Hair Goals: Ghana’s Hand-Painted Barbershop Signs

Friday September 28, 2018 Written by Sam

barber africa G1a

It’s a familiar story. You sit in front of the mirror, begowned and bemused as you watch the barber take his final snips from a style you most definitely did not request. So much for that photo you showed him at the start, asking politely for a cut like the model’s. You might as well have shown him an abstract painting.

Now that we think of it, perhaps art is the way to go when it comes to haircut inspiration. It seems to have done the trick for millions of Ghanaians, if these hand-painted, meticulously detailed and all-round stylin’ paintings are anything to go by.

barber africa G2

Paintings like these, photographed by the excellent Chris Parsley, were a fixture in barbershops in Ghana between the 1930s and the late ’90s, whipped up by self-taught artists to showcase follicular fashions such as cornrows, fades, microbraids, box braids, afros and the ‘Boeing 707’. Sadly, with the rise of digital printing, this kind of DIY advertising has gone the way of Wildroot Hair Cream (although it’s since become collectible in certain circles).

Admittedly, some of the paintings were better as artworks than as practical hairdressing guides. All, however, exuded a vibrancy that anyone sporting a freshly cut ‘do should, by rights, be feeling.

barber africa G3

barber africa G4

Photos: Chris Parsley