A Safe Space For Those Who Need It.

What a year. What a tough year and what an enlightening year all the same. To think the structure in society we all know so well and rely on can be brought down this quickly by a virus. A pretty humbling experience for the human race wouldn’t you say? I don’t think I know a single person that hasn’t faced some hardship this year and that’s the reason this message must be shared.

To date we’ve had two national lockdowns and who knows if we’ll see another by the time this is over. Separating families and friends, completely isolating some people from the one thing every human being absolutely needs to survive. Connection. A survey done by The Mental Health Foundation discovered that 49% of people were suffering feelings of anxiety and worry when asked in June, down from 62% in March. Men’s suicide rates are now at the highest they have been in two decades and I suspect there will be another spike as we go into the new year.

As we see it, a barber has a few roles in the community, cutting hair being just one of them. He or she is your impartial ear to let off some steam and whose advice you know you can seek. They are the guy who knows a guy and in a lot of cases, he or she is your friend. A man’s trust in his barber can best be explained by the fact that you let them hold scissors inches from your face or even a razor to your throat. This recipe of intimacy, familiarity and comfort creates one of the most unique relationships there is.

In the aftermath of the lockdowns, where we are locked away in our homes with not much other than the internet, no doubt fostering all kinds of addictions but most prominent will be the addiction to social media – a place where we can go looking for all the false connections our heart desires. With rules loosening slightly over time this means the real conversations are starting to happen again and this is why the return of the barbershop is so important.

The discussion of masculinity happens a lot these days, and usually the toxic kind. Men must be men and bottle it all up while putting on a brave face is an idea that thankfully is starting to fade away. Men must embrace their masculinity as much as possible but it cannot be something to hide behind. Personally I think the barbershop is where some of the best masculinity happens. Banter is flying everywhere, guests are encouraged to join in on group conversations yet there is an element of safety in the familiarity and comfort that allows a man to open up about his troubles. Barbers are great listeners by nature. Most barbers will be able to tell a cracking story but the best barbers will know when it’s time to shut up and listen, creating space for sharing.

One of the reasons I believe this is such a safe space for men to open up is because in most cases your barber won’t know your family, they won’t know a lot of your friends and they won’t know your work colleagues. A barber’s impartialness is potentially only one step down from your doctor or a therapist. So I guess the reason I’m writing this is to encourage anyone and everyone to talk it out if it’s troubling you. Resilience is a fundamental skill to absorb the blows life throws at you but there are no medals for bravery awarded to people who try and do it all alone. Human beings need each other and however your social support network looks, just know your barber can be a part of that too.

Words by Josh O’Callaghan