With names like King Tiger’s Hair Clinique, Ghetto Hair Salon, Hollywood Barbershop and Homeboys Haircut, shops attract customers with hand-painted signs whose distinctive vernacular style has as much to do with art as marketing.
Published by Mark Batty Publisher, explores the township barbershop as cultural and social hub. Housed in shacks and shipping containers, with hair clippers wired to car batteries, township barbershops and 'street salons' are incredibly popular.
In the new book South African Township Barbershops and Salons, Simon Weller documents the thriving, little-known art of barbershop signage and explains this integral part of the culture of South Africa. Weller’s book pairs interviews with shop owners, customers and sign artists with vivid photographs of barbershop exteriors and interiors, creating a portrait of the strong community and continuing political and social struggle inherent in township life.
Lucky, a barber, explains the importance of barbershops: "It is a place where you can discuss the game that was played last night while you are waiting. We talk about a mixture of things that happen in our lives – politics, girls, cars, soccer and movies."
Artists, with a range of backgrounds and influences, are frequently asked to paint contemporary characters from American culture, particularly black stars like Tupac and Snoop Dogg, as well as pictures of custom haircuts.
Sign artist and designer Garth Walker, who is interviewed in the book, describes the style of barbershop design and why it should be celebrated: "We like it because it looks good and it makes you feel good and that's what graphic design is supposed to do. There is no concept, it's just joyous. That is the bedrock of the African approach to just about everything – if you like it, do it."
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