Cut­ting it fine

Hum­ble bar­ber scoops awards

Hawke's Bay Today - - FRONT PAGE - Ge­or­gia May

He started off cut­ting hair in his garage and now Peleti Oli’s hum­ble per­sona has re­sulted in the Flaxmere bar­ber tak­ing out three na­tional awards — three years in a row.

The com­pe­ti­tion — Bar­berCraft — recog­nises the pro­fes­sion­al­ism and achieve­ments of bar­ber­ing in New Zealand, and the di­ver­sity of ser­vice avail­able to Kiwi men.

Well known bar­bers — both lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional — come to judge the event and hold a num­ber of tu­to­ri­als for as­pir­ing bar­bers.

De­spite three awards, Oli re­mained as mod­est as ever and at­trib­uted his work to his late brother Someh and his close friend who taught him his first hair­cut — John Whi­unui.

“It all started in Year 11, my friend John showed me how to do a hair­cut and then I took it on as a hobby,” he said.

Oli at­tended Hast­ings Boys’ High School and be­gan cut­ting fel­low stu­dents’ hair dur­ing his free pe­riod.

“It’s now be­come a cul­ture there, they’re still do­ing it,” Oli beamed.

With his new­found pas­sion, he con­tin­ued to test new ideas and styles on his broth­ers and friends.

“There’s five boys in my fam­ily and they were all my guinea pigs and I just prac­tised on them.

“I didn’t study, I just learnt from all my mis­takes in the garage. I was try­ing to prac­tice all these cool hair­cuts be­cause I fol­low the urban cul­ture in Amer­ica, they’ve got re­ally crazy styles and I wanted to fol­low those trends.”

Oli’s friends and broth­ers were happy to ac­com­mo­date his unique sense of style and weren’t overly fazed by the mis­takes made.

“I tried one of those new styles on my brother with the cut throat ra­zor and I thought I did re­ally well — then he started bleed­ing — so there was a bit of pres­sure to get it right.”

As his tech­nique im­proved, Oli be­gan to teach his brother Someh how to bar­ber and the tra­di­tion con­tin­ued.

Fol­low­ing in Oli’s foot­steps, Sameh went on to be­come a bar­ber for Hast­ings Boys’ High. They bought him clip­pers and called him in to cut stu­dents’ hair when it didn’t match school pro­to­col.

“They would pay him $10 per hair cut at Hast­ings Boys’, some of the teach­ers would even jump in and get a hair­cut as well.”

Sadly, Oli lost his brother to sui­cide in 2012 — and af­ter an even­tual move from Flaxmere to Hast­ings, he named his shop to hon­our Someh.

“Even though it’s bar­ber­ing, for me it’s a lot more spir­i­tual be­cause when I go to events I get up on stage and per­form and com­pete, but I do it for my brother, it’s a spir­i­tual duty for me.

“That’s why I do my best and when you win three years in a row, I at­tribute it to my brother and to my friend John who also passed away.”

In 2016 and 2017 Oli won in the Open cat­e­gory for best pat­tern.

This year, Oli took out The Masters award for best pat­tern and his col­league Sonny Naea won the Open cat­e­gory for best pat­tern.

When asked what got him through, Oli sim­ply replied that he had noth­ing to lose.

“I came from noth­ing and had noth­ing to lose — that’s where my con­fi­dence comes from — the at­ti­tude of hav­ing noth­ing and suc­ceed­ing in such a big city­dom­i­nated in­dus­try.”

De­spite mul­ti­ple party in­vites af­ter his win, Oli chose to cel­e­brate his achieve­ments with his wife and some good ol’ KFC.

"I didn’t study, I just learnt from all my mis­takes in the garage." Peleti Oli

PHOTO / DUN­CAN BROWN

Hast­ings bar­ber Peleti Oli, win­ner of the Mas­ter Cre­ator and Mas­ter Pat­tern cat­e­gories at the na­tional Bar­berCraft com­pe­ti­tion, pic­tured with his sons Je­siah Oli (left), 7, and Someh Oli, 6.

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