Mark Bustos’s hair journey started at the age of 14, when he transformed his parents’ garage in New Jersey into a makeshift hair salon. Today, at 31, he services influential clients like fashion designer Philip Lim at Three Squares Studio, a posh boutique salon in New York City, gets flown to North Carolina to cut the hair of NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and on Fridays, caters to longtime clients at Gumdrop Hairdressing in his hometown of Montclair, New Jersey. But it’s not just Bustos’s cutting and styling services that have helped him make his mark on this industry. Every Sunday, for the past three years, he has given free haircuts to the homeless where they live: on the streets. And he has inspired hundreds to do the same with the purposeful hashtag, #BeAwesomeToSomebody. Below, Bustos shares why it’s important to let the homeless know that they, like his influential clients, deserve a good hair day.
American Salon: When you’re out on the street, how do you improvise?
Mark Bustos: No matter where I am, I try to make it most convenient for the individual. So, if they’re sitting on a park bench, I’ll cut their hair on a park bench. If they’re sitting on the sidewalk on a duffel bag, I’ll do it right there.
AS: What essentials do you carry?
MB: All my clippers and trimmers are cordless so I don’t have to plug anything in. I also carry scissors, water bottles, towels, hand sanitizer, a sanitizing spray for my tools and hair products that I like. The most important, however, is a hand mirror so the customer can see how they look afterwards. Whether you’re paying for an expensive haircut with me, or getting a free haircut from me on the street, the response is exactly the same: It gives a boost in self-confidence and dignity.
AS: What inspired the hashtag #BeAwesomeToSomebody?
MB: I was cutting hair for the homeless for about two or three years before I created this hashtag. I began doing street haircuts because I wanted to use the public space to inspire others to make a difference. I started using social media to post photos so that I could use a public platform to send out the same message.
AS: Did you ever think that your story would get this much attention?
MB: It’s been overwhelming. There are times when people will say, ‘Oh you have another copycat here.' Or, ‘They didn’t give you credit and you’re the one that started it.’ I say: ‘Nobody’s copying me. That’s the whole point. I don’t need credit. We’re doing this for one another.’
AS: What advice would you give to aspiring hair artists who want to promote social good?
MB: If you really want to go out there and make a difference, then just go out and do it. That’s my biggest message.
Many thanks to our program sponsors Matrix, Redken, Pureology, L'Oréal Professionnel, Baxter, Decleor, Essie, Mizani and SalonCentric for making this Digital Supplement possible.