Time For Change
As his chair was turned around and he found himself in front of the mirror, he couldn’t believe his own eyes. The man that was staring back at him was not the same man he had thought himself to be for the past couple of decades.
But nowhere he was, and it was a lot to take in. He had a brand new look, and he knew it would make a big impression on others. But would it be enough to turn his life around?
Ruin In Paradise
When he was a young man, José Antonio never thought he’d ever find himself living on the streets. A resident of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, he used to work as a skilled electrician.
But when he was 30 years old, everything changed. A work accident left him incapacitated and unable to do his job. His financial situation began to spiral, and he fell into a deep depression. That’s when things turned really dark for José.
How It Happens
José’s descent into homelessness did not happen overnight. “It’s a long process,” he said. “A depression starts. In a depressed state, your mood is not the most regular. And then you go out onto the streets.”
Unable to keep up with his bills, José became homeless. At first, he thought it would be a temporary situation. He made some money parking cars at town squares and other public areas. He thought he could make enough money to find a place to live. But that never came to be.
Life On The Streets
Eventually, José became used to living on the streets. Parking cars and doing odd jobs gave him enough money to buy food and survive on a day-to-day basis. After a few years, he even became a fixture of the Plaza España, where he hung out every day and helped people with their parking.
Business owners and workers in the vicinity all came to know him and befriend him, giving him the nickname of ‘Josete.’ Then one day, a man came along who decided to go even further.
Looking Beyond Hair
Josete had been homeless for 25 years, and by now he knew no other life. Then one day, he met Salva García. Salva is the owner of La Salvajería, a hair salon not far from Plaza España.
“When we met, I had a studio in the square where he helped park cars,” remembers Salva. “I always joked with him telling him he had to cut off his mane, but he resisted.” But it seems that, after a while, Josete changed his mind.
A Free Haircut
The next time Salva ran into Josete, the homeless man told him he was willing to put himself in Salva’s hands. Salva agreed to cut his hair for free, in exchange for letting him take ‘Before and After’ pictures as Josete modeled for him. Josete agreed.
The hairstylist then called a photographer for the project, and while they waited for him to arrive, he invited Josete to a cup of coffee. As they sat together, the old man talked about his past. This gave Salva a new idea.
A Story Worth Telling
“It was clear that his story deserved to be told and that Josete deserved another opportunity to get ahead,” said Salva after hearing Josete’s tale of depression and homelessness.
So, instead of just taking pictures, Salva decided to film a short documentary. He hired a production company to interview Josete and film the makeover process. Josete himself seemed glad for the chance to express himself. “I can’t be happy with the life that I have,” he said. But would he be happy with his new look?
Closing And Opening
On the day of the makeover, all mirrors were removed from La Salvajería so that Josete couldn’t see himself until the transformation was complete. There was also a mirror on the other side of a window, which Salva asked Josete if he preferred closed or opened.
“Open now, to see myself like this for the last time,” he replied. “Then we close them to see if, when they open again, something else opens up in my life. Like a symbol.” Then the real work began.
Snip Snip Snip
The first thing Salva and his team did was cut Josete’s long, shaggy mane, which had grown down to his shoulders. Then they trimmed his scraggly beard, but they did not shave it entirely.
The next step was dying his locks, which had turned grey over the years – now he’d be back to his original brown. Lastly, they shaved his neckline and tweezed his eyebrows. A new Josete was emerging, just waiting for the finishing touches.
Brand New Duds
Salva realized it wasn’t enough to give Josete a new hairstyle. So he purchased a whole new outfit, one that was stylish and youthful, hoping to show the 55-year-old man a glimpse of a different life.
Josete put on the white shirt, bright-red pants, and dapper shoes, still not knowing what he would look like. Then he sat again on the stylist’s chair, and Salva opened the window. Josete’s jaw dropped.
The Window Opens
Josete’s transformation was all caught on camera. In the video, he sits in the salon chair while one of the hairstylists opens the shutters that cover the mirror.
When Josete catches the first glimpse of himself, he is amazed and confused. His mouth slowly opens and his eyes widen. After a few seconds of disbelief, he lets out a long sigh.
A Different Josete
Josete gasped, putting his hands on his face. “This is amazing, dude,” he said under his breath. He stood up, turning in different directions to better look at his new self.
“My God! I don’t recognize myself!” Soon he couldn’t hold back the tears. “Are you excited?” Salva asked. “Honestly, yes,” he replied. He was shocked, and he knew he wouldn’t be the only one.
“I’m hallucinating. It’s really me?” Josete exclaimed, “No, no one will recognize me. As long as I don’t tell them who I am, no one will recognize me. I assure you, the whole neighborhood will not recognize me.”
And he was right. After leaving the salon, he went back to Plaza España, to his usual hangout by the side of a monument.
A Community In Disbelief
When Josete took up his usual place on the street, he was met by gasps of disbelief. The people who knew him had to look twice before accepting it was really him.
Waitresses at nearby restaurants smiled and gave him a thumbs-up, clearly approving of his new look. Others had no idea it was him.
“Very, Very Handsome”
“No! It’s Jose?” one man asked. A group of ladies passing by tell him he looks “Very, very handsome.” After his makeover, Josete’s life was forever changed.
And, although he knew things would never be the same for him again, he could never have predicted the startling turn of events that would come next.
Reintroducing Himself To The World
Josete sat at a bar table in the square and ordered a beer from a waiter he’d spoken to many times before. The waiter brought his drink without acknowledging him, seeming to think he was just a random customer.
“Don’t you recognize me?” Josete asked. After realizing who he was speaking to, the waiter said, “You don’t look like you!” But now that he had a brand new look, Salva wanted to give Josete a new life to match it.
The video of Josete’s transformation made its way online in March 2017, and he became an internet sensation overnight.
But by then, Josete was already living a different life to the one he’d known for so many years. After his transformation, he had managed to get off the streets and was no longer homeless. How?
Turning His Life Around
With the help of an anonymous donor, Salva was able to secure a room in a shared apartment for Josete to live in.
He also enlisted an organization to give him financial assistance and help him find a job, which was much easier now that he had a permanent address. But that wasn’t the only thing that had changed.
Josete started to seek treatment for the ailments that had developed over the years on the street. He hoped to undergo several surgeries to fix his cataracts, which had developed after years of exposure to the elements and a poor diet.
His life was truly turning around, and he was extremely grateful. He also began to invest more time in his appearance.
George Clooney Lookalike
Josete decided to let his hair dye wash out so his hair would return to his natural grey shade. Now, his striking ‘silver fox’ look made people compare him to the Hollywood actor, George Clooney.
And, just like his Hollywood doppelganger, Josete’s new look was proving to be a huge hit with the ladies. He was even offered a few modeling gigs!
New Lease On Life
Due to a simple yet life-changing makeover, Josete now had a completely new lease on life.
“The new look has helped me deal with the way I feel inside. It’s had so many practical consequences,” he explained in an interview with MailOnline.
“There was no way I could have found accommodation before. I would have been turned away.” Josete acknowledges that a hairstylist changed his entire life.
Josete knows he has the La Salvajeria hair salon to thank for turning his life completely around. Without the kindness of the salon owner, Josete has no idea how things might have turned out.
“I doubt any of these changes would have happened if it wasn’t for the help of people like the hair salon owner,” he said. “I’ll be eternally grateful to them.” But, all of it almost didn’t happen.
He Had Persuaded Him
Salva Garcia revealed that he’d been trying to get Josete into his salon chair for some time before he eventually relented.
“I had been telling Josete for a while that I could do his hair and beard for him and one day he said ‘yes,’” he explained. And ho does Salva feel about how he changed a homeless man’s life with a haircut?
Happy To Help
Due to Josete’s transformation video, business at the La Salvajeria hair salon was booming. Salva was also absolutely thrilled that the makeover he’d done for Josete had led to something truly life-changing for the homeless man.
“I’m really pleased with the way things are going for him. He’s a fantastic guy. The physical transformation has definitely led to a change to many things in his life.”
Starting A Trend
It’s amazing to think that something as simple as a haircut, beard trim, and some new clothes changed Josete’s life forever.
Now, he has a newfound sense of confidence after living on the streets for 25 years, and it was that confidence that enabled him to lift himself out of his situation. Josete’s remarkable story didn’t end there.
Paying It Forward
It seems Josete’s story started something of a trend around the world. Look on the internet today, and you will find many such tales of kind salon owners giving homeless people free makeovers.
As usual with the internet, Josete’s story took on a life of its own and became an inspiration to many people. One such person was Olivier Janouze.
Olivier’s tale bears a striking resemblance to Josete’s. He was also a homeless man who received a free haircut that transformed him into an internet sensation.
While Olivier was younger, his transformation was just as dramatic, and his before and after pics had more than a few people swooning over him too. In Olivier’s case, his haircut had an extra twist.
Even Celebrities Joined In
French barber David Kodat is considered something of a celebrity in the world of hairdressing. His work on Olivier cemented his own reputation and brought even more spotlight to the trend.
Continuing the trend, after Olivier’s cut, David has made the provision of such services to the homeless a part of his business now. He even showcases the transformations on his Tik Tok account.
Will It Last?
Given the wonderful effect that this trend has had on the participants, this is one trend that will hopefully stick around. When most people think of helping a homeless person, sparing some food or money is what usually comes to mind.
The actions of people like Salva and David prove that sometimes all a person really needs to pick themselves up from a bad situation is to be given back some dignity.
One Haircut At A Time
So what happened to Josete himself? After taking advantage of his new lease on life, Josete now lives in a shared tenement building. After decades of homelessness, he now has a roof over his head.
Thanks to a kind barber and others like him, Josete’s story is a testament to how kindness can change a life. It seems real change can occur, even if it takes one haircut at a time.