By Kate Monahan
Nasir Sobhani is not your average tattooed gentleman. He’s also not your average barber. He’s a man serving his community and those around him, living his life his way, which is to love what you do and to love others. He lives by a set of rules to never judge or discriminate, but to listen and most importantly, help. The 27-year-old, known as “the Streets Barber” lives and works in Melbourne, Australia, where he works six days a week, and on his day off, cuts hair for people in need.
Nasir’s parents are from Iran but left before the revolution in the late ‘70s. They met in the Philippines while doing humanitarian work, then moved to Japan, where he and his brothers were born. They then lived in Canada as he was growing up, then to Hawaii, and finally the South Pacific. To attend university, Nasir went back to Canada for over three years. Due to a drug addiction, he admitted himself into a rehab center there. Nasir’s life from birth to now has been far from boring, living in many places and coming from a strong family devoted to helping others.
After successfully completing and finishing his stay in rehab in Vancouver, battling addiction was most definitely his hardest issue in life. He had nothing going on and he didn’t want to stay any longer where he had been heavy in his addiction. Feeling strong enough to move away and start over, he spoke to his brother who was living in Melbourne and with his newfound strength after recovery, he made the move and has been there for three years.
Nasir didn’t ever have a real plan on becoming a barber for a living. He cut hair for friends and family and was extraordinarily good at it. He was told he had an eye for it and many encouraged him to pursue this career path. At first, after coming out of rehab and his addiction, Nasir didn’t see it as a respectful job in society, that it was something you did when there was nothing else to do. He felt it was important to be a scholar in order to become someone of respect, which was due largely to his addict mind. Because of his past addiction, he believed he had to do something much bigger to be respected. After realizing that his addict mind was once again dictating his life, he decided to pursue whatever it was that allowed him to be himself. He entertained the idea of becoming a barber and with the support of his family in addition to his passion, he found his calling.
Nasir isn’t just a regular barber. He became the Streets Barber when he had the genius idea of leveraging his talent and passion for the better good. On his day off, he does haircuts for the homeless. Nasir goes out on the streets with his separate kit and skateboards around areas of lower socioeconomic levels, addiction-riddled areas, and places of poverty looking for people who could go for a haircut, shave, hair treatment, dry shampoo, or just some deodorant. He kindly obliges to anyone that could use a little TLC to brighten their day. He does it because he knows the power of making someone feel good about themselves and how it can change their lives. As most of us know, a new haircut, a clean feeling, and looking good helps to create positive ideas in our minds about ourselves. The appearance is just the beginning. Nasir and his skating through these areas of lost hope give people that feeling that they may not have experienced in a long time.
He asserts that it is his highly religious and philosophical beliefs, as well as his faith that inspires him to help others in the way that he does. He strongly believes in helping others, no matter what. Race and status do not matter to him because we are all creatures in the same form and there should be no scrutiny in helping one another. He hopes that more people would wholeheartedly adopt this same mindset. Coming from addiction and hating himself, he experienced that all-consuming self-hate that brings one to their knees and cry. He understands what it’s like for the people he helps. It’s not sympathy, it’s empathy in action. In becoming a barber, kicking his addiction, and becoming successful at what he does restored his faith and happiness in himself. He flourishes in watching the whole life of a client and attitude go from zero to hero with just one cut. Nasir has quickly become a recognizable figure on the streets, a dashing superhero on his skateboard. For those that stop him and ask for help, Nasir happily and without hesitation lends a hand.
When asked if he had a favorite person or story from his many days of street barbering, he recalls one particular man. He needed Nasir’s services but informed him that it needed to be brief. He wanted a shave but told Nasir he couldn’t be out too long. Nasir put it together that he was a local heroin dealer after he had to stop for a moment so the man could do a deal in front of him. After this occurred, it triggered Nasir. As a man of overcoming addiction himself, he had judgment, why waste time on someone who is wasting others’ lives? But then he remembered the promise he made when he was clean and decided on becoming the Streets Barber – help people, no matter what. He wasn’t condoning this deal, he just decided to not judge the man. A month later, the same man found him. He told Nasir that since their encounter, a lot has happened. He didn’t want to sell anymore. He wanted to be a better dad and not go back to prison. Three months later, Nasir saw him again. The man put on weight and indicated that he was no longer using. Nasir saw firsthand the turn of events that came as a result of his non-judgment.
The Streets Barber doesn’t just cater to the streets of Melbourne. His service work applies to his travels. Not only does Nasir get tattooed when he travels, he brings his kit and a kind ear to listen to the people’s stories. His own body is covered in memories and art, something that he wears proudly. He plans on moving to New York soon, bringing his project to the U.S. and spreading his word and actions across the globe.
What Nasir promotes is to give people a chance, to listen to them. “Don’t give them a few cents in their cup. Empower them, have a conversation, say something nice about them, and listen to what they like,” he says. So many times he sees no one doing anything to make them feel better or help themselves. Sometimes they may throw change but mostly, people ignore them. If he could say anything to the greater audience in a few words, it would be to always help people out, maintain the word, and that helping others does matter. “To make a sacrifice is to receive a gift” is Nasir’s personal mantra. His sacrifice of time on his only day off by helping others feel better about themselves is his gift. He is able to the see the change in the people he helps, to see the hope and happiness come back into their eyes, and like in the extraordinary story of the heroin dealer, change their whole life around, starting with just a shave.
To see more of what Nasir does, visit his website at www.TheStreetsBarber.com.
As seen in Issue No. 37 of InkSpired Magazine
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