Longtime X-Clusive barber Ricardo Benoit prepares a customer for a haircut. Photos: Sean Pressley

A Brooklyn Barbershop Reopens, and the Ghost of Covid-19 Remains

Crown Heights mainstay X-Clusive is back handing out fresh cuts — masked, gloved, and by appointment only

Keith Nelson Jr
Published in
6 min readJul 2, 2020


Update 6/7/22: Level has a new home. You can read this article and other new articles by visiting LEVELMAN.com.

Buzz. Buzz. Door opening. Door closing. Feet shuffling. Buzz. Buzz.

Before Covid-19 became the invisible dictator of the world, the sounds of business would barely cut through the banter and movie soundtracks that filled Crown Heights mainstay barbershop X-Clusive. When I walked into X-Clusive the afternoon of June 22, the first day barbershops were allowed to reopen in New York City, they reverberated loudly — and the silence that lurked behind them spoke volumes.

Only one barber was handling cuts, a third of X-Clusive’s usual stable: Danston, known as Yes, was decked out in a face shield and gloves, tending to a masked customer while two others silently waited their turn. In the more than 15 years I’ve been visiting X-Clusive, I can count on one hand the number of times there were few enough people inside for me to count them all on one hand. Yet, under New York City’s “phase two” reopening guidelines, barbershops can only operate at 50% capacity, so X-Clusive implemented an…



Keith Nelson Jr
Writer for

Writer by fate, journalist by passion. Bylines at: REVOLT, Grammys.com, Discogs, Vibe Magazine, Okayplayer, REVERB, LEVEL Mag https://linktr.ee/KeithNelsonJr