Meet Harold Brown, the 60-Year-Old Black Barber with Only One Functioning Arm

Harold Brown, a 60-year-old New York City barber, claims to be “the best one-armed barber in the world.” He continues to impress as an instructor at the American Barber Institute, despite using only his right arm to work on the razor.


Brown, who was born with a nonfunctioning left arm due to a congenital abnormality, endured numerous hardships growing up in Jamaica Queens. He was called harsh insults, which left him feeling the need to prove himself all the time. He then veered off into a life of crime, spending more than 30 years in and out of prison.


While incarcerated, a fellow inmate named Desperado taught him how to cut hair, which altered his life. Brown improved his talents through perseverance and repetition, eventually learning to work with all hair types.


“I was tired of doing wrong. I needed to do something right in life. I was at rock bottom and in jail. I had nothing, nowhere to turn,” he told PIX11.


Brown returned to society and discovered his calling in barbering. He began his career in a Harlem barbershop and eventually became a teacher at Manhattan’s American Barber Institute. He developed a passion for teaching others and proudly shared his knowledge with his students.


Despite having only one arm, Brown never saw it as a major hindrance to his profession.


“I never had two hands to use in learning the craft of barbering, so I always had to use one hand,” he said. “I had to learn to use a razor and had to learn how to use the machines. Once I learned it, I got it. The hardest part about cutting hair with one arm is when a person sees you with one arm and doubts you.”


Brown, like many barbers, is recognized for his precision. Every barber, he feels, must have a “razor hand.” Brown is proud of his students, such as Humberto Heras, who now teaches the craft.


“Despite what anyone else might think of you, if you love yourself and believe in yourself, you can make it,” Brown said.

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