Meet the New Yorker Giving Outdoor Donation-Based Haircuts to Support Black Lives Matter
A comb, pair of shears, folding chair, handwritten sign, and gold-trimmed mirror were all Anthony Payne needed to create his traveling hair salon — an outdoor space where New Yorkers can finally get their grown-out haircut while simultaneously contributing to the fight for racial justice. For the past month, Payne has been offering open-air, donation-based haircuts all over Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood, with clients' payments directly benefitting the Black Lives Matter movement.
"We literally broke down the salon concept and reinvented what we felt was right in this moment for an amazing cause."
A cosmetologist and freelance hairstylist originally from Philadelphia, Payne provides cuts in various outdoor locations all around Williamsburg, following the CDC's recommendation to bring indoor group activities outside amid the COVID-19 pandemic. His go-to spot is nestled up against a fence under the Williamsburg Bridge, but he has also posted up on top of the bridge, on nearby sidewalks, at McCarren Park, and on the North 5th Street Pier, each site just as breezy and picturesque as the next. Both he and clients wear face masks during appointments, and those waiting for first-come-first-served haircuts stand in line six feet apart from one another. As Payne described on his Instagram Stories, "We literally broke down the salon concept and reinvented what we felt was right in this moment for an amazing cause."
News of Payne's charitable project quickly spread around the community via social media and word of mouth, and in just a few weeks, he racked up 60 clients and donated more than $4,000 to bail bonds, families affected by acts of police brutality, and various organizations and funds, including Young New Yorkers, the NAACP, The Loveland Foundation, and the Black Voters Matter Fund.
One of said clients was Sam Andersen, a graphic designer and Brooklyn resident who shared tidbits about her experience with POPSUGAR. "I desperately wanted a haircut, but I also had gotten laid off due to COVID-19 just as the BLM movement started gaining traction," she said. "I have been trying to find thoughtful ways to donate and spend my money and loved that Tony's haircuts combined those two priorities of mine." Before the pandemic, Andersen got a haircut that was "growing out horribly," and Payne came to the rescue by evening things out and adding some texture and movement.
After DM'ing Payne on Instagram to set up an appointment, Andersen met him under the Williamsburg Bridge and immediately fell in love with his outdoor salon, which she described as an ideal mix of clean and aesthetically pleasing. "His setup was great: the perfect sliver of dramatic lighting, [he] disinfected everything from the seat to the cape to the scissors before I sat down, and [we had] a really lovely conversation."
Payne initially planned on offering his donation-based haircuts for the month leading up to his birthday, which was on June 26, but after having such a positive experience with every client, he's decided to continue doing them in the future with a focus on underprivileged children and young adults. "Each guest has been amazing and treated me with so much love. I have never felt so amazing about my work," he said. "I don't believe I can end it here. I will keep this apart of my life, however my shears are dull, my feet have blisters, and I have not paid rent in three months. So I will figure out how things look moving forward." Once he gets his shears repaired, he hopes to expand beyond Williamsburg and provide hair services for those in low-income communities.
Payne added that he hopes his project inspires fellow Brooklynites to learn how to use their talents for the benefit of others, just as he has. "Pay attention and support your community," he said. "Ask yourself how you are special and how you can give to the next person without expecting anything in return, and don't stop asking until you are doing just that."
If you live in the New York area and wish to have your hair cut by Payne, send him an Instagram DM (@anthonypayne) to secure an appointment, and be sure to watch his IGS to stay in the know on his latest location choice. Ahead, see footage of him in action all around the streets of Brooklyn for your daily dose of feel-good content.