Many of you may be aware of the Instagram savvy local hairdresser Eddie Ilic, founder of Eddie Street Cuts (ESC). His Instagram feed is full of photos of him on the streets of Bath cutting the hair of local homeless men and women.
It’s a social enterprise that’s recently won him a Bath Life Award but for Eddie, this isn’t just a project on the side. After suffering from a drug addiction for many years, Eddie sees it as a vehicle to not only give back but to offer a message of hope and self-worth to others facing similar challenges.
Alongside cutting peoples hair on the streets, the 24-year-old has also been coming into our Manvers Street Hostel to cut our clients hair for the past two years. It is a service which our clients greatly appreciate.
When asked what inspired him to do so, he responded: “Hairdressing is my passion, I love making people feel and look good in the salon. What inspired me to do this outside the salon was knowing that other people were doing the same thing across the world in different cities; they would take their scissors out on the streets and into hostels to do hair for the homeless. I think this is such a beautiful, simple thing, to be able to help make someone feel completely different and better within themselves.”
He added: “ESC likes to help make people feel comfortable and at ease. Such a simple thing like a haircut can change the way that a person sees themselves; for the clients it helps give them their dignity, self-worth and confidence. To be able to see this grow in the individual is such an amazing thing.”
Eddie describes his early life as happy. But a move to Spain at the age of nine was a bit of a wrench. Some of the Spanish children teased him about being a foreigner. Sometimes he was bullied. This in turn prompted him to try a bit too hard to be liked and be part of the gang. He started smoking, which led on to experimenting with weed and alcohol.
At the age of 15, he returned to England where he continued experimenting with drugs. Learning difficulties also held him back a year at school and he often got him into trouble for fighting. Eventually he was expelled.
But his interest in hairdressing eventually landed him a break with a salon. Things didn’t work out. He was judged to have not applied himself to the job and sometimes turned up for work under the influence. His drug use had become worse and he was stealing to fund his addiction. Mephedrone was his new favourite – a synthetic stimulant which is also known as MKAT. It made him unwell and adversely affected his behaviour, but the pull of his addiction was powerful. “My family had a stranger in the house. It was really hard for them.”
Next came cocaine.
Despite all this Eddie got another break with another salon. The combination of his family, his girlfriend and the job were the things that helped him survive. However, he readily admits that he abused them all.
It finally dawned on him that he had to do something to change the path he was on and the harm he was doing to others. His employer’s support even extended to them suspending him for two weeks, rather than sacking him for poor behaviour. It demonstrated their faith in him.
Eddie vividly remembers his mother telling him that he wasn’t well – a message which jarred with him. He too was “Sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
This prompted another attempt at recovery. This time it worked. He recalls the pleasure of being able to smell again and sleep properly. Simple things but things which had been missing in his life.
“I’ve been in recovery from drink and drugs myself for almost four years now. A huge part of that recovery is to be able to give back, because when you are in the grip of addiction you become selfish but when you are free from addiction you become selfless.”
When asked what’s next for ESC, he said: “It has always been my main ambition to grow ESC and we are delighted to announce we have just recruited four hairdressers to help achieve a better service. ESC would love to open an academy to teach the homeless hairdressing. We can all fall on hard times whether through addiction, mental health or just bad luck and by providing them with a skill, maybe we can change lives.”
If anything, “We want more understanding for people who are homeless. A simple act of kindness can change lives. They deserve our understanding not judgement. We could all have been there; that is a humbling thought and for me that is the message that ESC would like people to hear.”
As a charity, we just want to say a huge thanks to Eddie, Phil and the rest of the hairdressing team who come to our hostel to cut our clients’ hair. You all provide such a valued service that boosts confidence and self-worth and gives hope and purpose to our clients’ lives.
For more information and to support ESC, follow Eddie on Instagram and Twitter @eddiestreetcuts