While barbershops around the country are closed for business as a government-mandated means to slow the spread of Covid-19, I’ve decided to stand in solidarity with my fellow temporarily barberless Black men. There’s sure to be lots of dudes taking matters into their own hands — and mutilating their hairlines in the process. That won’t be me, though.
For the foreseeable future, I’ll be wearing my natural hairline like a badge of honor. And every week, I’ll be updating you on the progress in this hair diary — observations about my scruff, barbershop withdrawal, feelings of insecurity, feelings of pride. All the while, I’m gonna sport this grizzle like a playoff beard, refusing to trim it until it’s in the right hands: my barber’s.
Wednesday, April 15
This is not completely uncharted territory for me. I’ve allowed my hair to grow longer than this (albeit under less restrictive conditions), but there’s something beautifully primal about embracing the wolf at this time. As the weeks have passed, I’ve even begun to turn my nose up at the folks who shaved their heads bald many moons ago and are unaffected by the overall state of barberlessness. The same goes doubly for those who’ve resorted to tasking a significant other with clipper duty. You suckas ain’t brave for testing the limits of your hairline — and your relationship — with some Andis’ at-home action. You’re soft. You’re weak!
Thursday, April 16
Okay, maybe I’m weak. I’m starting to run out of hats to wear in Zoom meetings. My favorite Yamamoto snapback has become a permanent fixture on my dome during filmings of my daily podcast, Say Less with Kaz (available on iTunes, Spotify, Google and everywhere you listen to podcasts *wink*). I can see the shadow of the once-confident corners of my hairline — it’s as if every day is Groundhog Day. I’m already anticipating the slight sting of my barber’s clippers in my first post-Covid barbershop experience, reverting my front hairline to its 2015 bow-shaped brilliance. Until then, is it bucket hat season yet?
Friday, April 17
That’s it: I’m cheating. I got here quicker (and younger) than I’d anticipated, but here we are. If I’m going to embrace this hair-growth journey, it’s time to kick things into overdrive.
I’m copping some Rogaine.
After getting gloved and masked up, I hit my local pharmacy and picked up two boxes of the extra-strength stuff, enough to last 180 days. I was hoping my hair growth would also do a 180, but it turns out Rogaine does absolutely nothing for receding hairlines. The fuck? The regrowth treatment does, however, treat male pattern baldness for a fuller crown. It’ll do, I guess. By the time quarantining is done, I’d better be able to run my fingers through my hair like I’m The Weeknd, gotdamnit.
Monday, April 20
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is absolutely bugging. Barbershops, hair salons, and other businesses will be authorized to reopen as early as Friday, despite the risk of Atlanta becoming another Covid-19 hotspot. To my Peach State brethren: Don’t be a guinea pig rushing back out into society just to get a fade. It’s a setup. Let that curly hair flourish, my brothers.
In other news, the Rogaine seems to be working for me. That unsightly U at the top of my head is gradually disappearing after only a few days of application. Thankfully, I’m 6’3”, so the only people who could potentially clown me are in the NBA. This weird, foamy miracle is about to upgrade those fancy GIFs chronicling my hair growth on LEVEL’s social media channels. I’m not trying to be follicle fucked once this quarantine ends.
Tuesday, April 7
So the word is out: I’m doing a diary celebrating the strength of going cut-less like a big-body old school. And — surprise, surprise — the news is overwhelmingly met with blank stares or cry-laugh emojis. I get it. This isn’t the most significant form of standing in solidarity with my fellow Black men, especially when most of us have begun wolf season without much of a choice in the matter.
I’d anticipated an outpouring of support from those who know the struggle firsthand. I was expecting a digital group hug — like that deep inhale and exhale that Martin, Tommy, and Cole would share after a rare emotional moment on Martin.
The response I actually got was, well, not that.
“Haircuts? That sound like a choice to me,” Charlemagne Tha God commented on my Instagram post announcing this series, invoking the spirit of mid-meltdown Kanye West circa 2018. Others added their own colorful commentary. “Spare me my ninja,” wrote Amin El-Hassin of ESPN’s The Jump. “Try doing this ish while you’re already fighting a losing battle on two fronts…hairline and crown!”
Was I being a little self-serving? Perhaps. Is pondering my ability to properly sport a fade really so important at this juncture? Questionable. It definitely got the internal dialog fired up. Come on, Kaz — your hairline was already jacked. Why in the hell do you think people care about you dropping from the 400th best hairline on Instagram to the 450th?
Thursday, April 9
I’ve got quarantine life down to a daily routine by now: wake up, kiss the ol’ lady, watch her feed our dog, Pootie Tang, call to check in on family and friends, knock out a light workout, and then hit the bathroom to get shelter-in-place presentable before the existential dread kicks in. But today I took a few extra moments in the mirror to stare at my head, thinking longingly about days of past hairline magnificence while Mary J. Blige’s “Reminisce” played in my mind. I snap out of it and remember I’ve got Zoom calls to take and a podcast to record. How the fuck am I gonna field the inevitable comments about these vanishing corners on my forehead?
Sunday, April 12
I’ve forsaken the trust I once had in the almighty durag, and it only took a pandemic to cause the rift. These days, when I look at what’s been my scalp’s trusty sidekick for decades, all I see is a harborer of germs and potential ’rona. I’m not even sure if there’s any scientific merit to that precaution, but we’re not playing any games in this here Famuyide household.
That being said, I’ve abandoned all hope for waves in my post-Covid-19 world. Up top, my tonsorial look is Jay-Z in album mode. But I’ve been putting my Black power afro pick to use on my beard, too. For every obtuse angle in my natural hairline, the good Lord blessed me tenfold in facial hair splendor. I know damn well my grill is a strong 5.5 from the eyeballs up, but an exceptional 9.5 from the nose down.
So that’s the crux of my barberless gameplan: Distract you from everything going on upstairs and focus solely on the grandeur happening downstairs. It’s the old Mr. Biggs defense. Remember how Ron Isley (as Mr. Biggs) got progressively angrier the higher he walked up the stairwell in the Isley Brothers’ “Contagious” video with R. Kelly? That’s basically how I feel when my eyes climb from my beard to my hairline. [Note to self: Are we still allowed to talk about the Mr. Biggs musical saga? Can we even sing his part in “Contagious”? He didn’t do nothing wrong. We really need to decide on this sort of thing before I go around calling this the “Mr. Biggs defense.”] Anyway, what was I saying? Right — afro picks! Album mode! Let’s get this half ’fro cracking.
The Origin Story
There are a lot of professional titles that I hold in this world: media personality (Sports New York, the New York Post); podcaster (Say Less with Kaz); digital series host (Kaz and Effect on REVOLT); live event coordinator (D’usse Palooza). The one thing they all have in common, though, is I have to be in the public eye. A lot. Within the first three months of 2020, I’ve been to the X-Games in Aspen, Royal Rumble in Houston, Miami for the Super Bowl, and Chi-Town for the NBA All-Star Game.
Whether you’re regularly on camera or just on the scene, staying fresh is a necessity. So every two weeks, like clockwork, I plop down in my barber’s chair at Lion’s Den Barbershop for a haircut and a shave. Vic has been lacing my ’cuts since I moved to New Jersey last year and I trust that with every visit he’ll help me look sharp and continue warding off Father Time.
Vic (not to be confused with two-hit-wonder V.I.C., who was a barber before dropping 2008’s “Get Silly”) is more than just a guy who I slide $35 to twice a month. In fact, the last thing I did before quarantining my household and making social distancing a way of life was to kick it with him. He stays updated on my moves — and more importantly, my hairline — via Instagram. Often he’ll see my fuzzy front line on the ’Gram and reach out before I even have the chance to. “Yo, come through the shop,” he’ll text me. “I got you.”
He always holds me down. But when he reached out last month, I hesitated to venture to the shop.
“I don’t know, dude,” I wrote back. “That Corona is out here right now.”
“Man, you gotta stop hanging out with all those White people. You know we good. I’ma pull up on you.”
After he finished up at the shop, he came to the crib and delivered a pristine edge up while we shot the shit, pandemic be damned. I was so at ease, I felt a little silly to have ever worried at all. Once my shape-up was complete — and after some munchies-inducing recreational activity — we hit the local supermarket for some snacks.
There’s sure to be lots of dudes taking matters into their own hands — and mutilating their hairlines in the process. That won’t be me, though.
I was pushing a cart full of nachos (the munchies were real) when an alert hit my phone: “Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson diagnosed with coronavirus.” What the fuck? I thought. Ahh, well, they’re overseas, in Australia. It’s not like I’ve got anything to worry about out here in Jerz. I’ll just put my passport on pause for a bit, ’til things chill out. A few minutes later, another notification: “Rudy Gobert tests positive for Covid -19.” And then another: “NBA season suspended indefinitely.”
Vic and I looked at each other, both repeating variations of “Oh, shit!”
Apparently, the coronavirus was more serious than we’d thought. We went into protective mode and started piling (actual) food, water, and other essentials into our carts. At that moment, he wasn’t just my barber and I wasn’t just his client; we were two heads of our households, looking out for our loved ones. The last thing I thought about was how I’d look on camera anytime soon.
It’s been more than three weeks — 26 whole days — since that final ’cut, and I’m officially two weeks — or 336 hours — overdue to be touched up by those humming Andis clippers. Barbershops in cities around the country have closed for business, a government-mandated means to slow the spread of Covid-19. As a result, my shape-up is out here looking sad, a shadow of glory that once was. But I know I’m not the only one.
Last month, I jokingly posted the hashtag #HairlinesAcrossAmerica on Twitter to stand in solidarity with my fellow temporarily barberless Black men who will struggle mightily for the next few weeks (or months). There’s sure to be lots of dudes taking matters into their own hands — and mutilating their hairlines in the process. That won’t be me, though. I’m not gonna learn how to cut my own hair. Not gonna straight-razor my cheeks off. And no, I’m definitely not gonna “come home” early and shave my head bald.
For the foreseeable future, I’ll be wearing my natural hairline like a badge of honor. And every week, I’ll be updating you on the progress right here — observations about my scruff, barbershop withdrawal, feelings of insecurity, feelings of pride. All the while, I’m gonna sport this grizzle like a playoff beard, refusing to trim it until it’s in the right hands: my barber’s.