Four times a year, the American salon chain Hair Cuttery organizes special operations where every haircut results in a voucher for a free haircut given to people in need. The Share-A-Haircut program strives to place solidarity at the heart of the community and give a new dimension to its hairdressers’ mission.
On November 27, 2016, the 12,000 hairdressers at Hair Cuttery in the United States took out their scissors and hairdryers for two days of intensive work. Their objective was to cut the hair of as many clients as possible to be able to then give away as many free haircuts to military veterans.
“The atmosphere is so special on Share-A-Haircut days,” says Erin McGann, a hairdresser who’s worked for Hair Cuttery in Virginia for about 10 years. “It’s amazing to see how many of our clients plan to get their hair cut on these days because they know it benefits someone in their community. Sometimes it starts a conversation about the issues affecting our community and ways that we can all help.”
The shared enthusiasm of the clients and hairdressers is an important part of the operation’s effectiveness. “People always need a haircut, and hairdressers always need to cut hair. It does not take much effort, but the impact in the community can be enormous,” says Erin. Mission accomplished: 67,000 certificates were distributed to veterans. In August, 61,000 haircuts were given to underprivileged children, 55,000 in May for victims of domestic violence and, in February, 86,000 were given out to the homeless.
Committed To Its Values
Since opening its first salon in 1974 in Virginia, Dennis Ratner wanted to breathe new life into a unisex family hair salon with reasonable prices. The chain now has 900 salons across the United States. Its vision is “to make people happy”, and its values are “self confidence, building relationships, teamwork, quality of life, integrity, communications and accountability”.
Precisely in this family-friendly, supporting and volunteering spirit, the Share-A-Haircut program started in 1999, and was first meant to provide underprivileged children with a haircut for their first day of school. In 2014, for the chain’s 40th anniversary, the program was extended to the homeless, to military veterans and to victims of domestic violence. To date, Hair Cuttery has given out more than two million free haircuts for a total amount of $33 million.
According to Dennis, the hair salon is a perfect place to set up these operations: “Many of our clients consider their stylist a friend and confidant. As an integral part of the community, our stylists and salons serve as a great platform to launch programs like Share-A-Haircut.”
At 40 years old, Erin McGann says she appreciates the company’s high level of generosity. “It makes me feel so good to know that I can use my skills as a stylist to help someone who is going through a difficult time.” Through its network of salons, Hair Cuttery works with local associations, which are partners in the operation. They are the ones that take care of distributing the vouchers. The people then have three months to go to the salon whenever they need to. “When someone comes in for a free cut, they are treated like any other client,” says Erin. “This is important because many of these people no longer have a home or food to eat. So much in their lives is uncertain. Giving them an hour of relaxation so they can forget their problems and feel normal can do wonders. One time, a homeless woman cried when I began cutting her hair. She was so grateful and she felt so beautiful again – a feeling she hadn’t felt in a long time.”
According to Dennis, some of the miracles these free haircuts can bring about include: “boosting a child’s self-confidence or the self-confidence that a homeless individual may need before a job interview; thanking our veterans for all they have done for our country; providing pampering and comfort and positively affecting one’s self-image, which can be crucial to the healing process of victims of domestic violence.”
“A small thing like a haircut can mean a lot to someone, especially during a transitional period,” concludes Dennis.