In the Cut: A Conversation with Senior Barber Robert Irvin Sr. – The Southern Digest

On any given day here at Southern University, one will walk into or past a living piece of Jaguar history: the Southern University Barbershop. Started in 1958, the barbershop has served various generations of students and staff, withstanding the constant evolutions of the Smith-Brown Memorial Union. From the days when the union was a cafeteria, to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, its services have stood the test of time.
Now that the shop has been recently renovated and reopened during the previously mentioned pandemic, senior barber Robert Irvin Sr. offers words of advice for new students here at Southern University. Much like he does on an average day, he shared his experiences and the knowledge he’s picked up during his career and life.
Robert Irvin Sr. is a constant figure within the daily operations of the barbershop, supplying the individuals who patronize it with consistent haircare and purposeful conversation. In conversation with the Southern Digest, Irvin detailed his own educational experience, and how he found his way to the Baton Rouge campus. “My home was out in Donaldsonville,” he explained, “and I graduated from Lowery High in Donaldsonville in 1962. From there I moved to New Orleans, and I went to Katie’s Beauty and Barber College. After working in New Orleans for a couple years, I decided to come to Southern University and get a degree in Business Management.”
Irvin has had a unique position being an employee and alumni of Southern, especially with so much time as experience. His family is a product of his eventful years here at Southern University, being a husband and father to fellow Jaguars. As he recollects,“I came here in 1964 and met a young lady that was a freshman with me. We dated, courted, graduated, and eventually got married. We had 3 children – Lord, bless us – and all 3 of our children graduated from Southern University. We’re a Jaguar family.”
Passionately, Irvin urges students to value their time at Southern, as he finds both the negative and positive moments to be life lessons. I’ve told all students – now and back then – be patient, set goals, and you have to keep your goals intact. If I can do it, you can do it.” He also spoke specifically on students who may have a less traditional academic career, affirming them not to compare their journeys to others’. “I worked in this barbershop from the day I got on campus, while in school part-time. I saw what I could handle, then I just stayed in school while taking 9 to 15 credit hours every semester till I graduated. Be patient, I didn’t graduate in 4 years. But, I graduated.”
For students and other patrons interested in Mr. Irvin’s service, the Southern University Barbershop is open from 8:00 AM until 7:00 PM during regular class days.
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