The barbers and stylists at Philadelphia Hair Company weren’t scheduled to start giving free back-to-school haircuts until 10 a.m. Tuesday, but nearly an hour earlier, a line had already formed along the 5800 block of Germantown Ave.
In fact, the clippers were already clipping and scissors already snipping at a few of the 12 seats in the main room. The first student through the “braids & fades” free-cuts event was already back outside with his mother by 9:45 a.m.
Hafeez Johnson, a sophomore at the Philadelphia Military Academy at Leeds, had to wait for his brothers Jaleel and Kadeem, who were second and third inside. His mother Marie said they’d been here in previous years.
The free cuts help preserve money for other first-day-of-school expenses or, as she explained the early arrival, “Don’t have to pay for this!”
Logos for event co-sponsors Sneaker Villa, adidas and Radio One were on the smocks children wore while getting their hair cut by barbers who either came in on their day off or turned away paying customers until after the five-hour event was over.
“Economy’s bad,” barber Joe Molett explained of why he gave up his day off. “We gotta give ’em a hand, you know?”
Before getting a trim, children had to prove that they were enrolled in school to receive a free cut voucher from nearby Sneaker Villa, said Earlene Lightfoot, who co-owns Philadelphia Hair Company with her son Mark.
“We don’t want people coming in off the streets if they’re not going to school,” she explained. “No. Don’t do that!”
She said more than 200 boys and girls were there the first year, but a little less this time. If one of the kids got an adidas symbol shaved into the side of his or her head, they’d get a new pair of sneakers, too.
“It means a lot to us to do this,” Lightfoot said. “We want to do right by the kids.”
Around 10:30 a.m., Mayor Michael Nutter stopped by to meet-and-greet the line, reminding children that “in just two weeks, you’ll be back in school, and your parents will be happy.”
After quickly posing in front of a “braids & fades” and before emerging to face media day-after-Ackerman questions, he thanked barbers for what they were doing.
“What this particular shop is doing, and we’d like to see this happening all over the city, shows they care about our kids, they care about education,” Nutter said. “They’re giving something back.”