A new project designed to replicate the environment of barber shops for men in Croydon is helping the social side of getting a trim live on during lockdown.

The Virtual Barber Chair was created by Barber Yian Hapeshis of Barber Jack and Son and Mental Health Activist Lee Townsend.

The pair both have a strong appreciation of the social value barber shops offer men in the area as a place to meet, socialise and talk openly about their lives in a safe place staffed by people they know and trust.

Rather than see the social benefits of the barber's chair be put on ice during the coronavirus pandemic, the pair decided to move the entire experience online.

"Barbers are not just about cutting hair, they actually do a lot more," Lee told the Croydon Guardian.

"It's about having a space where anyone can come in and have a conversation. It's a one-hour session where we just talk, chat and produce that same barbershop vibe only without the haircut.

"There's no big commitment, you can come in when you want, leave when you want," he said.

Back again tomorrow! The response as been fantastic so far and I can't thank you all enough 💙 Hit me up if you'd like to jump in ✨💙

Posted by Barber Jack & Son on Tuesday, 9 February 2021

"People go to the same barber shops for generations and as a result of that the trust is there: the barber will keep up with how their customers are and earn that trust and respect."

The project builds on the success of a community barbers' group — the BAME Barbers Network — founded with Off The Record and Croydon BME Forum, who helped direct their customers to various community services in the region. 

With the additional support of Croydon Social Prescribing, Yian and Lee are now welcoming a range of people into these new online weekly sessions.

From paramedics to school students to bankers, they are already proving to be a hit with a remarkable and growing number of people who are responding to what's on offer.

"In lockdown even though you might be messaging people, if you're not properly talking to someone you're kind of talking to yourself," Yian said.

"I just wanted to get something positive going and bring people together that wouldn't normally come together.

"I've always been one to keep in touch with my clients and check in on them. It doesn't hurt to take a few moments out of your day to see how someone is," he added.

"We're here to help in general," Yian said, a perspective both he and Lee clearly share.

"They don't hold a judgemental position," Lee said of the barber's role in their communities.

"The position is: 'I am here for you if you need me'. If you can trust someone with a cutthroat razor, what won't you really trust them with?"

For more information about the Virtual Barber Chair, click here or message @Yianthebarber or @TrueLee478 on social media. 

Follow Yian on Instagram @yianthebarber and Barber Jack and Son on Facebook here.