Khady’s African Hairstyles is located at 141 West 116th Street between Frederick Douglas and Adam Clayton Powel Boulevards (646) 319-6726. The area is known as Le Petit Senegal, or Little Senegal for its large Senegalese population.
Don’t let the name of the establishment or the posters of women’s hairstyles in the store windows fool you. This is no beauty parlor!
Once you step inside, you realize this is a full-on barbershop in every sense of the term with four barbers direct from Senegal - and all the bustle, hand shakes, convo that make this place feel like everyone’s local hangout. Above, Cheikh Niang (in red), age 22, chills out after getting a buzz cut.
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The convo at Khady’s is almost entirely spoken in French - the official language of Senegal while mbalax — the country’s national dance music — plays on the shop’s CD player. Mbalax emerged in Senegal in the 1970’s and is a fusion of Western and French musical genres with traditional Senegalese drumming music.
The walls and mirrors pay homage to the grand spiritual leader of Senegal, Serigne Saliou Mbacke and his family lineage. Serigne, who passed on December 28th, 2007 was the last living son of Shaikh Ahmadou Bamba Mbacke who founded the Mouride Islamic movement in Senegal in 1883. The Mourides practice Mouridism - a form of mystical Islam summed up in the saying, “Pray as if you will die tomorrow and work as if you will live forever.” Mourides are expected to make a yearly pilgramage - not to Mecca, but to one of Africa’s largest Mosques in the holy city of Touba in Senegal. Serigne is known to have transform Toube from a small village into the country’s second largest city.
Modou Gueye, 37, moved to Harlem from Dakar, Senegal in 2000. Working at Khady’s for four years, he pretty much runs the show here and has a steady stream of regulars coming in to see him - sometimes for a trim, “but mostly,” as regular Hadj Faye put it “to say hi to my man Mo.” Faye, 24, explains that Mo was the first Senegalese person he met when he moved from Senegal to NYC and “Mo knows about stuff!” He knows where to get the best deal on an Iphone, a tv, a plane ticket…he knows everything.
It is Abdul Kamara’s first time in Modou’s chair. Born in Sierra Leone, Abdul, age 17, moved here in 2010 and a friend recommended he come to the Senegalese shop for his next haircut.
While Modou says he normally does not do designs, if a customer requests a simple one, he may oblige. Here, Abdul gets the letter Z inscribed on the right side of his head. That’s Z for Zainab — Abdul’s former girlfriend back home in Sierra Leone.
Modou graduated from the Atlas Barber School here in Manhattan, But it was back in Dakar sixteen years ago that he began giving trims to local kids in the community he lived in. With no access to electric clippers, he learned an old-school method to cutting hair: using a razor blade attached to a comb - as demonstrated here.
Of course, this is New York City though - and you do not have to be from the Motherland to get a killer cut at Khady’s. Above, Jalen Rose, born and raised in Brooklyn has been coming to see Modou (along with his father) for the past 6 years.
A former dancer back home, Mor Talla Samb, 38 moved to NYC four years ago, settling in the Bronx. In need of a steady job, his friends who worked at Khady’s encouraged him to take up the barber trade.
And as we can clearly see, he took his training seriously. In addition to giving clean shaves and trims, Mor also performs facials and other skin care services.
To see what styles he is capable of, you can check out Mor’s Facebook page where he displays his work. Something tells us that notification is a Like!
Barber Fetan Diaw moved from Dakar to New York City in 1994.
Graduation from the Atlas Barber School, Fetan has been cutting hair for 11 years. He says he never thought he would be a barber and just “fell into the trade” with encouragement from family and friends who told it would provide him with good and steady income.
At Fetan’s station is a photo of one of his favorite athletes: Balla Gaye 2 — a champion of the immensely popular sport of Senegalese wrestling called Laamb (the only form of Wrestling in West Africa that allows frappe, aka blows and punches.
Mansour Seye taught himself to cut hair in Dakar by practicing on locals with whatever tools he could conjure up. Moving to Manhattan in 2008, he trained at the American Barber School on 129th and Broadway. He says his specialty is flat tops and mohawks - “Usher style.”
Like so many regulars who frequent Khady’s, Abdoulaye Diakhate, 55, doesn’t just come here to get cleaned up. They come to Khady’s for a slice of Senegal and a feeling of family. Referring to the barbers and customers, “they are my younger brothers…,” says Abdoulaye who travels daily from Brooklyn just to hang out here, “…and I love them so much. Almost everyone here gathers after school, after work. We eat here. It takes us back home for a minute. We discuss everything and nothing and we basically do that every day.”
Three men from Senegal share the same mirror and the same beliefs. Just as Serigne Saliou Mbacke and the Mourides do not consume alcohol, neither do Mansour and Abdoulaye. The shop also makes time for prayer and everyone present stops what they are doing, forms a huddle and recites from the Koran.
While posing for a brotherly shot, Mansour explains that Abdoulaye is sitting in the chair that once sat Cameroon soccer star Samuel Eto’o, of whom Mansour is a huge fan. He said it was tough to concentrate having such a celebrity as his subject.
At Khady’s you can find out about local African events…
…information on how to ship cars to Africa…
and even get your daily workout on!
If you didn’t already feel like you were at home, sit down with the guys for dinner and enjoy some thiep, a traditional Senegalese dish made of bu yapp (rice and peas), lamb, onions, carrots, corn and a seasoned mustard sauce.
Tools & Products: Andis and Whall clippers line the station drawers. On the self: Pinaud Clubman Talc, Organic Root Stimulator’s Sheen Spray, Baby Days Baby Powder, Swans Isopropyl Alcohol, Clippercide Spray, Andis Clipper Oil.
Time to go. But something about Khady’s tells us Jalen will be back.