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Gabriel Heredia, a barber without arms, won the Best Barber award in all of Argentina
Gabriel Heredia, a barber without arms, won the Best Barber award in all of Argentina | Photo courtesy of Gabriel Heredia's Instagram page

Young man without arms wins Best Barber award in Argentina

The desire to learn, study, and improve has been inside me from a very young age. I learned to pour myself a glass, ride a bicycle, and even drive a vehicle. If something proved difficult to solve on my own, my mother stood right there with me.

Gabriel Heredia
Interview Subject
Gabriel Heredia, 25, was born in the Buenos Aires province of Argentina. At a young age, he began working as a barber despite not having arms, and has already worked throughout different locations in his country. He owns his own shop in the city of Caseros. In 2017, he won the award for the best barber in the entire country. His disability has been a motivation in his daily life.
Background Information
In Argentina, Law 22,431 (1981) was established, which promotes and regulates the inclusion of people with disabilities.
According to a UNICEF report, in Argentina, almost 15 percent of the child population suffers from a disability. Asserting the rights of boys and girls with disabilities goes a long way to ensure adequate and significant social development.

In addition, Gabriel’s story makes clear that a supportive family environment translates into the best incentive for young people with disabilities to fully develop their potential and stand out.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina ꟷ When you see me, the first thing you will probably notice is that I do not have arms. You might not believe me when I tell you I am a barber, but then you see how I cut hair. You see the quality of my work. My “disability” becomes unimportant right away.

In 2017, I won the award for the best barber in the Republic of Argentina. Though I do not say it with arrogance, I am proud to hold the title of the best barber in my country.

Young man follows in his mother’s footsteps, develops a clientele

I started cutting hair at the age of 14, inspired by my mother who worked as a stylist. As a child, I had prostheses on my arms but never got used to them. I did not feel like myself wearing the prosthetics, so I took them off.

I managed to live as normal a life as possible. Despite my difficulties, my family always supported me. [Though Gabriel does not have hands or parts of his forearms, he uses his arms to cut hair.] At first, I liked to look at the cuts and hairstyles of musicians and famous people. I also took inspiration from my mother’s work.

Photos of Gabriel’s work as a barber | Photos courtesy of Gabriel Heredia

I practiced with stuffed animals and dolls, then my friends took the risk to volunteer as clients. Cutting their hair is how I began to work more professionally. At first, without formal studies, I felt fulfilled practicing and seeing the process unfold. Then, I began studying formally and earned my degree.

My first clientele came through word of mouth. Someone would let me cut their hair and then their friends saw my work and came to me for cuts.

Barber without arms opens shop, inspires youth

After a lot of study and practice, I reaped the rewards of my efforts. I opened my own barbershop and grew a clientele who always left the shop happy. That is fundamental. Those who enter my premises leave satisfied and comfortable with my work.

In many cases, being a barber proves more than just a job – it becomes an artform. Seeing people leave happy has become the part of my job I like the most. If they like the haircut and feel comfortable, I am content.

The desire to learn, study, and improve has been inside me from a very young age. I learned to pour myself a glass, ride a bicycle, and even drive a vehicle. If something proved difficult to solve on my own, my mother stood right there with me.

Over time, I studied and perfected myself. Now, not only do I work doing what I love, I also teach courses and give workshops. I joined a charity association called Argentina Corta, where a group of babers come together in solidarity to organize events and give free cuts to low-income people.

We also teach them the trade, so they have a tool to obtain decent jobs and get ahead. In my profession, you have to be more than good and neat. You have to be original, in designs and cuts. I enjoy teaching and motivating students because, in return, they motivate me to achieve everything I set out to do.

In life, it is important to achieve your goals, no matter how impossible they seem; and above all else, to do so with passion.

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In Chile (his native country), he obtained a degree in Socio-Economic Sciences. He currently lives in Buenos Aires (Argentina), where he specializes in photojournalism. As a freelance, he publishes in different national media and collaborates for some international press agencies.