Barbershop Computing

For decades African American men and boys have entered into a barbershop to find signs similar to the one on the right. The barbershop can be a rite of passage, sports center, newsroom and philosophy convention all rolled into one. Barbers today have evolved the trade of haircutting into an art style with endless innovation. There's nothing like the feeling of leaving your barber's chair with a fresh, crisp line up or a new design to show off at school. Some of the designs are words or images important to the client. But many are reflecting what computer scientists would call an “algorithm” -- a pattern created by following some list of geometric procedures. “Turn up, go in a spiral, go out, repeat”-- learn a rule of thumb for what generally works best, and you can call it hip hop heuristics.

This website combines barbering and computing. It will show you the origins of barbering in styles from across the African continent, and the evolution of barbering in the US. As Black communities survived enslavement and Jim Crow racism, barbers pooled money to buy their own shops, and became community hubs for politics, activism, lifestyle, culture, and technical knowledge. This site taps into the technical knowledge barbers possess and how that knowledge shapes their choice of tool and the overall outcome of their designs. You'll get the chance to explore this technical knowledge and create hairstyle simulations of your own using the online software.