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 they 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 colourful beanbag chairs, waiting to get their hair done.
This is the first time that Vinicius has opened his shop for people to come and get a free haircut. That said, at least once a month, him and his friend 19-year-old Esdras Gomes visit nursing homes, childcare centres and homeless shelters offering their services to those less fortunate.
It was Vinicius' father who first encouraged him to take a hairdressing course a while ago. It was at one of those classes where Vinicius met Esdras and since then, they've been inseparable. Vini tells me that before he started working as a barber, he used to wait tables and that he's 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 (£9) 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 (£2) 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 neighbourhood schools and they all wear that same style."
Vinicius also teaches kids from the nearby Itaquera neighbourhood how to cut hair, every Tuesday. "The courses I take are expensive, so it can be a struggle. A one-day course can be like 300 bucks (£55) 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 jokingly 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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