Throughout history, hair has been a staple in the African culture. In many ways, class or status was associated with a specific styling of hair. Around the late 15th century, slaves being traded had to conform to many of the Eurocentric standards, which included the attempt to change traits like hair. Many women and men looked for many ways to conform, which included straightening their hair, wearing wigs or even wearing headscarves.
African Americans became barbers and hair stylists for many rich white clients. As time progressed and slaves were freed, there weren’t many respectable occupations for blacks, so many of them stayed in the hair catering industry. Since these barbershops and salons were able to be black owned, these establishments became a “safe place” where many blacks could meet and socialize.
Today, San Marcos is home to only two black owned barbershops, and Troy R. Johnson is the owner of one of these establishments, which has two locations.
“I played around with cutting hair since I was in junior high,” Johnson said. “There was no one in San Marcos that I felt could do [African American] hair right, so I felt that I could do it better than some of these franchised places.”
Johnson is the owner of both “Troy’s All-star Barbershop” locations in San Marcos. The first shop is located on North LBJ, and the second is located on South LBJ. Johnson officially opened the first shop about five years ago. Last year Johnson opened his second shop, so that he could have a location that caters directly to students on campus.
Johnson’s family has lived in San Marcos for over 100 years and he said that a look into the city’s past made him realize the need for a barbershop that could cut black hair.
“Sometimes I look at old pictures from the ’80s and ’90s, and I see old pictures of the [Texas State University] football players,” Johnson said. “They all had a lot of hair on their heads because they would have to wait to go back home to get their hair cut.”
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city of San Marcos is home to about 5% of African-American or Black citizens. Although the percentage is low, Johnson said that the growth in African American students at Texas State, which has a 10% population of African-American students, has helped his business flourish.
“There was a day that I could walk on campus for minutes and only see two African-Americans, and now I take five steps and I see 10,” Johnson said.
Danny Head, one of the Master Barbers of the North LBJ shop, has cut hair for about 15 years. Head is originally from Lockhart, but has lived in San Marcos for about 10 years. He began to work for the All-star Barbershop through mutual friends of Johnson. Head said Johnson’s shop is more than just about cutting hair.
“Cutting hair is an art,” Head said. “Not an art as in getting a nice tapered-fade, but as in talking to somebody, sitting them in your chair and giving them advice.”
Head also said that although Johnson owns two of the only black barber shops in town, he thinks that there will be a growth in black barbers and black hair stylists.
“With the way that Austin and Kyle are migrating this way, somebody else is going to see the monetary potential in it,” Head said.
Idrees Ahmad, Texas State Plant Biology graduate student, said he has only been to the shop three times. He said that he works in a lab all day, so he didn’t mind letting this hair grow out, but since he found Johnson’s shop, he appreciates Johnson’s convenience and skill. He said that having a barber that can cut black hair is critical because of its versatility.
“For black men your image is a lot, so if you can’t find someone who can cut hair, then you don’t have many options unless you grow your hair out, braid it or wear a hat,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad said if he wasn’t able to get his haircut at Johnson’s shop, then he wouldn’t be left with many options. He also said that black barbershops are a foothold for the expansion of the black community.
“There is a chance for development,” Ahmad said. “If you see a black barbershop in the community, there is going to be a substantial black population there and that’s a good thing or a bad thing depending on who you ask.”
Troy said that this expansion and development is exactly what happens in his shop.
“There are a lot of kids who have never seen a professional African-American,” Johnson said. “I also see a lot of networking going on especially by freshmen and it’s a place where you can meet someone with your own interests.”
Johnson said that although he specializes in “ebony” hair, he had to go back to barber school to learn how to cut other types of hair. He said his shop isn’t just a haven for black men, but one for the whole community no matter the ethnicity.
“This town has not only grown with the African-American population, but also the Hispanic population,” Johnson said. “About 30% of the cuts I do are African American, and a big chunk of the other percent is Hispanic or Caucasian.”
Johnson said his business has done well in the San Marcos area, but he still faces challenges when it comes to finding consistent, skilled and reliable employees.
“If I was in the city I would have a ton of people to choose from, but being in San Marcos there are not that many barbers here,” Johnson said. “There’s not too many people who want to come from San Antonio, Austin, or Houston to move here.”
Johnson said that for him a cut can change not only other’s perspective of them, but also of themselves.
“By having this shop here when you walk to campus… people are proud about themselves, and they look sharper,” Johnson said. “When you look good, you feel good.”
By Jourdan Bazley Blog Content Contributor Congratulations to you for making it through another great year of successes and lessons. I hope you spent your time well during 2016 and accomplished the goals that you set for yourself, or thought of some new things to focus on during 2017. I can imagine that as the year comes to a successful end, you will be looking for various ways to ring […]
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