Interview: Taylor Jardine gives hope through haircuts for the homeless

Gabrielle Koster

Changing lives one haircut at the time, meet the Australian Taylor Jardine who cuts the hair of the homeless and the photographer behind this beautiful story, the Dutch Steven Elbers.
Meet Malik (right)
Malik was also born in 1986 but grew up in completely different circumstances than me. He never knew his parents and was raised in an orphanage. I first noticed Malik a couple of weeks before I actually cut him only because of the oversized hat and sunglasses he wore constantly. The timing for the cut could not have been any more perfect. We really connected on certain views on life because after completing school he felt the only future to look forward to was one involving travel. I don t want to give too much away from whats to come but what makes me smile today is I haven’t seen that hat or sunglasses since! Thanks to my man behind the lense Steven Elbers together we’re always in search of alighterday.

Meet Martijn
This is Martijn, he came in for just a little trim, he has been helping out at the Rainbow Group for many a year! His not homeless anymore, but Growing up in Amsterdam he has seen the city change considerably over the years. From the days where the central part of Amsterdam was run by squats, when no one else wanted to know anything about it. To now watching the rich push those people out, down the gap. All some people need is a chance and a haircut.

Mr Anonymous
Our nicest new friend didn’t speak English. He came in, asked me if I could cut his afro hair. He was a little bit apprehensive in the beginning but he definitely came around in the end and was the happiest person I’ve cut. He’s one of the guys who don’t really say much and let the weight be lifted off there shoulders and take some time out for themselves.

The men behind the project

Taylor Jardine been travelling the world for for the last 10 years. The most authentic and heartfelt stories he heard during those years have been from the people he met living on the streets. Four months ago, he arrived in Amsterdam and one night, he had a dream that he owned a barbershop. And now, four months later, he does. And he’s been using it to cut the hair of the homeless. I wanted to know more about his project, called A Lighter Day, and the person behind it.

Can you tell me more about your motivation for starting this project?

‘When I was around 14 my father lost his job. What we thought would be a temporary problem ended up lasting over 10 years. In that time my fathers drinking worsened bringing on serious depression and anxiety. Debilitating his motivation to get back on track. If it wasn’t for my mother supporting the family and my family, my father would have been homeless. So I have seen first hand both sides of the coin. How much support means to people when they are down and how easy it is to lose everything you have worked hard for.’

You talk about ‘not just giving people new haircuts, but restoring their confidence’, can you tell me more about that?

‘We all know the feeling of something new in our lives weather it be mental or physical. And as humans the feeling of touch is a moment of release. People on the streets have much different things to worry about, so I like to show them that they are human too and deserve the same feeling that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to factor in.’

What’s the biggest misconception about homeless people?

‘That everyone on the streets is a drug addict. If you view life in terms of levels of society then the reality is there are drugs on all levels. Weather it be pharmaceutical or elicit, drugs are apart of this day and age. The difference is support, bad things and choices happen to everybody. But its your support networks that can get you back on track. And just people fall between the cracks doesn’t mean we should look down on them, we should be giving them a hand up. And that can simply be in the form of a non judgmental view.’

What’s the biggest difference you see in people when you give them a new haircut?

‘I can see the weight that’s been lifted off there shoulders. Even if we don’t talk, threw out the cut and I see someones eyes are closed in the mirror. I know that they are in a safe place to be able to forget about life for a while. And when that person leaves they are leaving with a little less baggage and hair. That’s why I chose the name ‘a lighter day’ its a physical and mental objective to create.’

Steven Elbers has been documenting Taylors work. I asked Steven what’s the biggest difference you see in the before and after pictures?

‘From a face full of sorrow to a big smile. They say that the eyes are the door to the soul. When Taylor gives the guys individual attention while taking care of their look you literally see a transformation. Their head is clearer then before they come in. Every human being needs social contact and the feeling that they are worth something. That’s what a lighter day is all about. We should all give back if we can.’

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