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Barbershops and Black History: Insight From the Experts

Barbershops and Black History: Insight From the Experts


For many years preceding and even following the American Civil War, black barbers endured social stigmas for allegedly perpetuating inequality. Even though the profession offered economic mobility to black entrepreneurs, black barbers were typically obliged to serve exclusively white clients.

Today however, black-owned barber shops play an important role in African American culture and public life. Both professional historians like Dr. Quincy T. Mills, author of the book “Cutting Along the Color Line: Black Barbers and Barber Shops in America,” and modern barbers trace the lineage of these 19th Century barbers to the bustling enterprises of today. 

Just ask local barbers Jon Escuteta and Jerry Jones of City Cuts, a barbershop located in the small town of Kutztown, PA, where Fresh Beards also started their business journey. 

“[19th century barber shops] paved the way for us to do what we do….creating a large impact within our community locally. Technology allows us to make an impact globally. Our Goal is to become the pillars of our community and create an environment where people feel comfortable with being themselves,” the duo said.

Jon and Jerry have been best friends since the fourth grade, and it was Jerry who took Jon to his very first barbershop back in the day. Since then, the pair has always had each other's backs.

Before founding City Cuts in 2006, Jon worked in various barber shops for 20 months. Citing his 

experience with working in toxic environments, Jon decided the time was now to create a positive environment for himself, his clients, his employees, and his community. 

Jerry first got his clippers in 2007, though he didn’t take the profession seriously until 2013. He worked at an Allentown barbershop for several years, before joining his long-time friend at City Cuts full time in 2015.

These days, Jon and Jerry are more focused on the impact their local barbershop can have on the local community, but especially local youths.

“We want to exude confidence in our community’s youth and teach them to speak their minds and provide them with positive role models,” says City Cuts.

“Hair cuts are art, that's the easy part, that comes naturally,” Jon says. “It's not about the hair-cut, it's about helping kids create a positive future for themselves. Making a positive impact is everything. We want to be big brothers to the kids that come in.”

It was this passion that led to City Cuts’ ongoing Books by Kids program, which strives to build confidence in kids by having them read in front of others while receiving a fresh haircut. For their efforts, the kids are rewarded with a three dollar payment, a lot of praise, sometimes a t-shirt or a bookmark, and usually even some sweet treats like Airheads or other popular candies. 

Jon started Books by Kids over four years ago while he and Jerry were volunteering as basketball coaches. After noticing that their players were having a bit of trouble communicating on the court, Jon and Jerry began brainstorming ways to make them more comfortable with communication.

Following a sizable book donation from Kutztown, the program was born. Eventually, the initiative became so popular that children began bringing their own books to read. After that, City Cuts saw noted improvement in their young clientele’s willingness to chat, express themselves, and communicate in general.

City Cuts isn’t planning to stop there either. “Once Covid is over,: the shop said, “we'd like to start giving back more! Let’s get back to doing free back-to-school cuts, providing school supplies, and doing hair cuts at Sneaker Villa again! Our goal is to become pillars of our community and create an environment where people feel comfortable with being themselves.”

Jon and Jerry’s contribution to the local Kutztown community is one born of an organic and natural desire to broaden the horizons of children who remind them of themselves: just two fresh dudes trying to get ahead in the world, one cut at a time.

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