Meet the Local Barber Who Provides Free Haircuts to the Homeless

Welcome to our series, Hello Denver, My Name Is … where we profile people in Denver that you probably don’t know — but should. Get ready to meet painters, dancers, comedians, musicians, designers and just generally fascinating people that help make this city awesome. 

Lawrence Rivera — known by his Instagram name, Lawrence_Does_Hair — found a place to express his artistic talent through his passion for hairstyling in Denver after kicking off his career in Austin. Today, Rivera is a hairstylist and shop manager at Fade Barber Shop, while also offering free cuts to those that are homeless, struggling, preparing for an interview, or working several jobs anf simply can’t afford a haircut. As a result, he is not only practicing his craft but also giving back to his community and instilling confidence in every one of his clients.

Denver, meet Lawrence.

Denver, Local Barber, Barber, Denver Barber, Lawrence Rivera

303 Magazine: How did you get into hairstyling to begin with?

Lawrence Rivera: I really didn’t have a background in the field. I lived in Austin and was at a bar with my friends and we had just run into a cool group of girls who happened to be hairdressers. I just randomly said, “I want to do hair.” Three months later I started beauty school in Austin and it sort of just kicked off from there. First off, I was older than anyone who was at the school there. All the girls were fresh out of high school and I was in my 20s. After my first model, it clicked and I loved doing it.

303: You work on people of all ages and backgrounds. How do you determine what styles/cuts look best on each person? What’s the process?

LR: Building trust with clients, especially with women, and taking it in little steps is how I start. Four inches to a hairdresser can be completely different to a client. You’ve got to ask questions about what their lifestyle is like. A hairstyle that takes a lot of maintenance every day might not be the best for someone who is on the go and works all day. I know it sounds boujie, but my first mentor told me to look at someone’s shoes and see if you can base their lifestyle off of their style to see what could be a good fit for them.

Barber, Denver, Hello My Name Is, Lawrence Rivera

303: How do you keep up with the latest hair trends?

LR: A big part of our job is keeping up with trends. We have to be this giant link of information. Social media and the entertainment industry is where a lot of people get their information, including myself. When Game of Thrones came out, everyone wanted Khaleesi’s hair. Years ago, people wanted half black and half pink hair like Nicki Minaj. So, we look at the industry a lot to see what trends people like.303: What would you say sets your work apart from others?

LR: With men’s hair, I work with growth patterns and cowlicks. I like to work and deal directly with those. A lot of people just cut them off. I let their hair work with them, not against them.

303: You offer free cuts to the homeless or those who may be struggling to get by, how did you get started doing this and what does it mean to you?

LR: I just want to give. I didn’t have a lot of money growing up and I hated not being able to get a good haircut or nice clothes because of that. People work hard or just want a shred of dignity. I do my best to make sure they know it’s not a handout, but a kind gesture.

303: How many homeless people have you given cuts to? Where does this usually take place?

LR: A lot of people think it’s weird when I approach them. I guess they think it’s some sort of prank or whatnot, but I’ve maybe cut about 10 homeless people in the last year and about 15 less fortunate. I never advertise, but I’ll ask, “Where do you get your hair cut?” And when the answer is, “I do it myself” or “Once I have money…” I sit them in my chair and I’ll tell them to give me ideas of what they want. When I would cut hair for the homeless, I would just find an alley and put them in a chair. I have my cordless setup and it was just easy to do it there. I’m not part of an organization, I just usually ask people on the street if they would like a haircut. I don’t do it for any type of recognition or anything so I never advertise it or publicize it. I just do it to do it.

303: What is the typical reaction you get from those less fortunate after doing their hair?

LR: Well, I’m not sure if this is what you would be expecting, but the typical reaction from the homeless is way different than those less fortunate. But in no way am I complaining. The homeless don’t show a lot of gratitude, but I think it’s because sometimes they don’t get a second look from others in societySo, I can’t blame them for thinking the whole situation is awkward. I think those less fortunate appreciate the time being spent on them. They’re getting the same attention to detail that a paying customer would get. I just try to make them all feel special.

303: What would you say is your favorite part of what you do?

LR: The best part is exceeding someone’s expectations. A lot of times we get clients who had a bad experience somewhere else and then by coming here, we can let them see themselves in a different way and watch them love it. A big part of my job is reading cues, like body cues and vocal cues. There are times when I’ve asked someone if they like what I’ve done and I can tell by their voice or body movements that they’re not happy. I tell them to open up and tell me exactly what I can do to fix it and make it just what they want.

303: What is something you’ve learned from being a barber, both in Denver and in general?

LR: I’ve learned that in this industry, ego is everywhere. And no matter how much you see yourself progress and how good your work is, being humble will take you so far. You should always be willing to realize that the more you keep learning, the more you keep evolving. The moment you say, “I can already do that, I’m automatically good at it,” you’ve already lost the battle. In this industry, you’re always going to be a beginner in some way, because style and technique are always evolving. You just have to keep learning.

303: Our last question is from our previous interviewee, Emily Rodriguez: “If you could see a Red Rocks concert from someone dead or alive, who would it feature?

LR: Hmmm, that’s a tough one. It’s a toss-up between Queen, Freddie Mercury or Prince.

Homeless Denver, Denver Barber, Lawrence RiveraAll photography by Amanda Piela.

Hair by Lawrence Rivera.

Razor made by Christopher Shall of ShaveSmith, Colorado maker of custom straight razors.