In my twenty-one years of providing grooming services to the homeless and individuals living in poverty, I have compiled a great deal of outcome data. A portion of that data is the result of assessing the grooming needs of different target populations. Yet, another portion of that data results from addressing those grooming needs and recording the impact. Recently, I reviewed all of our combined years of quantitative and qualitative measurements to identify the group that we (RBCF) have serviced most. Well, you may or may not be surprised to know that the population my data revealed was males and African Americans. Yes, to date, Black males are the leading recipients of our no-charge grooming service projects. Fifty-eight percent (58%) of the over 25,000 haircuts, shaves, and other services produced from our past thirty-five grooming projects was explicitly performed on Black males of all ages. This was three times higher than our Caucasian participants and SIXTY times more than our Hispanic participants. If you are surprised by these findings, hopefully, the following paragraphs might explain why the African-American Males demographic might lack access to regular grooming services and why addressing this problem should be supported.
First, let’s begin by recognizing that regular grooming and hygienic care are necessary for most individuals. Managing personal appearance is the foremost way of presenting ourselves to the public, maintaining a positive self-image, preserving good public health, and an overall sense of well-being. With that said, why might Black males be the leading recipients of our benevolent service projects? Well, at least on 5,925 occasions, Black males have indicated to us that our services were amenities that they were “currently unable to afford” (2001-2020).
So, why could they not afford a haircut? Is it because the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics states that unemployment for African American males age sixteen and over is 8.6% (3rd Q 2021), while our nation’s overall unemployment rate for the same period stands at just 4.8 %? In effect, I theorized Black males aren’t getting haircuts and beards trimmed because they likely do not have jobs that could pay for it. This ungroomed/unemployed cycle can be exhausting when a haircut cannot be attained; a job cannot be obtained.
Many may presume that women would have been the group most unable to obtain grooming because their services are much more costly than males. However, I’ll end that notion by stating that women can typically resort to pulling their back into a “ponytail,” dawning a wig, or “go natural.” Women also possess a variety of accessories that can augment their lack of regular hair grooming, whereas Black males do not. In particular, males (Black males) require a motorized clipper and some needed knowledge and skill to produce a presentable haircut and facial trim. It is the reason why you see so many barbershops in predominantly African-American neighborhoods. It is not because there is high demand for barbershops in those neighborhoods, but because specific tools are needed to properly groom Black males.
Simply put, Black men have to almost always resort to utilizing a professional to perform a haircut on them. And no, shaving one’s head is not always an option. Using a razor is not as safe as it seems and requires a great deal of practice. Just ask yourself, do you want a shaved head that would require daily maintenance, along with the high cost of the razors involved? A bald head does not last as long as a basic haircut.
So what are we left with now? Well, we are left with a little more understanding of the plight of Black males and a barrier that leads to how they are often perceived. Therefore, on the next occasion, when you observe an unkempt Black man, do not assume that he is messy on purpose. He may need a job and a skilled barber, or maybe both.