Photo Credits: LIZ JACOBSON / AGGIE. Student and barber Nouh Tekle cuts a student's hair.
Creating a space for community, business
Phi Beta Sigma, one of the historically African American Greek-letter fraternities on campus, hosts Fresh Hair Friday every week, where students can make appointments with student barbers as well as enjoy each other’s company.
Created in 2016, the Fresh Hair Program fills a gap felt by the Black community at UC Davis. Many new students are tasked with finding barber shops or salons to do their hair once they move away from home to campus — this can be more difficult for students with textured hair.
“The program started because the issue was, at the beginning of the year, people ask, ‘Where’s the barbershop? Who’s a good barber?’” said Abdal Elmahdi, a fourth-year psychology major and a Phi Beta Sigma member. “And you wouldn’t be able to find anything besides Motown [Barbershop]. Plus, the reality of the situation is that not everyone knows how to cut Black curly hair.”
Phi Beta Sigma brothers initiated the program to recreate the barbershop experience they were used to before moving to Davis.
Yusuph Lawal, a fourth-year political science major and Phi Beta Sigma member, was nervous at first about having someone the same age as him cut his hair.
“When I came to Davis, I didn’t want to cut my hair,” Lawal said. “At first, I was like, ‘No, I don’t know,’” Lawal said. “I’m used to professionals cutting my hair. But then I was like, ‘Wow.’ [The student barber] really spent so much time cutting my hair and knew the contours of my hair.”
Barbers are either students or local residents, all of whom have different specialties. Each barber has their own customers who make their appointments with the barber themselves. Haircuts are not free — the goal of the program is to connect the barber to the student and provide the space for the haircut.
“[We] give [student barbers] a taste of what is a business,” Elmahdi said. “Like, ‘How do I run this? How do I run my own business? How do I do this is a manner that’s professional and stay consistent?’”
Nouh Tekle, a transfer student and sociology major, is one of the student barbers. Tekle is originally from Alameda, Calif.
“I’ve been cutting my own hair since I was 14 and I started cutting other people’s hair when I came to Davis,” Tekle said.
Tekle appreciates the Fresh Hair Friday program because it allows him to balance his studies and his business as he’s able to manage how he schedules appointments.
To some, Fresh Hair Friday represents more than just a place to get a haircut.
“I kind of took it for granted [back home], so I realized this is really impactful and and a community-oriented space,” Elmahdi said. “There was one time a song came on, [and some of the barbers] turned off their clippers and they ran to the other side of the house just to start dancing.”
In the future, the Fresh Hair Fridays coordinators hope to expand. In the past, they had women who would braid hair and they hope to recruit more barbers and stylists. Lawal and Elmahdi also spoke about their hopes to move the location closer to campus to improve accessibility. Lawal also offers bike repairs, an additional service that reflects the entrepreneurial aspect of the program beyond just hairstyling.
“I think [Fresh Hair Friday] gets people invested,” Elmahdi said. “This ties [students] to different people, different organizations and networks. [It makes it so] they have their own spot, their own place to come.”
Fresh Hair Friday occurs every Friday until 6 p.m. at 1201 Duke Drive. More information can be found on their Instagram (@officialfreshhairfriday). The program welcomes all students.
Written By: Liz Jacobson — email@example.com