Cutting it fine
Humble barber scoops awards
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
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.