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Loyalty. Everybody that’s ever sat in a barber or stylist chair, knows about that feeling of all consuming loyalty, when you’re handed that mirror, and EVERYTHING is exactly how you pictured it in your head. You know you explained what you wanted. You know you tried to be as detailed as possible. They may have asked a ton of questions, before rendering your service. They may have just asked the bare minimum, and jumped right in like they’ve known you forever. After the conversation and the connection. After the dryer shuts off and the loose hair is dusted to the floor. That moment when you look in the mirror and the mental you, that exact image you have of yourself in your head, looks back and makes eye contact with the physical you, and you just glow. That’s when you know it’s real. When you find someone that does hair magic with the wave of a comb. Someone that takes the idea of you, and turns it into a wearable style. Everybody knows that, THAT chair, you come back to no matter what. Everybody knows that’s a bond that you do almost anything for. Almost.
Atlanta (created by Donald Glover) for those that are unfamiliar, is a very straight forward, gritty show that never fails at being hilarious and thought provoking. The writing and execution of the episodes are understated and subtle. The show is given lots of space to breath and it helps the themes hit home in an almost introspective way. But sometimes, like in the “Barbershop” episode (Season 2 Episode 5) the comedy comes straight forward, and non-stop.
This episode follows the character Paper Boi (Brian Henry) showing up to a routine scheduled haircut, before a photo shoot, but his barber has other matters to attend to during that time slot. First, his barber convinces him to leave the shop and take a trip to a second location with the promise of the completed cut. Once the shop is in the rearview, an epic journey around the city ensues. This journey takes them from stealing wood at a construction sight to street youth mentorship and even a hit and run on the festivities list, which ends in Paper Boi and his barber fleeing the scene of the accident (they were definitely at fault). After, seemingly, missing every event that he had planned for the day, (including the photo shoot, possibly the main reason for the appointment) they finally make it back to the barbershop and Paper Boi gets his cut.
Now, you may not get talked into vacating the salon with your stylist to go on a road trip. You certainly may draw the line before getting gently dragged along as accomplice in a couple misdemeanors and a hit and run. But this episode shined a light on the already well known cultural fact, that once you find “Your” stylist... when you find “The One,” you take the necessary steps, to get back in that chair. That loyalty, that bond, is nothing to take lightly. You end up chasing that feeling you get from the that mirror look, like a drug. And your stylist is the only dealer you trust. This episode was an extreme exaggeration of that theme, the bond shared between client and stylist. It was enough to drive the concept way past home. Of corse, if you don’t know or hadn’t had that experience, it seems far fetched and insane. But those of us that live it, that love it, for the initiated, we understood exactly why Paper Boi was in that truck.
We understood that foreshadowed, off-screen regret in Paper Boi’s face when at the end of the episode, he walks in the shop and sits with a different barber. Immediately, at the consultation phase, after the first question there was uncertainty building. And it’s that look, that uncertain look with the new barber, that helps us to understand 2 things, why Paper Boi walked out that door in the first place, and why after ALL THAT, after the baby mama fight, after the construction site theft, after the roast session from his barbers son about his hair, and after a car accident (where I’m sure every one walked away with soft tissue damage) after all of that, we understand why Paper Boi still paid for his cut. Because looking in that mirror, and seeing the exact representation of you that you expect, is a powerful thing.