Former street kid goes from homeless to owning his own barbershop

February 06, 2023 - 08:10
From the colourful signage to the giant murals and stickers on the mirror tables, the decoration is all Thế Anh’s idea, custom-made for the shop by an artist friend.

Nhật Hồng, Lê Hương, Paul Kennedy

HÀ NỘI — Nestling among the row of storefronts on Chùa Quỳnh Street, Cò Barbershop stands out with its vibrant sign that is unlike any other hair salon in the capital city. The place is special for a reason: it is a testament to how Lê Thế Anh transformed from a street kid to the owner of his own business.

From the colourful signage to the giant murals and stickers on the mirror tables, the decoration is all Thế Anh’s idea, custom-made for the shop by an artist friend.

While only opening its door to customers in October last year, Cò Barbershop has attracted a large following on TikTok with nearly 100 videos showing the unique hairstyles Thế Anh has done for his patrons.

Blue Dragon Children's Foundation's co-CEO Đỗ Duy Vị sits down for a haircut from Lê Thế Anh, who was once a street kid under the organisation's shelter. — VNS Photo Paul Kennedy

The account, @cohaircutt, already has over 1.1 million likes and over 56,000 followers, while the most-watched video racked up more than 3.4 million views.

He told Việt Nam News: “When people see a haircut they like, they will come here, so the channel helps me a lot in my business.

“My plan for the future is to develop myself and my shop and maybe make a name for myself in this field.”

Cò Barbershop's vibrant, custom-designed store sign is unlike any other hair salon in Hà Nội. — VNS Photo Paul Kennedy

However, things have not always looked so bright for the 25-year-old barber. More than a decade ago, Thế Anh was living on the streets of Hà Nội's Old Quarter.

He was wandering around selling candies until Vân, a Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation staff member, found him and took him back to the shelter.

Thế Anh said: “I was a little confused why there was such a charity, but when I got there, it was clear that the people there work and care for street kids unconditionally.

“From that point, I didn’t have to worry about where to stay or what to eat, and they helped me go back to school.”

He remained at the children’s shelter for six years before returning home and pursuing a career as a hairdresser.

Today, stretching across the wall in his barbershop is a mural of a blue dragon holding a hair clipper with his son’s nickname.

“It reminds me of the most difficult times I have been through and those who have helped me to get to where I am today,” said Thế Anh.

The mural of a blue dragon on the wall of the barbershop. — VNS Photo Nhật Hồng

Vị, the co-CEO of Blue Dragon, said: “I feel very proud of Thế Anh because I have known him since he was a little child. I knew the situation he was in and have been with him through ups and downs.

“There were difficult times that I think it was impossible for him to overcome without courage and bravery.

“I think he has really grown up now. He studied to be a hairdresser, has his own family, his child, and a stable life.”

Now, once a month, Thế Anh and his assistant pack up their tools and spend a day at Blue Dragon’s shelter to offer haircuts to the children staying there.

“It is an opportunity for me to talk to them about what’s going on in their life, their stories, their passion.

“They are very young now, so my advice for them is just to pursue what they like and put their heart into it because success will come to those who persist,” said Thế Anh. — VNS