Before heading off to Rio to secure the last six of the 28 Olympic medals, Michael Phelps got an aerodynamic trim at a well-reviewed black barbershop in Atlanta, Georgia.
Since posting the selfie at the Vintage barber shop in downtown Atlanta—first spotted by sports site The Undefeated—Phelps’s photo has received over 77,000 likes on Instagram. Phelps’ followers left him hundreds of comments, loving that he chose to go to a non-gentrified, black barbershop while he was in Atlanta.
Vintage was first brought to Phelps’s attention by one of his coaches who went there a few days earlier, according The Undefeated. “We’re a staff of all black barbers, but our clientele is diverse because our guys do a good job on all hair,” Vintage barber Raefus Cox told the site. “To have one of the greatest Olympic athletes of all time come here and make us known worldwide, that’s been great.”
The barber shop’s phone has been ringing off the hook since Phelps first stepped in, with swimmers, Phelps fans, and locals flocking to the already popular shop. Barbershops have long been a place for US men to gather and relax with friends, even when they didn’t need a trim. But in recent years, barbershops in the US have been falling away, although less so in black neighborhoods, where some regard them as cornerstones of the communities. Some gentrifying white neighborhoods have also glommed onto the barbershop experience, seeking a relaxing ‘good old days’ vibe.
Phelps’s cut was greeted with mostly positive responses on Instagram, though a few did wonder what would’ve happened had the racial dynamics been reversed—presumably that if a black man (who wasn’t the most decorated Olympian of all time) stopped by an all-white barber shop, the reception would have been different. User “fuzzyshorts” commented: “Awesome! Now if I wonder if I went to an all-white barbershop in Atlanta if I’d get the same love?”
Phelps’s slick cut also inspired a bit of snark about stodgy white male haircuts. On the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Facebook page, one commenter responded to the story about his barbershop cut: “When a white guy gets a lineup at a black barbershop (no matter the color of the barber), he realizes he’s wasted a lot of value time at Supercuts.”