Hair Today-Gone Tomorrow in Detroit

Hair care in Detroit is a huge cash business. Beauty salons, predominantly female owned, and male-owned barbershops, take on unwanted retail space in nearly-impossible locations along major streets. The goal is to establish an independent money flow in the city’s often-difficult financial environment, and involves spending long hours on your feet.

Building a regular client base is critical in a metropolitan area with a diminishing and aging population. Signage and visual attraction work to entice new customers within a small radius of a neighborhood.

Older shops, like Afro-American Barber Beauty Shop, located in 100-year-old buildings along Mack Avenue are now gone.

Metropole Barber Shop in the North End Community was one of the first I ever shot. It strove for a cosmopolitan image, but now awaits demolition.

Black Bottom Cuts on Chene Street no longer exists as a business, but the building itself – undergoing an on-again/off-again remodeling project on the façade – and the ghostly inhabited residence next door still stand.  The “Pollina” sign at the top of the facade is a mystery. Could it be a reference to the city in Sicily? “Bangs” or a “female donkey” in Spanish? The remnant of long-gone Italian-owned business in poultry manure for fertilizer? Or does it have some significance to the Polish community that thrived when the building went up in 1910-1920?

X Posed Body Art Hair and Nail Salon features a sexy, prowling, multi-layered leopard woman over the entrance.

This unnamed Barber and Nail Tech business relies on a bright fuchsia-colored coat of paint, and pictographics to announce the intention of the business. The woman in the image might be the owner.

Many hair salon owners, like Garlene and May, have their personal image on the front of their shops.

Both women may have completed the 1500 hours of instruction required by the State for their cosmetology licenses at Alma’s Beauty College in Detroit. I took this photo around 1982 while on location directing a TV commercial shoot. The capes on “customers” were bright yellow, red and blue.

The Porokham African Braiding Shop image may or may not be of the owner, but is certainly an attractive example of the kind of work they do.

What’s Buzzen Salon continues to do a brisk business, at least on Saturdays, based on the volume of cars parked on the street in front as I drove by recently.

The sign for C.J.’s Insurance for Clippers Founded in the Hair Capital – Detroit, MI – was posted in the window of a decaying building. Another spinoff of the hair business.

This alluring “Making Heads Turn” message is displayed on a billboard on the roof over the entrance to CoCo’s Unisex Salon. The design is a good example of engaging signage facing the street.

Nails are also a strong service component of the salon.

The hands featured on the signage for Jeanette’s Full Service Salon have always worried me.

Cliff’s Family Beauty & Barber Shop has a “Nail Tech on Duty” with “God Specialize” services.

Darnell has made every effort to use up nearly all the wall surface to sell a wide range of services for men and women of all ages.

Razor Sharpe Cuts relied on nearly-weatherproof green paint to broadcast the first-floor shop in an unfinished two-story building on McClellan Street. The shop is now gone.  (More on McClellan Street –

Even with a “Free Massage with Haircut,” Notorious Barbershop was once a tough and brash-looking shop on Woodward Avenue at 6 Mile. Now closed, and still standing, the storefront faces on a rather vibrant waiting area for the southbound bus.

The name of “More Than Funny, It’s HILARIOUS” Barber Shop reads more like a standup comedy club on Van Dyke Avenue.  It is hard to tell how well the laughs are drawing clientele.

“A woman’s hair is her glory” (1 Cor. 11:15) is included in the advertising for Anointed Hands Christian Hair Temple. The shop appears to have a special calling from God and exclaims it on the exterior wall, which looks east on West 6 Mile Road.

On West Warren near Dearborn is Al. Sinbad Hair Styles, one of the most patriotic shops I have ever seen. I expect it is an Arab-American shop.

Finally, one of my favorite wall signs – “Kris’ We Be Cuttin Hair & Stuff.”

This is just a small sample of the many Detroit businesses in a service industry that relies on personal relationships for survival.

See more images and read more Detroit Dissolving blog stories at:

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2 thoughts on “Hair Today-Gone Tomorrow in Detroit

  1. What fun! We’ve Detroit!!

  2. Great David. Something to brighten up my day.

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