Cutting With Ease
People with autism get more than a free haircut at 101 Barbershop. They get confidence and life skills, too
Walking into 101 Barbershop on a Tuesday afternoon, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just any Las Vegas Valley hair salon. The shop is orderly, the barbers are professional, and there’s the background noise of shears snipping through hair. Yet this ordinary appearance belies an extraordinary mission: Its founders and staff aim to bring confidence (and cool ’dos) to youth on the autism spectrum.
“Everyone is welcome here,” says Stacie Skillman, the founder of 101 Barbershop in Henderson. “Just letting (clients) know, ‘You are important. I don’t care how many paying customers are sitting there when you walk in — you’re getting in the chair.’ That’s what makes us special.”
A U.S. military veteran and longtime foster mom, Skillman was inspired to start a business giving free haircuts to kids on the spectrum when she fostered her son, Jordan, who has autism. Going to a typical barber was a difficult and costly experience. So, when she met Garratt “ Gee” Thomas, an experienced and autism-friendly barber, the duo knew they needed to bring inclusive, affordable haircuts to the valley’s kids. In September, they opened 101 Barbershop, which offers free barber services to autistic youth from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday by appointment.
"Services like this are very, very important,” says Mia Fortunato, director of operations and marketing for Inclusion Fusion, a local organization that offers social skills programs to people with autism. (Disclosure: My sister is a paid staff member there.)
“The neurotypical population might not realize how challenging it can be, socially, for someone on the spectrum or who is neurodivergent to go get a haircut,” Fortunato says.
Fortunato emphasizes that programs like 101 Barbershop’s have a positive long-term impact in addition to the immediate benefits. “Going to the hairdresser is a common life skill, and those life skills can be translated into so many different aspects of your life going forward, and especially into adulthood.”
Skillman says she’s just getting started with providing more inclusive spaces for Las Vegans. She aims to expand into a barber school for young adults on the spectrum and other people with special needs. “Once they’re done with the school part, they can go up front to the barber floor,” she says.
Skillman’s barbers have big dreams, too, while also keeping community close to their hearts. “We like to change the stuff that we can,” says Christina Horrilleno, one of 101 Barbershop’s barbers. “We like to give back as much as we can. It’s just barbery history – we're a platform for the community. So based off our examples (of inclusion), I feel like it goes a long way with other people. I feel like we touch lives.”
Visit 101barbershopllc.com to learn more.