Black barbershops and beauty salons open *very* late - why?

I live in one of several racially integrated suburbs in eastern suburban Cleveland. Driving down a major street around 11:00 PM or midnight, as one would expect, most businesses will be closed, except for bars, all-night diners and … barber shops and beauty salons catering to a largely African-American clientele.

The regular old-school barbershops have business that are as erratic as Dick Cheney’s heartbeat, with most closing at 4:00 PM. Beauty salons are usually open a bit later. Why are black barbershops and beauty salons open so late, often into the wee hours of the morning? It is common elsewhere, or is it just a Cleveland thing?

To provide a service to persons who which to have their haircut when the other barbershops are closed?

If that’s the case, why isn’t “Vito’s Barber Shop” or “Tony’s Barber Shop” or any of the “white” beauty salons open until midnight?

Maybe more shift work? Could black people in those areas historically have been more likely to be employed at off hours? It need not be true today to be a tradition.

I’m throwing out a couple of reasons, not knowing which, if any, are true.

  1. Socializing - barber shops and beauty salons have long functioned as social gathering points for many. Among black Americans during the more repressive times it was a 'safe" location for them and an alternative to bars. This function may well have carried over into the present time.

  2. Hairstyles - this is more for the beauty salons. Some hairstyles among blacks, such as extensive cornrows/braids (with or without additional weaves) take hours to complete. Sometimes 6 or 8 hours from start to finish including trim, wash, dry, possible dying/tinting, and LOTS of braiding braiding braiding. This may require longer hours.

  3. Shift work - blacks have, historically, worked in a lot of service industries with shifts. This would make it difficult for them to go to such places during 9-to-5 normal business hours.

Possibly they are less likely to have jobs in which they have the flexibility to say “I’m taking a long lunch to get a haircut”, so they have to go after work.

I noticed this in Little Rock, too. One in particular that I drove by frequently (in a rather bad neighborhood, if it matters) was absolutely packed all the time, with people hanging out in the parking lot as well. It was in a small strip mall next to a store called *Clothing, Tobacco, etc. * which I always found amusing.

I think this is a biggie. I once heard a local beauty salon’s radio ad where they bragged, yes bragged, that they used two braiders, so they could complete your cornrows in less than five hours.

I just about drove off the road. Five hours getting your hair styled? And this is apparently much faster than other beauty salons.

Yeah, a gal I used to work with had long extensions, and her braids took about 8 hours- she had a complicated pattern up top, then the length of braids.

All of the above reasons, and to add to it, because they might be getting more business by doing so. I am white and go to a black barbershop (my hair is cut short and faded) in the evening. I can never find one that is open when I get off of work. One of the things I noticed is there are a lot of non-blacks getting there haircuts there, a lot of younger hispanics and whites.

Side note: For some reason, I tend to get a better haircut at a black barbershop. They always give a great fade (blending) and are never in a hurry, which I like. Also, the prices seem to be pretty good there, which I offset with a very nice tip (same price as the haircut usually).

My 15 year old son (not black) also goes to one of these barbershops. He would get a shape up every week if I gave him the money. I noticed something similar with a lot of black women I work with- they go to a beauty parlor at least once a week to have their hair washed If customers are coming in more frequently, that alone may increase business enough to be worth staying open late.