It typically takes about an hour for a seasoned barber to cut a respectable temple fade.
Loren Stanford does it in half the time. Stanford, is, among other things, an example of a success story straight out of a fairy tale.
Stanford is an early 30-something worker bee that somehow finds the time to single-handedly provide for her child and travel across Washington’s Ward 5 to deliver custom haircuts to clients she knows by name.
But peers like fellow barber Mark S. know her a little differently: “That’s Superwoman,” he says with a laugh. But it’s not her world-class time management skills or her ice-cold accuracy with a set of clippers that Stanford wants to be remembered.
“I want to help the kids that are in the position I was in 20 years ago,” she says. “It’s not easy growing up as a black or brown person in today’s America. Combine that with poverty, abuse, or just plain non-access to resources, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster if you’re not careful.”
“It’s a joy to watch my son grow–to see how inquisitive and bright he is, and to remember how I was as a child. But at the same time, even little things like him touching my face can take me back to a dark place. It can be tough sometimes,” she says.
Stanford’s solution to solving problems in her community is simple. By giving away free haircuts to kids in need at her residence right at home, she’s getting them off the street and into a loving household—if only for an hour. And with more than 280 barbers in DC and Maryland alone, her unique means of affecting local change is something she’s proud to call her own.
“I’ve lived all around the country–Florida, Maryland, out West,” she starts. “I enjoyed getting out of the DMV to do different things. Everyone around me was so tied down here, and being born and raised here, I felt compelled to see more. And my clippers came everywhere with me. I’ve learned just how far a candid conversation in a barber’s chair can go…” she chuckles.
“And how these clippers can keep a roof over your head. But ultimately I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to provide a safe, welcome space for whoever was looking for it. That’s why when I came back home to be closer to family, I had to do the same thing. Jet-setting or not, I’m always in the business of helping.”
So—are free haircuts actually good for the community?
While it’s hard to count the exact number of free haircuts given around the area, a quick poll of the barbershop seems to affirm it.
“Everyone likes free cuts,” an older man in the chair says. “Makes you feel like someone cares.” He looks around the room. “Guess these jokers here don’t care about me though.” The shop laughs. He pays before leaving.
James Spruill of Spruill’s Bluebird Barbershop also seems to agree. With over 150,000 free haircuts logged, the National Barber Hall of Fame inductee prides himself on offering services for the homeless and indigent around the DMV area and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
The community certainly isn’t complaining about the free haircuts either.
“With a fresh cut, you feel like the world is in your hands,” says Devin, a 15-year-old youngster with a smile as broad as his entire face. Kids like him, Loren says, are the reason she’s so passionate about giving back. “I’m not saying I have to record 150,000 haircuts,” she says. “But if I can impact 1 or 2 kids a week… I’ll feel like I’m doing alright.”