Shear Genius: Free Haircuts for the Unemployed


When you’ve been out of work for a while, grooming is usually one of the first things to go. Also pants with waistbands and your hopes and dreams, but that’s another post for another day. Now that Maurice Tidy has launched Hair Care, a charity providing free, professional hairstyles to the unemployed, at least your head can look professional. You’ll probably want to put on pants afterward. One step at a time.

One of the most renowned hair stylists in the world, Maurice Tidy, and his partner, Gina Caruso, have launched a campaign to help those who’ve been let go turn a bad loss into a great hair gain.

Gail Michalak was engaged and had just turned 50 when she thought to herself, “Boy, it’s going to be a good year.” But instead, on that Monday, her fiancé called to end the relationship and on Friday, she got laid off from the administrative assistant job she had held for 31 years.

That was a year and half ago. She’s still single and still unemployed, but Monday, thanks to the initiative of Hair Care, a charity that provides free haircuts to people who are out of work, she has a new look – and a new outlook.

“I hadn’t gotten it cut in almost a year so I really needed some styling,” says Michalak (below, sitting), who lives in a Detroit suburb and worked in the auto industry. “It gives you new motivation. It’s like a breath of fresh air. You get your second wind. It makes you feel just so much better. It puts a smile on your face.”

Hair Care was launched about 10 months ago by Maurice Tidy (at right), who was Vidal Sassoon’s first artistic director, and his partner Gina Caruso after she lost her job consulting for medical spa businesses. She realized how important something as simple as a haircut can be for one’s sense of self – and for one’s job search.

“I got involved with Hair Care 10 months ago because I became unemployed and wanted to give back knowing the pain and sacrifices that have to be made when you lose the financial security of a regular paycheck. Most individuals lose self confidence and regular maintenance of a haircut is usually put on the back burner, but it is imperative to look great and give the best first impression at an interview,” says Caruso.

Tidy, a Brit known around the world as the go-to hair stylist for celebs ranging from the Beatles and Rene Russo to Patti Smith and Isabella Rosellini, was able to tap his hair salon network and recruit friends as volunteer stylists. Caruso posted on Tidy’s Facebook page an announcement about the Hair Care campaign and within 20 minutes, 20 salons were interested nationwide. And both Tidy and Caruso were surprised by the response to the first event last June held at Sassoon colleague Daniel Rizzardi’s Salon Secrets – 30 people were lined up before the doors opened at 9 a.m. and more than 700 people showed up during the two-day event in Charlotte, N.C., a hub in the banking industry which had been hard hit by layoffs.

“As the national unemployment rate has risen, so, too, has the competition for existing jobs. Staying well groomed and appropriately dressed is critical for job hunters,” says Tidy.

So far, there have been nine Hair Care events at which 4,500 people have had their hair cut and styled for free by 225 volunteer hair stylists. The most recent Hair Care event held Sunday and Monday at Hair Designs North owned by Alan O’Sada and Kimberly Briffa in Dearborn, Mich., an area of the country where automotive industry layoffs have been widespread, attracted 250 people in need of a cut and blow dry – not to mention a job. Twenty-two stylists volunteered to give haircuts, an area florist gave flowers to everyone who came in for a haircut, local community volunteers swept the floor, restaurants donated food and hotel rooms were discounted for out of town hair stylist volunteers.

Beverly Grau, 54, was among those who received a haircut, flowers and an emotional boost. A program manager in IT, she had worked for the same company for 24 years and had survived several workforce reductions since Hewlett Packard acquired the company. But, last Friday was her final day of employment. It was an emotional shock and although she realizes it’s just business, she says you can’t help but take it personally.

“This means everything to me. It’s extremely helpful to look your best. And it’s wonderful that these people have taken the time to do things for people in this situation. It’s a fun haircut for me and I think it makes me feel better and look good,” says Grau. “This has really been heartwarming that folks have done this. It is very much appreciated. It gives me a boost to go out and find that job.”

The first person to show up Sunday at the Dearborn event for a hair cut and styling was Dawn Bucko, a single mother who lost her job last June and hadn’t had a haircut since. “It really is amazing how just a simple haircut changed my mood. I know they said I would feel more confident, and it was the truth, as everyone is already saying I have a little extra swing in my step. And knowing there are great people willing to do something so great also makes me see the future with a brighter, more positive view.”

Editor’s note: Article by Anne Driscoll. Originally published by our friends at Tonic is a digital media company and news source dedicated to promoting the good that happens each day around the world. Tonic tells the stories of people and organizations who are working to make a difference, by inspiring good in themselves and others. Be sure to visit them and say hi, and follow Tonic on Twitter, too!


Image: bzmillerboy