• Spotlight: Nasir Sobhani; The Streets Barber

by Jack Baxter

Worthy and Spruce would like to introduce you to Nasir Sobhani, perhaps now better known by his moniker; 'The Streets Barber'.

Nasir works out of Melbourne and, as well as being an awesome barber in his own right, he also spends his free time helping to style many of those less fortunate in and around the city.

Nasir’s, ‘Clean Cut, Clean Start’ initiative is driven in part by his own belief in the Baha’i faith that has helped him conquer his own demons and find his path in life.

Hi Nasir, thanks for agreeing to talk to us, first up can you tell our readers a little about yourself?

“I was born in Japan where my parent’s were living at the time to support the local community and try to learn about cultures outside of their own. This is highly encouraged in the Baha’i teachings in an effort to help abolish prejudice. This is still a pillar in my thoughts whenever I hit the streets now.

When I was 6 we moved to Vancouver where I lived until I started university in Toronto. I moved to Melbourne almost three years ago after I had come out of rehab. My oldest brother was living here so I thought it would be a good place for a fresh start - it was.” 

"I’d always cut hair for my homies in Vancouver, but it took a while for me to realise that cutting hair was what I wanted to do for a living."

How did you first get into barbering?

“It was whilst I was in rehab that I decided to become a barber. That said, my love and interest in cutting hair started way earlier. I’d always cut hair for my homies in Vancouver, but it took a while for me to realise that cutting hair was what I wanted to do for a living. 

When I arrived in Melbourne I was hungry for any experience I could get my hands on. My brother put me in touch with an amazing girl called Summer who owned a barbershop called Electric Brain in Fitzroy. She took me in and showed me what I needed to learn. She was awesome and I am so grateful to her.”

After a year or so I started working for Culture Kings in the city where I was working with an incredible group of barbers - which is really uncommon to find here in Australia - this place is full of hairdressers and I’m all about that fading life!”

"After we were done he loved the way he looked and his Mom even came in and was taking photos. She was in tears."

What led you to start the ‘Clean Cut, Clean Start’ initiative?

“When I first started cutting hair I couldn't get enough of it. One day, while working in a barber shop in Melbourne, there was a heroin addict who used to wash windows right outside our barber shop for several years. I got chatting to him and he told me he had been clean for a month – I couldn't believe it!

He said he wanted to get a haircut - his hair was real long and he had dirty dreadlocks in the back, overall he just needed a complete makeover. I asked him to let me cut his hair, so we sat down together and shared stories about our past. After we were done he loved the way he looked and his mom even came in and was taking photos. She was in tears.

It was a monumental turning point in my life. I realised that if I could help encourage this feeling of change in someone and all I had to do was exactly what I loved to do, then maybe I should keep doing it. That’s how the, ‘Clean Cut, Clean Start’ initiative came into being.”

Nasir Sobhani Streets Barber Clean Cut Clean Start Initiative

Do you have regulars who come to you on the street now?

“I've got a few guys that I see regularly now. When I'm asked about this I always remember this one guy who I was giving a cut to and we had to take a break because he had to make a sale. So while I was cutting his hair another guy came up to him and they quickly went around the corner and then he came back after to resume his haircut.

It was a really intense experience but I realised that all I could do about it was to continue doing what I was doing - so I finished his cut and that was it.”

A couple of months later I ran into him and noticed that he had put on some weight and looked a lot better. He greeted me with open arms and was so happy to see me. He asked me for a shave and a haircut which I gladly gave him and while we were chatting he told me that he had given up selling drugs shortly after that last cut I gave him.

It was amazing. A haircut can do only so much but once a person’s power and self-belief is reignited they can truly turn their life around.”

"What's crucial is that for the duration of the haircut someone is reaching out and building a connection."

How does your faith tie in with your work?

“Baha’is try to live a life of service to the community. My parents were basically teenagers when they left to serve. Same as my brothers. When I was in high school they went to the Pacific Islands to do volunteer work.

I grew up with the idea that our purpose in life is to dedicate our time and efforts to reach out to others and help however we can. By doing that we serve God. A lot of emphasis in the Baha’i Faith is on actions and not so much on words and I try to live by that as much as possible.

On top of that, the faith was a major part of my recovery from drug addiction so it has played a huge role in my life and had a great impact on what I am trying to do with the Clean Cut, Clean Start initiative. In Bahai writings they say, To make a sacrifice is to receive a gift"

Why is what you do important?

“I think that a haircut gives everyone a boost for their self-esteem. It's good to feel clean and a bit lighter after receiving a bit of grooming.

What's crucial is that for the duration of the haircut someone is reaching out and building a connection. As you can imagine, a lot of the homeless people feel isolated and have gone through rough times.

As with anyone you know, they want to share their story and connect. Just like my other friends, I want to hear what they have to say. In a few of my street clients that I've seen regularly I was lucky to witness them change for the better.”

What are your plans for the future of the project?

“To be honest, the most important thing for me is to just keep carrying on as I have, hit the streets as much as possible and build those connections with people. If like-minded people choose to do the same (serve others - not just cut hair for homeless people but whatever they can offer in their own capacity) it will bring so much joy to my heart.”

"That's what makes a barber a freaking barber!”

And what about your plans for the future?

“Melbourne is definitely a great place to be based for me at the moment. I've got a wonderful job at a salon that I don’t see myself leaving any time soon.

I've always loved the Caribbean and would like to live there at some point. I just got back from a trip to the Philippines and man, I've gotta say - the world is too beautiful to not travel and spend time in different places.”

Nasir Sobhani Streets Barber Clean Cut Clean Start Initiative

When you work what items could you not be without?

“My straight razors and my clippers man! That's what makes a barber a freaking barber!”

What changes in style do you see happening in Melbourne at the moment?

“All these kids are repping ‘Air Jordans' after ‘The J’s On My Feet’ song with Miley Cyrus! It wasn't even a thing before (that song) which is kind of sad! The power of celebrity endorsements, hey?!”

Style wise, from where do you draw inspiration?

“Rob Mason at Morris Motley. He's a legendary hair artist here and I try my best to study his work. I want to eventually learn how to cut using his style and techniques.”

Hey Nasir, thanks so much for agreeing to chat to us at W&S, good luck with ‘Clean Cut, Clean Start’ and keep us in the loop with any new developments!

Did you like the article? Are you keen to read more? If (in the words of Bret McKenzie) that's something that you think you might be in to, then please sound-off in the comments below and sign up for the mailing list. We'll only send you good stuff. Promise.

Till next time, this is Mr. Jack Baxter signing off.

Mr. Jack.

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