For most, a haircut is simply a way to look and even feel good.
However, local barber Paul Vincent also sees taking a razor to one’s hair as an opportunity to change a life by offering haircuts that cost as much as $50 to those who otherwise may not have been able to afford one.
Vincent, who owns and operates Zone 18 Barbershop in Parkville, recently provided 15 free haircuts to men near the Baltimore War Memorial downtown as a Father’s Day gift, and as a way of helping to boost community morale.
Vincent created a mobile shop for the day, bringing along a generator, tent and barber tools, he worked from noon to about 9 p.m.
“My job is to keep people sharp and all the while helping them to look and feel good,” said Vincent, who also works fulltime at Catholic Charities where he assists senior citizens with various needs.
Vincent says he and another barber wanted to give back to the community, to encourage men of all ages. He says he selected Father’s Day because he wanted the occasion to have added meaning.
Vincent and the other barber had pledged to get others involved so that dozens of underprivileged individuals could obtain free haircuts but were unable to get others involved. Still, the Baltimore native didn’t waiver. He decided to do it on his own.
“I didn’t want to let myself down and I didn’t want to let my grandmother down,” Vincent said. “My grandmother always told me to stand tall even when things seem hard and you don’t think you can complete it. That’s when you tap into your extra you, and your God-given you.”
Single-handedly, Vincent performed 15 free haircuts for men and boys in the area.
“It’s about giving back, and these people may have cousins, brothers, sons or fathers who frequent my shop anyway,” he said.
Vincent’s benevolence was praised by his sister and his father.
“This experience was a full circle moment in many ways. My dad and mom [were] raised up working in ministry and volunteerism, and it was powerful and heartfelt to witness my brother walking out principles that my dad taught us,” Cassandra Vincent said. “This was a vision that Paul shared with me, and his passion and commitment is inspiring. This is one of many things that Paul does to show others that they are remembered and I truly appreciate him.”
She also recalled some touching conversations she had with the men as they waited for her brother to tend to their locks, noting that she, her parents and Paul’s girlfriend, served lunch and spoke with the men.
“Several of them began to open up and share their gratitude, like the length of time it had been since their last haircut and several of them freely began to share some of their stories and journey,” she said.
One, in particular, was especially moving, according to his sister.
“One man shared how thankful he was for the haircut because he was just one day out of prison and he really needed this grooming as he began to look for work and a fresh start,” Cassandra Vincent said.
That was among the stories that moved Vincent’s father, Wallace O. Vincent.
“I am really proud of my son. Paul truly showed his integrity and commitment to people as he put the same effort and professionalism into grooming these men, as he would his paying clients. I took note of that and how Paul put the men being served at peace,” the elder Vincent said. “Out of all the material gifts and things I have received on past Father’s Days, this was hands down the best gift I have ever received as a father. It was absolutely the best gift, I have ever received.”
For his part, Paul Vincent said performing such a deed proved simply pleasurable.
“It was awesome. Cutting hair is my passion,” Paul Vincent said. “I love my job at Catholic Charities— that’s my occupation. But, I’m an artist and cutting hair is my first love, and the barbershop is where I learned about life and it’s where I really wanted to give back.”