ABOVE PHOTO: Customers get haircuts at Vintage the Barber Shop, on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, in Atlanta. Swimmer Michael Phelps, of the United States, stopped by the shop before departing for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and posted a selfie on his Instagram. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
By Errin Haines Whack
It’s a pretty awesome image : Michael Phelps, posing with a crowd of smiling barbers and customers after getting a haircut on his way to the Olympics.
The shot has already gotten more than 60,000 likes since the record-setting swimmer posted it on Instagram on July 29. Phelps’ selfie has put the downtown Atlanta barbershop on the map and in the international spotlight.
The Baltimore native, in town for a training camp before heading to Rio de Janeiro, wandered into Vintage the Barber Shop after one of his coaches got his hair cut there a day earlier. Phelps walked in the following afternoon, unassuming, and went unrecognized until he took off his hat and glasses.
“Another barber recognized him first,” said Raefus Cox, a barber at Vintage for about four years.
Phelps sat in Cox’s chair, got his cut, and took several pictures before heading out.
“Once that cellphone came out, he walked toward the door, pulled his phone out and told everybody, ‘Get together; let’s have fun,'” Cox told The Associated Press. “He snapped a photo. Shortly later it was all good.”
The caption on Phelps’ Instagram post reads, “Thanks to the boys at #vintage barber shop for the nice trim before rio!”
He also took a picture with his new barber.
“He’s one of the greatest swimmers for the United States,” said Cox, a longtime fan. “He’s been around for so many years, and the things he’s done to overcome … he’s pretty cool, a great guy.”
Cox said he and his colleagues have been watching the Olympics and Phelps all week with an extra sense of pride.
“I wanted to see my haircut across the world,” Cox said.
It’s getting a lot of air time already. Though covered underneath a swim cap during races, Phelps’ haircut was on display atop the podium on Monday as he earned his 19th career gold medal as part of the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.
The Instagram photo continues to get attention, too, much to Cox’s surprise.
“He posted that photo and 30 minutes later, he already had 20,000 likes,” Cox said. “He did a great thing.”
Johnny Clark in Atlanta contributed to this report.