It’s less than a week before Christmas and Moore’s Barbershop is bustling.
Mask-wearing barbers are clipping, trimming, and shaving hair, while several customers wait for their chance in the chair at the small shop on Langston Blvd. There’s an echo of chatter, conversations ranging from politics to football to a mutual friend who got a new job.
By the window stands Jim Moore Jr., the owner, cutting and chatting at the same time. It was in 1960, when his father — Jim Moore Sr. — opened this shop in the Halls Hill neighborhood to cater to Arlington’s Black community, who were often not welcome in white barbers’ chairs.
For more than six decades, the shop has thrived as a focal point for the community, a place where all were welcome and lifelong friendships have formed.
But on Nov. 7, its patriarch Jim Moore Sr. died at the age of 88.
Today, James Thomas Moore Sr. Transitioned into his greater self. Mr. Moore started Mr. Moore’s barber shop in 1960 and “started” me three years later. His example helped me and countless other become better people. I love you dad and will always miss you ❤️!#dmv #barber pic.twitter.com/ppTCyohOGJ
— James Moore (@Mooresbarber) November 8, 2021
Now, several weeks since his death, memories are fluttering down much like hair trimmings from a fresh cut.
“Always jovial,” says Keaton Hopkins describing the elder Moore. Hopkins has been getting his haircut here for more than thirty years, since he was five years old. “Always smiling… We always had a great conversation.”
“He never seemed to have a bad day,” says Clay Pinson, a barber at the shop for about twenty years. “He was always in a good mood.”
His son, Jim, notes that these are common refrains, that his father was kind, a good conversationalist, and knew how to make people feel special.
“People have kept coming to me since his passing to tell me stories of the things he’s done for them and the lessons they learned from him,” Moore Jr. tells ARLnow, emotion coming through his voice. “That’s just who he was. He made a difference for a lot of people.”
Moore Sr. was born in North Carolina, served in the Korean War, and went to barber school before finding his way to Arlington, after getting a tip that the Halls Hill neighborhood was in need of a barber’s services. While there were Black barbers in the county and nearby in D.C., white clients would only go to them if the clippers and scissors had not been used on a Black client.
“They refused to cut Black people’s hair,” says Moore Jr.
So, Moore Sr. opened his own shop with a partner, Rudolf Becton, and ingrained himself in the community. In addition to being a barber, he was also a volunteer firefighter at the nearby, historic Fire Station #8. In 1962, Jim Moore Jr., was born and it didn’t take long before the young son went to work at the family business.
“I started when I was seven [years old] and my job was cleaning it up for him, sweeping hair,” he says. “I didn’t start cutting hair until I was a teenager.”
He also followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming an Arlington firefighter, serving the county for more than thirty years before retiring in 2020. On his off-days from the department, though, he would stand by his father’s side.
Moore Jr. learned that being a barber is about so much more than just knowing how to handle scissors. The profession requires listening, building relationships, and making people feel comfortable.
“Cutting hair is an intimate activity,” says the younger Moore. “You are close to somebody, you touch them, you smell them. You can see the sweat and tension when they are talking about certain subjects. You need to know how to read a person.”
And there was no one better at those skills than the elder Moore.
“I called it his superpower. The ability to… allow people the space to be their authentic self,” Moore Jr. says.
Throughout its history, Moore’s Barbershop has continued to be a place for everyone. In fact, it’s often cited as the first integrated barber shop in Arlington. Moore Jr. says his father never believed in segregation, knowing that a good haircut and great conversation were universal desires.
“What my dad taught me is that you can be successful in many ways. It doesn’t have to be a great big billion dollar house or a great big million dollar company,” says Moore Jr. “The smallest things can make a huge difference. That’s what he always put out there.”
The younger Moore has every intention of keeping the shop open for years to come. Even when he eventually retires, Moore Jr. has made a succession plan with Pinson set to over the shop.
But for now, he’s still cutting. Understandably so, it can be tough these days for him to walk into the shop on a cold, early morning.
“Every day I go to the place where he was, where he spent most of his life,” Moore Jr. says. “Every day is emotional for me with the memories of my father.”
Back at the shop days before Christmas, Hopkins remains in the chair, turning his head side to side as Moore Jr. clips.
“I don’t know where I would go if this place wasn’t here. We would talk about our lives, family, the neighborhood.” he says. “Jim knows everyone in town. There’s always some story. He’s like his dad.”
Hearing that, it’s clear that Jim Moore Jr. is smiling even under his mask. There’s no greater honor than being told that he’s just like his dad.
This feature article was funded by the ARLnow Press Club and was previously published in the Press Club’s weekend newsletter.
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