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Sunday, April 21, 2024
The Observer

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‘Barber Joe’ looks to help students find a sense of belonging on campus

With a chuckle, Joe Davis begins the story of a haircut his mom gave him before a school picture day. He asked her to make the “Mike Tyson slip part” in his head a little bigger. She made it just a bit too big, enough so his classmates joked about him all day at school.

“My boys tore into me that next day of school. And that’s why I started learning to cut my own hair,” Davis said.

As a barber who splits time cutting hair on campus and downtown, “Barber Joe” said he feels a strong sense of home in South Bend that many Notre Dame students can relate to.

By learning to cut his own hair, he also learned to cut his nephew’s hair, who had just moved back to South Bend. After that, it wasn't long before Davis started cutting hair for people outside of his family.

“Word of mouth was always the best advertisement for something like this,” Davis said. “So that's where I started.”

That same word of mouth has also spread his gift around Notre Dame’s campus.

“My favorite thing about Notre Dame...is the camaraderie with the students, because I've met some pretty cool students from all over the world,” Davis said.

Even as Barber Joe’s popularity grows on campus, he is hoping to do more. Davis, a self-described “people person,” has been at the University since 2011 when he started cutting football players’ hair at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex.

When asked if the football players know that he is on campus cutting hair, Davis responded, “Well, Xavier Watts just left!” 

Davis said an important focus of his job is to “take care of students of color.”

“We do a lot of basic haircuts, shape-ups, line-ups with clippers, fades, taper fades, anything that a minority student would pretty much want on campus,” he said.

Davis also commented on the ways he contributes to making campus more friendly toward people of color, helping to make those students feel more like they belong too. 

“Being a historical university like this and being a part of the nation of Notre Dame, it makes me proud and it makes me look at it like, ‘Hey, I can do anything,’” he said.

Davis prides himself on taking care of his own family, the South Bend community and now the Notre Dame community.

On top of that, he is an active member of what he calls his “church family.” He explained how, especially in Black communities, barbers have always been friends, counselors and foundational elements of the community. They are “people that other people can depend on.”

“Secrets are held and never told,” he said. 

Davis wants all students to feel welcome to get to know him as a barber, chitlins-eater, mama’s boy, churchgoer, people person and friend. 

Davis works in the basement of LaFortune Student Center from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and on 618 N. Olive St. in South Bend from Thursday through Sunday.