Dave’s Barber Shop in Pittsburgh’s North Side serves as Brighton Place’s one-stop shop: It’s the place to go if you want to make a good first impression, find out the latest hip-hop gossip, and get into an argument about football. It’s the kind of place where children get a discount for good report cards and young men fall asleep as they get the last haircut before close. At the center of it all is David Williams, whose spirit and presence have been a staple in the community for more than 30 years.
I’ve known about this place since I was about seven years old, when I lived in Northview Heights. Many of my friends would catch jitneys to get their back-to-school haircuts there or to tighten up for special occasions.
A haircut at Dave’s offers you a window into Pittsburgh’s many layers of social and economic diversity. I’ve seen mothers still in uniform for work bring their sons in, a cell phone glued to their ear as they wait. I’ve watched the latest hairstyles being tried out by young men, while the elders congregated outside share stories. Williams’s talent and creativity has landed him loyalty with some of Pittsburgh’s most prominent figures. On any given day, you can bet a player from the Pittsburgh Steelers or a high school football star has gone into the shop. You could even bump into the top DJ in the city. Simply put, the shop was the neighborhood’s social network before Facebook, and it hasn’t lost its flavor.
Filled with six chairs, all a double arms length apart from one another, the shop is filled with autographed pictures of the Steelers, family photographs of the barbers, and framed inspirational quotes. There are vintage pop machines to give it texture and old school clippers on the barber countertops. In the back, you can find young men doing arm curls with old dumbbells as they wait for their haircut.
The essence of what makes Pittsburgh great can be found at Dave’s Barber Shop: the hard work and dedication inherent to a historically blue-collar city. I asked a few customers how the North Side would feel without Dave’s. They all gave me the same strange look and, almost as if they couldn’t imagine that scenario, responded with an anecdote about what Dave’s meant to them and their community. One told me Williams was his wedding barber; another spoke about how young people look up to him. The third said Dave’s had brought a level of prestige to Pittsburgh’s barber community more broadly. His work is distinctive and recognizable around the city. When you see a haircut that Dave has done, you know it by the razor-sharp edge-up.
Williams is a living example of what it means to do what you love, achieve success, and give back to the community.