We dedicated each week of the holidays to a different kind of giving, telling stories of people who give differently, and giving our customers a few special gifts of our own.


Dec 4, 2017

A Cut Above

Mark Bustos wants to change the world, one haircut at a time. By Stefan Marolachakis. Photographed by Kyle Dorosz.

Mark Bustos believes in the power of a good haircut. Sitting in Three Squares Studio, the high-end downtown Manhattan salon where he’s worked for the last six years, he marvels aloud at the connective nature of his chosen craft. “No matter where you are in the world,” he says, “no matter how much money you have, what age you are, what language you speak, everyone can relate to getting a good haircut.”

When Bustos first started doing hair, his approach was not so high-minded—he was just a teenager looking to make some extra money. “When I was 14, I looked like I was 8,” he explains with a laugh. His friends were all out getting jobs, but he couldn’t convince anyone to hire him. So he got creative. He bought a styling chair at a garage sale for $20, snatched a couple couches out of the garbage, and threw it all in his parents’ garage in Nutley, NJ.


His newfound vocation was not an instant moneymaker by any means—in lieu of cash, his friends would pay him in chicken cutlet sandwiches and slices of pizza—but it was the start of what would become a very lucrative career. Now, 19 years on, hairstyling has gone from a quick fix to his life’s calling, and taken him to heights he couldn’t have predicted. “I worked my way up in the hair industry to the point where I was able to charge top dollar,” he says. But there, at the top of his field, he found himself feeling unfulfilled. “I remember thinking to myself, I thought this was success, but I don’t feel successful. How am I going to find it?” he says, longingly.

I remember thinking to myself, ‘I thought this was success, but I don’t feel successful. How am I going to find it?’|Mark Bustos

It was only when he stopped looking for success—in its conventional form, at least—that he was finally able to find it. While visiting family in the Philippines five years ago, he was struck by the number of homeless children he encountered living on the street. Witnessing firsthand the harsh reality of poverty in developing countries hit him hard.

“I realized I wanted to give back in some way,” he says. So he rented a chair in a local barbershop, and promptly invited the kids to come in and get their hair cut for free. The first boy to come into the shop was bashful—avoiding eye contact, practically silent the whole time. But once he was done, a man who’d been watching from out in the street yelled out to him: ‘Now you look like you’re from New York City!’

It was just such a powerful thing. A haircut really can make somebody just feel good about themselves.|

“The kid popped his head up and had the biggest smile on his face,” Bustos says, giggling to himself. “It was just such a powerful thing. A haircut really can make somebody just feel good about themselves.” After that trip, Bustos realized he could take his scissors with him anywhere. So he decided to start donating his time back home in New York—immediately. “That same Sunday I got back I hit the streets of New York City, and I haven’t stopped since.”

Not only does Bustos walk around the city every Sunday cutting hair for free, he’s taken his show on the road. At this point, Bustos has visited more than 12 countries to offer up his skills, and his travels have taken him all the way from the streets of New York City to farm communities in rural China. These days, he regularly fields notes and calls from hairstylists around the world reaching out to thank him for inspiring them to do the same. “That was the whole point!” he says, his face lighting up. “My goal was to help people out on the streets and inspire others to follow suit, because we all have to do this together. Whether you’re a hairstylist or not, we all have something inside of us to give.”

Give the Gift of Harry's

No matter the time of year, Harry’s is always a welcomed present.