This Brooklyn Hairdresser Has An Unusual — & Inspiring — Story

Trusting your hairdresser to not totally botch your ‘do is one thing, but trusting them to not accidentally knick you with their scissors is another. Yet that quandary hasn’t stopped Brooklyn barber David Arce from become one of the best-known groomers in the borough — in fact, he might be all the better for it.
Arce, who works at Tomcats Barbershop in Brooklyn, has Tourette’s syndrome, a nervous system disorder characterized by uncontrollable tics, defined as repetitive, involuntary movement or vocalization. For Arce, that means he experiences arm spasms several times a minute, a symptom you’d think would preclude him from ever being legally permitted to handle a straight razor near a stranger’s face.
That discrepancy isn’t lost on the 28-year-old, who jokingly told the New York Post, “I was compared to Sweeney Todd once.” But despite his condition, Arce has earned a reputation as a highly sought-after barber. According to a writeup on local blog Greenpointers, he’s even been credited for having an influential role in popularizing the undercut, which is now universally regarded as part of the “Brooklyn hipster look.”
The extra work and dedication he’s put in to overcome his setbacks is a crucial part of what’s made Arce so skilled. In fact, he’s learned to work with his tics, not against them, to hone his craft. “It’s not, like, a terminal illness, you know what I’m saying?” he said in I AM D Razorz, a mini-documentary about his life that was released last year. “It’s just, you know, forever dancing.”
That’s one excellent way of putting it. You can watch Arce tell his story and do his thing in the 13-minute movie, or you can make an appointment to experience the masterful barber’s work for yourself. Relax — you’re in good, if not exactly steady, hands.

More from Hair

R29 Original Series