words by Lisa Oxenham

Meet these amazing philanthropist hairdressers 

If you think a career in hairdressing starts and ends with hair, think again; hairdressers are renowned for possessing qualities of empathy and compassion, and in times of crisis both personal and on a wider scale, they’ll often rise to the challenge and provide invaluable support as they go about their work.

When you combine the skills of being great at styling hair, psychology, customer service, balancing finances, and a big dose of altruism, you see how hairdressers are able to make a difference that extends far beyond transforming their clients’ hair. Many organisations and individuals have been affected by the kindness of the hair industry, from homelessness and domestic violence to mental health awareness. We are highlighting just a few of the philanthropists whose stories serve as motivation for us all.

 ”Through self-discovery I believe we can all be altruistic and help and support people who need it, while generating good in the world. But it’s the hairdresser’s super power to want people to be the happiest they can be. It’s ingrained in us. - Louis Byrne

Hairdresser Stewart Roberts understood that being homeless can have a devastating effect on a person’s self-esteem. With daily challenges to navigate and financial worries rife, having a haircut is a luxury that is out of reach of many of the homeless population, which is why he started Haircuts4Homeless, a charity that offers a much-needed boost.

 ”We’re about giving these people respect and to show someone cares because they don’t get a lot of that. Some people just come in for a big hug. 

 ”Just over five years ago I did something that changed my life – what it did was help me. This is more than a job, this is a calling. - Stewart Roberts 

The H4H community has now grown to 600 skilled volunteers working in 67 UK locations. To date, Haircuts4Homeless has issued over 40,000 free haircuts to rough sleepers all around the country.

"There’s a lot of trust and intimacy involved in a haircut,” says Roberts. “We break down the communication barrier and move into their personal space. Clients don’t trust us initially, so we have to build it up gradually. But once they realise there’s no hidden agenda, they realise we are only there to make them feel better.”

Roberts realised that many of the homeless community feel invisible and that no one is listening, so he has also set up a podcast called Hear Me. As part of his inspiring series he has also interviewed other philanthropic hairstylists including Leigh Keates (creative director at John Frieda, who also has a restaurant in Hertfordshire called Peach, which offers free meals for local people in need through a charity called Foodinate) and Louis Byrne (celebrity hairstylist known for his personal empowerment movement #icaniamandiwill, which encourages people to own and celebrate their unique identity).

And then there is barber Tom Chapman, who set up The Lion’s Barber Collective, a registered charity with the aim of transforming barbershops into safe, confidential, non-judgemental spaces for men to talk about their mental health; and Gina Conway, whose salons have raised over £35,000 for WaterAid in the past five years. Gina also works with The Circle NGO, a charity contributor to the global movement for the rights of women and girls.

 ”We believe in standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves by helping raise funds to make the world a better place to live. - Gina Conway 

Also making a huge global impact is hairdresser Joshua Coombes, the driving force behind #DoSomethingforNothing, a social movement that has reached over 100 million people across the world and inspired thousands to support the communities they live in, while Akito Scissors went to South America to teach cutting hair and donate 5% of their profits every year to help hairdressing- and barbering-based charities. Martyn Maxey has The Hair Foundation, which offers haircuts and styles for homeless women linked to the Marylebone Trust. Charlie Miller OBE works on a project called Hair4U for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and Trevor Sorbie MBE created mynewhair to provide help, advice and support to anyone living with the effects of medical hair loss. “It’s not just about hair, it is psychological medicine for everyone suffering from hair loss through illness,” says Trevor. “It is the missing link in their treatment.”

Charity initiatives set up by brands are a powerful reminder of the strength of the industry. This year, ghd are celebrating their 16th year of supporting breast cancer charities, and have raised over $19million for the cause to date. In July 2020, they launched a campaign that encouraged women of all ages to self-check for signs of breast cancer, every single month, via a powerful message embossed on the limited edition styling tools.

Most recently, L’Oréal Professionnel’s campaign #PROPOSITIVITY asks big industry names to share their stories, advice and ideas on not only how to navigate the challenges of COVID-19, but also to offer messages that will serve as inspiration to support and promote wellbeing amongst both the hairdressing and client community and drive a positive mind-set amongst pros.

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