Yesterday, my son and I got what is very likely to be our last haircuts in the United States for at least the next year. While in my native Birmingham visiting with family, I decided to stop by my childhood barber to get my lineup, sideburns, and goatee taken of. Though I’ve trusted the skill of Nuke from Nuke’s Barber Style Shop for close to 30 years, the experience felt really funny this time around…funny like in a betrayal kind of way. It is literally the 1st time in nearly 4 years I’ve been cut by a different barber. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the initial Groomed by Haye experience.
How I first came across this moment? I first came across Groomed by Haye—and its owner and chief barber, Orville Haye—on September 17, 2017. At the time, I resided in Gaithersburg, Maryland and for the year I had been back in the DC area after taking the Interior job, I got my haircuts at MasterCuts in Waldorf. I had a history at that place as the lead barber had cut my hair for the 2 years I lived in Waldorf during the Joint Base Andrews assignment. However, there were 2 things that made me grow weary of MasterCuts: (1) the dude talked a lot more than he cut, and (2) I didn’t feel as if the 101 miles roundtrip were worth it, especially on my regular days off. I sought to go somewhere closer to my residence in Montgomery County, Maryland and I did. I visited Primo’s Barber Shop in Olde Town Gaithersburg and got a cut from Primo. For a guy who was supposed to be a “master barber”, he f’n sucked and it took 6 weeks for me to recover from his crappy talent. I conducted a Google search of barbershops in the local area and Groomed by Haye turned up. It was well-reviewed with the highlight review being from one of the security guards that worked at the Main Interior Building. His lineup was always fresh so if it was good enough for him, I figured it had to be good enough for me. I booked through the StyleSeat app and on September 22, 2017, I was sitting in Orville Haye’s chair getting the first of 84 haircuts.
What it meant to me then? My initial thoughts before I even got in Haye’s chair were how could this haircut really be $45. I quickly learned why based on Orville’s education on my hair’s present condition, the style of cuts I had been getting up until that point, and the products I should be using. Apparently, I was on a collision course with developing some balding spots but Orville put a stop to that early. That endeared me to him early on. What also endeared me to him was his professionalism and the vibe he created in his space. He was super professional. He didn’t stop mid-cut and carry on animated conversations with other patrons and barbers. That was one of my biggest gripes with Mike Brown at MasterCuts…he talked too damn much. Sure, there was conversation between Haye and I, or between Haye and others in the shop but once he fired up those clippers, it was about the task at hand more than it was about getting a point across in conversation. As for the shop vibe, I liked it from the start. From the smooth jazz music playing to the piece of Black art to the laid-back ambiance, I just liked everything about being inside of Groomed by Haye.
What it means to me now? Up until the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of everything in the state, every other Tuesday at 6pm was my slot. And even after everything reopened, I was still able to get in roughly every 3 weeks on Saturday mornings. Over the nearly 4 years, my hair was certainly better for it. My sideburns—which had been cut short in 2015 as a result of a barber not paying attention because he was talking too damn much—had grown back to my preferred length and were healthier than ever. My goatee was super fresh. Even my soul patch, which I moved on from last year, was expertly taken care of by Haye. Most importantly, the overall health of my hair improved. On my first visit, he took a picture and showed me the condition of my hair…and how products I was using were contributing to a slow deterioration. After all of this time using products and a care routine he strongly recommended, my hair has never been better. Over the nearly 4 years, he and I developed something more than just the typical client-barber relationship. He became a great friend…someone I could talk to face-to-face about anything in an unfiltered way without judgment. When Ashton’s hair was growing, he laid out a timeline on how I should address haircuts for the first few years of his life. I liked how he didn’t just take advantage of potentially having more money to make off a client but rather he sought to ensure the client had the best experience possible. I can honestly say that I got everything I wanted and more from the Groomed by Haye experience. I departed the DC area last Thursday and I’m set to move to Bogotá in a few days so it’s unlikely that I’ll be in his chair anytime soon. But as I departed his Washington Grove shop, I told him that I’ll definitely be back…and I will. If anything, to see if he could do the unthinkable that we once laughed about: me growing a beard.
EDITOR NOTE: If you’re in the DC area and in need of a quality and professionally delivered haircut, check out Groomed by Haye. You can book a slot quite easily with Acuity Scheduling. You can also follow him on Instagram and Facebook. Tell him that Juan sent you.