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  • Jonathan Isserow

Haircuts and Homelessness: Making connection

Recipients of Joshua Coombes’s haircuts from top left: Adam in LA; Nathan in Brisbane; Lavane in London; Laurent in Paris; Emma in London; Yoel in San Francisco. All photographs by Joshua Coombes

Continuing the theme of haircuts as a point of therapeutic contact, it was heartening to read Tim Adam's article in the Guardian UK about Joshua Coombes inspiring work that he fell into by accident, offering haircuts to the homeless. In doing so, he achieves something almost Nazarene when he is 'prepared to make himself vulnerable enough to listen properly', and making the contact through the tender care of a haircut which he seems to administer with physicianly charge, saying:

We are all ill sometimes, and when we’re ill we’re not looking our best, but we trust the nurse or doctor won’t judge us for that. I try to have the same outlook. And of course I’m very hygienic with what I do, always sanitise all my stuff, especially now with Covid

It is refreshing to also hear about the ordinariness of Joshua, that makes him a pertinent bridge for every person to be the point of potential change in people's lives. It also speaks to the capacity to restore someone's sense of self-worth and humanity through the act of kindness that is as much about interpersonal connection, as it is about having a haircut. In these relational micro-practices in ordinary life, that both the 'doer' and 'done to' are transformed. This brings to mind Martin Buber's notion of 'I and Thou'. It is a move away from the all-too-frequent projection of abjection onto homeless people when he literally touches those who are often regarded as untouchable. It is this profound and life sustaining concept that is evident in Joshua's actions that offers inspiration to engage in activities that enfold restorative care in the simple act of making connection.

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