We caught up with Joshua Coombes, London based hairdresser and founder of #DoSomethingForNothing to dive into his life and to find out why he’s captured the Nations hearts.
1. JOSHUA, YOU HAVE CAPTURED THE NATIONS HEARTS, GIVING UP YOUR TIME TO GIVE HAIRCUTS TO THE HOMELESS. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO DO THIS?
A feeling of helplessness really… I see homelessness in every city right now; I think we all do and can relate to that. It’s a really big problem right now and that is very apparent everywhere we go. It had to start with just one person, I had to think about how I could just effect one person’s day. You might not be able to solve the problem, but you might be able to change one persons day. I love hairdressing, I love what I do and I was already talking to homeless people near where I live, so I just flung my things in my bag one day and wen from there.
2. WHICH AREAS OF LONDON DO YOU FIND YOUR SERVICES MOST NEEDED IN?
I do visit South London quiet a bit, but there’s definitely a big homeless population around central, right near Charing Cross and The Strand, so I tend to spend a lot of time there. There is always a big group of people. It’s a bit intimidating at first but actually, but when you get to know the individuals, everyone has there own story. That’s where I started going initially and it spread from there
3. YOU MUST HEAR SO MANY HEARTBREAKING AND HEART WARMING STORIES, ARE THERE ANY THAT HAVE PARTICULARILY STUCK WITH YOU?
Yeah on the heartbreak side, there’s some people that are born into addiction or who have nothing in the way of support from families or friends and that something that always stay with me, but it’s more of the heartwarming ones that really stick out more, there the ones of hope and there has been some moments when timing really takes control. Like this guy when I was doing this in Paris who hadn’t seen his son in six years from when they lost contact had just found out where he was working and he had no money, and this big beard and had arranged to meet his son the next day. I met him just by chance and gave him a haircut. He had tears in his eyes and it was jus by chance that I had seen him. You know, it’s not just something on me; it just shows that those acts of kindness can make a huge bit of difference. For him it was a haircut but I also think it was a confidence thing, it was me spending time with him and making him feel good for a bit, I think that was bigger than the haircut itself.
4. IF YOU HAD TO GIVE ONE MESSAGE ABOUT HOW WE TREAT HOMLESSNESS IN LONDON, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
The best way to approach it is if you feel compassionate, then just think about what you love doing, what you like doing what’s fun or creative, how can you give back in some way something that’s personal. It can be small, it doesn’t have to start in some big way, it can just start with a conversation. The first thing you should do is just stop and speak to people. Before I ever tell anyone that I cut hair I sit down and spend 10 minutes chatting to them, and not once has someone said to me no you can’t talk to me. I think that that’s just so underrated; we all need that conversation and connection. It’s also about getting past the stereotypes and stigmas, fear of the unknown is completely normal, but at the end of the day whatever someone’s superficial exterior looks like, there is still human there, someone’s father, or brother, or daughter.
5. THERE MUST BE SOME DAYS WHEN THIS ALL LEAVES YOU FEELING A BIT OVERWELMED. WHERE IN LONDON WOULD YOU GO TO REALLY LIFT YOUR MOOD?
So I think I need moments to myself, sometimes I will make the most of parks near me, but you know I think people are a really good thing. I think it’s a lot about energy, I’m giving a lot and I need to take it back a bit. Places in South London that I like, I really love markets, I really like places where I get the chance to talk to older people, talking to characters in Brixton and Peckham that have been there for years and years. It’s like I replenish what I give away with other people. Also don’t get me know, I like going to brunch and I like drinking in the sun, but I feel like that’s the best thing. And don’t get me wrong, I get a lot back from talking to people when I cut their hair, it’s totally a two way street, peoples stories, interaction, learning from them.
6. WHICH BARBERS IN LONDON DO YOU GO TO WHEN YOU NEED TO GET YOURSELF A TRIM?
Actually my friend Helen cuts my hair. I use to work with her at a place in Clapham, she’s not there anymore but she’s a mate that does it. I think you find most hairdressers have a mate that does it rather than going into a barbers, which is nice really. There’s something really nice about getting your hair at home, just put on your music and have a good time. One thing to mention on that is the importance of a hairdressers role, that intimacy, that human interaction.
Photography by Nyla Sammons