew up in his family’s barbershop in his hometown of Columbus. Smith had his first brush with barbering at a young age, when he cut his best friend’s hair in an attempt to appease his mother.
“My best friend had forgotten to get his hair cut, so I gave him one so his momma wouldn't get upset with him,” Smith said. “She found out anyway and made me keep cutting his hair, so I’ve been his barber ever since. That is when I first really got into it, and I grew to love barbering.”
In the entertainment industry and in the media, barbershops are often depicted as a staple in African-American culture. In movies like Barbershop, Barbershop 2: Back in Business and Barbershop: The Next Cut, barbershops are broadcast as a primary rendezvous for African-American localities. That convention, however, does not seem to persist to Athens.
“Most city barbershops are distinguished from black and white,” Smith said. “The unique thing about OU is that we cater to all demographics, so we get everyone in here from different countries and backgrounds.”
Despite their similarities in services, the dynamic between salons and barbershops contrasts greatly. The fashionable, expensive overtones of salons can differ from the simplicity and classic style of an everyday barbershop. In a modern-day world where it seems as if everyone is constantly in a hurry, the barbershop is a quiet nook where customers can go to relax and take a minute to breathe in the trusting hands of their barbers, then walk out of the shop clean and refreshed.
“I’ve gone into salons my whole life,” Griffin Kennedy, a freshman studying wildlife and conservation biology, said. “But the whole atmosphere of (the Chop Shop) was different. It was a lot more chill and low-key.”
For the Chop Shop, it’s clear through the vintage charm and relaxed vibe that barbershops are defined by the people, not by what is seen on the TV screen.
“That is what I like more than money, just being able to meet different people,” Smith said. “I value people over money.”