Making the cut: SU students search for the perfect barber

Finding the right barber can be difficult and tedious, but some Syracuse students have found the right fit at local shops.

Making the cut. Whether it’s styled short, long, buzzed or any other form imaginable, it’s a skill that’s widely respected.

Men trust their barbers to take the concept of self-expression they desire and make it a reality.

“There’s just a bunch of different elements that go into it, outside of that one quick haircut that you get,” said Dexter McKinney, a graduate student in the public diplomacy program at Syracuse University. “For the most part, if my barber’s not available, I’ll go without a haircut for a while.”

Photo: Erin Elzo
Dexter McKinney is a regular customer at Cut Kings Barber Shop, and has a standing appointment every two weeks with the barber, Muhammad.

The 26-year-old Syracuse native still goes to the same barber who cut his hair in middle school. He has a standing appointment for every two weeks at Cut Kings Barber Shop with the shop’s owner, Irving Muhammad. For each appointment, he sits down without having to explain what he wants to Muhammad.

“We pretty much come from a culture, you have your one barber, maybe two,” said McKinney. “Kind of like girls, you have somebody who does your hair, you like the way they do it, and that’s who you go to."

Muhammad, 35, is a Syracuse native who has cut hair for the past 23 years at several shops around the city. He opened his own shop in 2003, but is no stranger to some of Syracuse's students. His list of clientele over the years has included several basketball and football players at SU, such as Rick Jackson, Eric Devendorf and Brandon Triche.

Typically, students who go away to school have no idea where to begin looking for a new barber, so they often wait until the next time they’re home for a cut. Some are indifferent and willing to take the risk of trying someone new. Others try to do it themselves or have their friends do it. And some find a reputable barber by word of mouth.

That’s how sophomore Robert Burke found his barber, Hector. When he was looking for a barber, Burke heard that Hector had a talent for cutting any kind of Hispanic hair. When it’s time for a hair cut, Burke and 11 friends pile into two cars to drive to D'lara Beauty & Barbershop in Geddes Street Plaza.

McKinney said that one of the main reasons he is extremely particular about who cuts his hair is that it needs to be cut with the grain. If a barber cuts against the grain, it would mess up the flow of his hair and he’d have to wait for it to grow out before it could be fixed.

“You know you find that shop that’s comfortable for you, that barber that you’re comfortable with, and it’s a beautiful thing,” said McKinney.


I love the environment at CutKings. I've been going there since my return to Syracuse in 2009. Its always clean, kid friendly. Muhammad had done a great job hiring the "right" people.

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