When he saw the way that he looked, his jaw dropped. The man looking back at him was not the same man who walked into the barbershop.
Looking at the new version of himself overwhelmed him. He knew that the way he looked would influence the way others perceive him, but would it change his life?
José Antonio worked as a professional electrician as a young man in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. He would have never imagined that in a few years’ time, he would be living in the streets.
At the age of 30, José experienced a terrible work accident that prevented him from working ever again. Because he could not work, he did not receive an income. As his financial situation began to worsen, so did his mental state. José became very depressed and that’s when things started to spiral.
José did not become homeless overnight. “It’s a long process,” he said with tears filling his eyes. “A depression starts. In a depressed state, your mood is not the most regular. And then you go out onto the streets.”
José could not afford to pay for his bills anymore and that resulted in him becoming homeless. He viewed his homelessness as temporary and tried to make some money parking cars for strangers. José believed that he would be able to save enough money to turn his situation around, but that dream never came to fruition.
José eventually adapted to life on the streets. Parking cars and other odd jobs provided him with enough money to survive. Every day for years José would walk to Plaza España so that he could assist people with their parking.
Various residents of the city got to know José and eventually befriended him. They gave him the nickname “Josette”. One day, a man appeared out of nowhere and decided to take things a step further.
Josette lived on the streets for 25 years. Josette met a man named Salva Garcia one day. Salva owned a hair salon called La Salvajería which was located near Plaza España.
“When we met, I had a studio in the square where he helped park cars,” remembers Salva fondly. “I always joked with him telling him he had to cut off his mane, but he resisted.” Salva pestered Josette for a long time until finally, he gave in.
When Salva bumped across Josette the following time, the homeless man said he was prepared to put himself in Salva’s hands. Salva promised to trim his hair for free if Josette agreed to model for him in a ‘Before and After’ shoot. Josette excitedly agreed.
The salon owner knew the perfect photographer for the job. In anticipation of his arrival, the owner asked Josette to join him for a cup of tea. The old man shared stories of his life before his homelessness and that gave Salva a great idea.
Salva listened to his story attentively. “It was clear that his story deserved to be told and that Josette deserved another opportunity to get ahead,” said Salva after hearing the struggles Josette had to endure.
Salva opted to make a short documentary instead of just capturing images after hearing Josette’s story. He hired a production firm to conduct the interview and film his transformation. Josette himself seemed ecstatic at the prospect of being able to express himself. “I can’t be happy with the life that I have,” he said longingly. The question now asks, would his new look make him happy?
All mirrors were covered at La Salvajería to prevent Josette from seeing himself on the day of his transformation. There was another mirror on the opposite side of a window. Josette was asked whether he would like the window opened or closed.
“Open now, to see me like this for the last time,” he replied nervously. “Then we close them to see if, when they open again, something else opens up in my life. Like a symbol.” Josette felt his hands starting to sweat, now it was time for the real challenge.
Josette’s long, shaggy mane, which had grown down to his shoulders, was the first item to be cut by Salva and his colleagues. They then started to clip his unkempt beard but they decided to not completely shave it.
The next stage was to dye his hair, which had become grey over the years and would now be restored to its natural brown color. Finally, his neckline was shaved and his brows were tweezed. Josette was taking on a new shape and grew restless as he waited for the finishing touches.
Salva felt like simply giving Josette a new hairstyle would not suffice. Salva then went on to buy Josette a new pair of clothes. The clothes were youthful and stylish. Salva thought that by giving Josette these clothes he would see that a different life awaits him.
Josette dressed in a white shirt, bright-red slacks, and smart shoes, unsure of how he would appear. It was time for the big reveal and when Josette saw his new appearance, he was in awe.
Josete’s transformation was all caught on camera. In the video, he sits in the salon chair while one of the hairstylists opens the shutters that cover the mirror.
When Josete catches the first glimpse of himself, he is amazed and confused. His mouth slowly opens and his eyes widen. After a few seconds of disbelief, he lets out a long sigh.
Josete gasped, putting his hands on his face. “This is amazing, dude,” he said under his breath. He stood up, turning in different directions to better look at his new self.
“My God! I don’t recognize myself!” Soon he couldn’t hold back the tears. “Are you excited?” Salva asked. “Honestly, yes,” he replied. He was shocked, and he knew he wouldn’t be the only one.
“I’m hallucinating. It’s really me?” Josete exclaimed, “No, no one will recognize me. As long as I don’t tell them who I am, no one will recognize me. I assure you, the whole neighborhood will not recognize me.”
And he was right. After leaving the salon, he went back to Plaza España, to his usual hangout by the side of a monument.
When Josete took up his usual place on the street, he was met by gasps of disbelief. The people who knew him had to look twice before accepting it was really him.
Waitresses at nearby restaurants smiled and gave him a thumbs-up, clearly approving of his new look. Others had no idea it was him.
“No! It’s Jose?” one man asked. A group of ladies passing by tell him he looks “Very, very handsome.” After his makeover, Josete’s life was forever changed.
And, although he knew things would never be the same for him again, he could never have predicted the startling turn of events that would come next.
Josete sat at a bar table in the square and ordered a beer from a waiter he’d spoken to many times before. The waiter brought his drink without acknowledging him, seeming to think he was just a random customer.
“Don’t you recognize me?” Josete asked. After realizing who he was speaking to, the waiter said, “You don’t look like you!” But now that he had a brand new look, Salva wanted to give Josete a new life to match it.
The video of Josete’s transformation made its way online in March 2017, and he became an internet sensation overnight.
But by then, Josete was already living a different life to the one he’d known for so many years. After his transformation, he had managed to get off the streets and was no longer homeless. How?
With the help of an anonymous donor, Salva was able to secure a room in a shared apartment for Josete to live in.
He also enlisted an organization to give him financial assistance and help him find a job, which was much easier now that he had a permanent address. But that wasn’t the only thing that had changed.
Josete started to seek treatment for the ailments that had developed over the years on the street. He hoped to undergo several surgeries to fix his cataracts, which had developed after years of exposure to the elements and a poor diet.
His life was truly turning around, and he was extremely grateful. He also began to invest more time in his appearance.
Josete decided to let his hair dye wash out so his hair would return to his natural grey shade. Now, his striking ‘silver fox’ look made people compare him to the Hollywood actor, George Clooney.
And, just like his Hollywood doppelganger, Josete’s new look was proving to be a huge hit with the ladies. He was even offered a few modeling gigs!
Due to a simple yet life-changing makeover, Josete now had a completely new lease on life.
“The new look has helped me deal with the way I feel inside. It’s had so many practical consequences,” he explained in an interview with MailOnline. “There was no way I could have found accommodation before. I would have been turned away.” Josete acknowledges that a hairstylist changed his entire life.
Josete knows he has the La Salvajeria hair salon to thank for turning his life completely around. Without the kindness of the salon owner, Josete has no idea how things might have turned out.
“I doubt any of these changes would have happened if it wasn’t for the help of people like the hair salon owner,” he said. “I’ll be eternally grateful to them.” But, all of it almost didn’t happen.
Salva Garcia revealed that he’d been trying to get Josete into his salon chair for some time before he eventually relented.
“I had been telling Josete for a while that I could do his hair and beard for him and one day he said ‘yes,’” he explained. And ho does Salva feel about how he changed a homeless man’s life with a haircut?
Due to Josete’s transformation video, business at the La Salvajeria hair salon was booming. Salva was also absolutely thrilled that the makeover he’d done for Josete had led to something truly life-changing for the homeless man.
“I’m really pleased with the way things are going for him. He’s a fantastic guy. The physical transformation has definitely led to a change to many things in his life.”
It’s amazing to think that something as simple as a haircut, beard trim, and some new clothes changed Josete’s life forever.
Now, he has a newfound sense of confidence after living on the streets for 25 years, and it was that confidence that enabled him to lift himself out of his situation. Josete’s remarkable story didn’t end there.
It seems Josete’s story started something of a trend around the world. Look on the internet today, and you will find many such tales of kind salon owners giving homeless people free makeovers.
As usual with the internet, Josete’s story took on a life of its own and became an inspiration to many people. One such person was Olivier Janouze.
Olivier’s tale bears a striking resemblance to Josete’s. He was also a homeless man who received a free haircut that transformed him into an internet sensation.
While Olivier was younger, his transformation was just as dramatic, and his before and after pics had more than a few people swooning over him too. In Olivier’s case, his haircut had an extra twist.
French barber David Kodat is considered something of a celebrity in the world of hairdressing. His work on Olivier cemented his own reputation and brought even more spotlight to the trend.
Continuing the trend, after Olivier’s cut, David has made the provision of such services to the homeless a part of his business now. He even showcases the transformations on his Tik Tok account.
Given the wonderful effect that this trend has had on the participants, this is one trend that will hopefully stick around. When most people think of helping a homeless person, sparing some food or money is what usually comes to mind.
The actions of people like Salva and David prove that sometimes all a person really needs to pick themselves up from a bad situation is to be given back some dignity.
So what happened to Josete himself? After taking advantage of his new lease on life, Josete now lives in a shared tenement building. After decades of homelessness, he now has a roof over his head.
Thanks to a kind barber and others like him, Josete’s story is a testament to how kindness can change a life. It seems real change can occur, even if it takes one haircut at a time.