National Barber Mental Health Awareness Day was May 19.
But for Jake Gamez and Andrew Gonzales, who both own their own barbershops in Beeville, every day is chance to make a difference in their clients’ lives.
“You’d be surprised how just 30 minutes every two weeks can build a friendship,” said Gamez of Fadeaway Barbershop. “It’s all about being a people person and making people feel comfortable with you so they want to come back. It’s also stressful knowing that I have to constantly be doing my best. I can’t afford to have a bad day.”
Gamez said he puts on a happy face and brings a positive attitude to his shop every day, regardless of what he may be going through in his personal life.
“One person will be sad and tell me they have to go to a funeral later for a loved one,” he said. “Then my next client will come in excited about getting married the next day. I have to be able to flip that switch and be there for them on their big days. Whatever I’m going through doesn’t really matter because they expect me to do my best.”
Gamez said he is constantly answering texts and phone calls from clients and trying to promote his shop and feels grateful for the opportunity to be a part of people’s lives.
“They share everything with me,” he said. “Deaths, pregnancies, proposals, unfaithfulness, miscarriages. Once, I had two different guys tell me about their girlfriend. I was happy for them until they showed me a picture of her, and I realized it was the same girl.
I never betray my client’s trust, so I couldn’t say anything, but I was definitely shocked.”
Gamez credits his mother for his work ethic and motivation and appreciates his girlfriend for letting him vent when he’s had a long day.
“My mom’s a single mom and waitress so she’s always working on her feet,” he said. “From 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. and never complains. I don’t have hours. I’ll cut your hair at 5 a.m. or 11 p.m., whatever you need.”
Coincidentally, when asked what the most valuable lesson they learned as a barber was, Gamez and Gonzales answered the same: don’t judge anyone by their appearance.
“You never know what people are going through or how they are until you take the time to get to know them,” said Gonzales. “I’ve cut hair from all walks of life. We’re all human, and we all need a haircut. No one is better than anyone else when they’re in my shop.”
Gonzales, owner of Cutthroat Barbershop in Beeville, offers free haircuts every first Thursday of the month to veterans and police officers. As a veteran himself, he said the conversations with other vets is payback enough.
“I have more in common with them, and I feel like we understand each other better,” he said. “I have my own issues too, just like everyone else, and I feel better after talking with them.”
Gonzales said clients sharing their personal life with him is so common, that people often visit the shop even when they don’t need a haircut.
“Everyone is welcome here,” he said. “We have clients from Kenedy, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, all over. But it’s not about the haircuts. It’s about loyalty and how we make you feel good about yourself when you walk out of here.”
Gonzales admitted that some days are hard after hearing so many stories from his clients.
“I go home with lingering thoughts sometimes,” he said. “But this is what I love to do, and I’m never going to stop.”