Shake Rag Barbershop shares history of District and black hairstyles

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – February is Black History Month, and one black-owned business has gone above and beyond to honor their local history.

News 40 caught up with some of the people in Bowling Green’s Shake Rag Barbershop to hear about the business and the historic Shake Rag District.

“The Shake Rag was really the talk of black community in Bowling Green, Kentucky,” said patron Curtis Cosby. “It’s just a lot of history around here that’s not being told.”

Curtis ‘Smoke Cosby has long standing roots in Bowling Green, from his days in the 60s breaking the color barrier at Beech Bend Park to his sunny afternoons now spent in Shake Rag Barbershop.

“Shake Rag is an old community. I was raised up in this community, and there’s a lot of history here.”

Smoke described the Shake Rag of old: a place of service stations, old churches and even the first black school around these parts.

Local music legend Johnny Britt helped him paint the full picture of what once was.

“I’ve been in Bowling Green all my life,” Britt said. “We used to say everybody has a main drag, and this used to be the main drag – the Hangout on the weekends for a lot of people like you. …We’d just meet here and just have a good time.”

Shake Rag Barbershop’s Chris Page and Dale Spearman snipped, shaved and lined up their clients as the stories buzzed in tune with the razors.

“We learn a lot about culture from our elders,” said owner Chris Page. “We try to pass it on to the younger generation.”

He’s sharing his culture’s history via social media posts. He recently explained the history behind ‘the knights of the razor’ on their Facebook page.

“[Black barbers] are called the knights of the razor because we’re so good with the razor,” Page said

He also wrote about the history of the fade hairstyle online.

“[The fade] started in the military, cause you would get them high and tight [fades],” he said. “But in the 1980s African Americans popularized the haircuts because we will do taper fades, low fades, mid fades, high fades and we will just do a better blend than everybody else.”

Spearman said that, “The barber shop is what the community needs.”

With these words, he refers to more than just their business. He speaks about the black barbershop experience.

“If you go back in history of the barber shop, it tells you that you can go to a barber shop and pretty much get anything that you was looking for, [like if] you was looking for a babysitter, or a plumber or a mechanic,” said Spearman. “Anything you basically needed, you kind of went to the barber shop and we got it, you know? So we try to keep that history going.”

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