If there’s one time when trust matters, it’s when someone is standing behind you holding a straight razor to your scalp. A barber earns that trust, but it also flows from his shop’s decor, the camaraderie among the crew, and even the music they play. Whether you rock the freshest styles or like a full-on retro grooming experience, you can find a home among Morgantown’s barbers. The hardest part may be figuring out which one–for help with that, check out our barbershop quartet.
Grooming young barbers
One of the best feelings in the world is that after-haircut, fresh-and-clean sensation. But for Martinsburg native Errol McCurrie, barber, barber instructor, and owner of Sharp As An Errol Barber School on Beechurst Avenue, one of the best feelings is seeing a student execute a tight cut. “What I teach them is how to be successful in the barber industry, and that’s through cutting, styling, the business of barbering— and social media,” he says.
When McCurrie decided he wanted to become a master barber, West Virginia’s lack of barber schools sent him out of state. He wanted to make sure others didn’t have to go through that. “I took it upon myself to get an educators’ license,” he says. “I learned the craft inside and out to where I’m comfortable enough to teach others.” He had to jump through more hoops—extensive regulations and state and school policies—to open SAAE. “It took me a long time to get open and going,” he says. Now SAAE is the only dedicated barber school in the state. Not only does McCurrie provide his students the proper barber education, he also helps them find jobs after graduating—sometimes at another shop he owns. “We’re growing fast. I’m working on my second school location now, in Martinsburg.”
SAAE’s sign doesn’t say it’s a barber school, and walk-ins are often confused when they find out. That doesn’t bother McCurrie, or his clients. “They come in because it says $6,” he says. “Then, when their haircut is better than what they expected, they start coming regularly, and they actually ask for the last student that cut their hair.”
Although SAAE is a school, the professional environment and the music the students play give it that barbershop atmosphere. “I allow them to play music because it lets the day go by,” McCurrie says. “I have some country boys and I have some city boys, so the music varies.”
SAAE is a full-service barbershop, offering haircuts and shaves as well as facials, women’s cuts, skin care treatments, and ingrown hair extractions, all at a discounted rate. SAAE is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 551 Beechurst Avenue, 304.381.2712, saaebarberschool.com, @saaebarber on Facebook
Faith and fades
Brooklyn native Bilal “Al” Adams, owner of Classic Cutz, knows all about the hair-raising struggles of opening your own shop.
“When I started Classic Cutz, I started it off a credit card, and I couldn’t afford to finance an apartment and a business,” Adams says. “So a lot of nights I slept in the back room and cried, wondering if I was doing the right thing.”
For his success, Adams credits God first and then J.T. Thomas, who owned the no-longer-standing Players Club in Westover. Adams met Thomas while he was visiting Morgantown and looking for a haircut—back when he had hair. Particular about his hair and knowledgeable about cutting, Adams stood out to Thomas as someone who acted like a barber.
“Then he just told me, ‘Man, honestly, I feel like God wanted me to talk to you,’” he says. “I was like, ‘What could God want me to know?’ and he said, ‘God gave you a talent, and you’re not using it.’ And that’s something that sunk in.”
After this epiphany, Adams attended the Charleston School of Beauty Culture and graduated in 2003. He perfected his craft working in Charleston, then in Westover with then–business partner Rob Clark before opening Classic Cutz on Wall Street in 2011. He’s since opened two more locations: one next door and another on University Avenue. Each spot has its own distinct look and crew, but what doesn’t change is the talent and the music. “We’re a hip-hop place. I love hip-hop. Everything is style, everything is fashion, and the music goes with the haircut,” Adams says.
Despite his success, there’s one word Adams likes to use as his guiding principle: humbleness.
As the name implies, Classic Cutz offers the services you would expect from a classic barbershop, minus the antiquated styles and techniques. Some services include hot shaves, hot towels, and any haircut you could want. On top of that, Classic Cutz has Samantha McClung—one of the best female barbers in the state, according to Adams—who does dreadlocks, female cuts, and color.
A Classic Cut is $15, but on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. it’s just $10. 217 and 219 Wall Street, 2001 University Avenue, 304.241.1790, @classiccutzwv on Facebook
Style on schedule
Man’s Image has been a pillar of Morgantown style since 1969. The appointment-based barbershop has jumped from location to location and now sits in Chelsea Square. Owned by master barbers Rex Hartley and Seth Gartin, Man’s Image provides men—and women—with a pristine, private setting that is conducive to budding friendships, deep conversations, and fresh cuts.
Seth Gartin’s look exudes the classic rock he bumps. “We’re on a Led Zeppelin kick lately,” he says. “It’s usually going to be some type of classic rock, because no one can complain about it.”
Gartin’s family moved from Colorado to Morgantown when he was 4 years old. His new next door neighbors were the owners of the Morgantown Beauty College. “They became like my grandparents,” he says—which likely explains his passion for cutting. After high school, Gartin studied graphic design in college for a while, then ventured over to Morgantown Beauty College. “I knew it was what I always wanted to do, but when both of your parents are teachers, not going to college really isn’t an option.”
The leap from computer-generated art to hair art isn’t as big as it might seem. Both fields allow Gartin to express himself creatively—one just requires a lot more standing. “I’ve always been artsy like that,” he says. “For an artist, it’s pretty cool when you have basically living artwork that you’re sending out every day.”
Now, as both a cosmetologist and a barber, Gartin has the skills to complete every look for men and women, even if he has to decode requests from customers who aren’t sure what certain terms mean. “I love both, but my passion lies with men’s hair,” Gartin says. “The symmetry matters more. You can hide a bad women’s haircut very easily with styling, but a men’s haircut, you see every single line and hair.”
Each haircut at Man’s Image includes full shampoo, straight-razored nape, and styling for $20. It’s $10 to get the scruff off your face, and $25 to clean up both your head hair and facial hair. Man’s Image is open by appointment only, Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. 1137 Van Voorhis Road; Gartin, 304.777.9313; Hartley, 304.685.9077; morgantownbarbers.com
Growth and change
Sometimes just a barbershop isn’t enough.
Rob and Shaylin Clark opened Glow Beauty Lounge on Pleasant Street in 2012. What began as a salon has evolved over time into a two-room barbershop–salon combo now known as Ladies & Gents.
Rob, a Morgantown native, grew up playing basketball, and at 12 he started cutting his friends’ and teammates’ hair. He finished high school, then went to Morgantown Beauty College in 1997. He took a totally different direction for a while and got a chemical engineering degree from Drexel University in Philadelphia but, like most West Virginians, he missed home. He came back looking to open a shop and up the ante on the local barbershop scene.
That’s when he hooked up with Bilal Adams, owner today of Classic Cutz, and they opened a shop in Westover in 2005. Four years later, Rob opened the cool and popular The Shop on High Street. Co-locating with Shaylin was his next evolution.
“People were telling me for a long time that we should’ve done it,” Rob explains, “but it didn’t make sense to me because I thought, a barbershop is a barbershop—you’ve got guys being lewd and running their mouths and stuff, and I just didn’t think it would mix.” But Shaylin liked the idea, and Rob came to feel it was time for his barbershop to grow up.
Ladies & Gents—as you can surmise—caters to both men and women. Rob’s side sports vintage barbershop chairs and decor, a flat-screen TV for watching movies, and brand-new flooring that gives the feel of an old-time barbershop. Shaylin’s side is sleek and modern, much like herself, with beautiful furnishings that get you in the mood to be pampered. Like their looks, both sides offer something different to their clienteles, but one thing remains the same: the quality of the work they produce.
Ladies & Gents offers ladies everythingfrom cuts to ombre and balayage to microblading. For the gents, Rob and his team offer all the fixings: hot shave, hot towel, haircut, beard cut, and razor line-ups with prices ranging from $20 to $30. This dream team duo’s workday starts at 9 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday and runs until 6 p.m. most days. 224 Pleasant Street, 304.241.1383
written and photographed by JULIAN WYANT