This article originally appeared on VICE Brazil.
It's 8:30 on a Saturday morning and 22-year-old Vinicius Rodrigues is opening his barbershop in Eastern Sao Paulo a little earlier than usual so that he can cater to those who can't afford a haircut. Outside Bom de Corte (which loosely translates to "Ace of Cuts"), a bunch of kids sit on colorful beanbag chairs, waiting to get their hair done.
This is the first time that Vinicius has offered free haircuts at his shop. That said, at least once a month he and a friend, 19-year-old Esdras Gomes, visit nursing homes, childcare centers, and homeless shelters offering their services to those less fortunate.
It was Vinicius's father who first encouraged him to take a hairdressing course. At one of those classes he met Esdras, and the two have been inseparable ever since. Vini tells me that before he started working as a barber, he used to wait tables and also spent some time as a stockroom clerk. He says that even though he'd never previously considered being a barber, it only took one class to get him hooked.
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"I paid 50 bucks [$14 USD] for the chair and my mum gave me the mirror and we were set," he says, looking around his shop proudly. "We're modern. We don't offer our customers magazines or coffee, but we have Wi-Fi." A basic haircut costs about 12 bucks [$3 USD] and on a good day, Vinicius sees about 25 clients.
He often googles African American hairstyles for inspiration. According to Vini, it's the ultimate guide to perfecting the styling lines, fades, and geometric shapes that are so big on the outskirts of São Paulo these days. "Before we started, nobody was doing these haircuts around here," he says. He also believes he sets local trends: "We'll post a haircut online, and the next week there are kids running around the neighborhood schools and they all wear that same style."
Vinicius also teaches kids from the nearby Itaquera neighborhood how to cut hair once a week. "The courses I take are expensive, so it can be a struggle. A one-day course can be like 300 bucks [$86 USD] and if you're not up to speed, you can easily fall behind."
Esdras has his own shop right by Vini's—it's called Salão RB (RB Salon). "Don't ask me why it's called that," he says, so of course I do. "When I was a kid, I got bullied because of where I lived. There was this stream of open sewage around—it was a nasty area. People started calling my hood 'Rola Bosta' (Dung Roller). It didn't bother me at all—I even named my shop after it," he says.
The barber duo told me that they started doing social work after Vini saw a Paulo Bronks video calling on MCs to donate to underprivileged kids. "I contacted him and said, 'Look, I don't have any money but I can cut hair for free.'"
Vinicius and Esdras are planning to open a shop together soon. But, who cuts their hair? "I do his, he does mine. We help each other out," Vini laughs.
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