It’s home. It’s a location that reminds you when situations aren’t ideal, you’ll always walk out the chair relaxed knowing something ended right. It repeals the stress, which follows your thoughts daily and burdens your mind. It introduces the dialogue you’ve yearned for, the conversations you needed to say what’s been held in. It provides a safe space, shielding from outside terror, social issues, and corruptness. It’s so much more than clippers, the cut, and the shop name.
There are moments when African American men forget the impact barbershops have had in the Black community and how vital they have been in the emotional aspects of their lives. There’s so much more to the 15-min appointment; stories told, history made and self-esteemed restored. As the new generation is becoming more intentional about mental health, safe spaces and black business growth, protecting, promoting and remembering why barbershops are crucial to a man’s growth has become a movement being spearheaded by You Next.
You Next, created by Antonio Johnson, is a future photo book currently being created exploring multiple barbershops nationwide and each's own personal story, the barbering world and the influence it’s had on their community. Currently, Johnson has visited shops in New York, Philly, DC, Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta, and New Orleans with Chicago, L.A., and the Bay area finishing out his tour.
The photo book highlighting barbershops in black communities was created very naturally for Antonio. “My uncle who I was close to was a barber and I also spent Saturdays with my father going to his barber,” said Johnson. “There was always a sense of community that associated with barbershops, but necessarily didn’t have the language to describe it. I just knew it was a really great place.”
Even though the love for barbershops did not grow into You Next from there, life would come full circle and bring the concept from there. It wasn’t until he was an adult in Cuba taking pictures of barber shops where idea grew and how to expand it further. “I came up with the idea of highlighting how barbershops were the community hubs for the black men in the country. It not only cultivates our looks but also our conversations our freedom of expression. The freedom to express our favorite JET beauty of the week, politics or life problems.”
After starting the idea in 2015 and years of planning, Johnson created a Kickstarter earlier this year to support his passion project and grew capital, which led him to start the project on June 1st. Recruiting barbers for this project has been less of a struggle after explaining to them the concept. “I’ve definitely have gotten some interesting barbershop visits,” said Johnson. “DC was very interesting hearing about the history and gentrification, but also visiting an LGBTQ barbershop, which expressed how important safe spaces like the shop are for that community in DC. I’m about to leave Alabama and just wrapped up shooting with Dr. Martin Luther King’s barber. It’s been very cool to learn history and the different climates in different cities.
With a few cities to go, You Next will begin its book phase, inspiring focus on barbershops and revamp them to become bigger in the community. As for Johnson, he’s just happy to create the talk, the image and the faces for the community.
For more information about You Next and Antonio Johnson and how to support this project:
Kickstarter: Click Here
Instagram: Click Here