What started as a single haircut for a student of color nearly a decade ago has grown into a full-fledged barbershop on the College of Charleston campus. Cougar Cutz Barber Shop will celebrate its grand opening at 97-A Wentworth St. with food, giveaways and music by DJ SCrib from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

“This is huge for minority students,” says Kenyatta Grimmage, associate director of admissions, access initiatives and pre-College programs, noting that the service will support recruitment and retention of Black students. “I think it communicates to minority students, as well as to the entire College of Charleston community, that they are included on our campus.”

The concept for the barbershop started around 2015 when Grimmage, a trained master barber, gave a haircut to a Black male student who was new to campus and unsure of where to go for a trim.

a student gets a haircut in the cougar barbershop

Thaddeus Miller, who will serve as one of the Cougar Cutz barbers, gives a SPECTRA student a haircut last summer.

That turned into a partnership between Grimmage and the Office of Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS) more than five years ago to provide free haircuts each summer to students in the SPECTRA (Speedy Consolidation and Transition) program, which helps first-generation students and students from underrepresented populations – including African American, Latinx/Hispanic, Asian and Native/Indigenous Americans – adjust to college life.

The goal, says Grimmage, was to create a sense of community for incoming Black male students.

“It was about showing these young men – African American males – at the College of Charleston we’re committed to supporting you here,” he says. “If it was something as small as giving a free haircut, I was willing to do that. I wanted to let them know that there’s a coalition of minority faculty and staff members here at the College, and our whole goal is that you feel welcome.”

Then in 2019 the College, through a partnership between MSPS, the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture and the Office of Institutional Diversity, launched Cuts and Conversations, a program that builds on the historical tradition of the barbershop that allows for Black men to communicate freely about topics relevant to them, with moderators who help guide the conversation and provide culturally relevant solutions.

“The barbershop itself is an affinity group,” says Grimmage, who served as one of the barbers at the inaugural Cuts and Conversations event, which drew participation from around 50 Black male students. “It’s a safe place where people can come and have dialogues and counseling and be empowered by one another.”

“The event was a huge success,” adds Rochelle Johnson, director of MSPS. “Students of color enthusiastically participated in discussions with the barbers and requested future events. Offering students a safe space to talk openly in a barbershop setting while discussing common challenges and encounters among peers spotlighted the need for this type of programming. ”

Cougar Cutz Building

The Cougar Cutz Barber Shop is located behind the NPHC house and can be accessed through the P Lot at Wentworth and Glebe streets.

Now CofC students will be able to find that sense of community at Cougar Cutz throughout the academic year. Haircuts will initially be offered at no charge by appointment only, with regular hours to be set later in the semester. MSPS will continue to support cultural programs in connection with the barbershop, including more installments of Cuts and Conversations.

An added benefit to having a barbershop on campus is that residential students – particularly first-year students – won’t have to go far for a haircut, says Chris Bond, interim associate director of student life for events and operations.

“We can keep them on campus and keep them close,” says Bond, who will manage Cougar Cutz. “I think it’s a great idea and I think it’s going to be very well received.”

Located behind the NPHC (National Pan-Hellenic Council) house at 97 Wentworth St., Cougar Cutz may be accessed through the P Lot at Wentworth and Glebe streets. Students may email Chris Bond at bondct@cofc.edu or barbershop@cofc.edu for more information or to schedule an appointment.

In conjunction with the new barbershop, MSPS will host Cuts and Conversations at 6 p.m. on Sept. 22, 2022, in the Stern Student Center, room 205. The topic of the event will be “The Transition: Moving from High School Senior to College Freshman.” Students must sign up for Cuts and Conversations through this online form