Tomai Te Peeti is an artist with an eye for the hirsute – that’s a smart word for “hairy”.
But unlike many artists, he’s got his feet firmly on the ground. He’s starting his own barber shop, looking to establish himself in business early in life so he can look after his partner, Hinewai, their month-old son, and a nephew and niece aged 10 and 8 who came to live with them a year ago.
It’s a tall order for a young man born and brought up in Ōtaki where he confesses he “got into a bit of mischief”. But the impression is that Tomai will do OK. He’s going into business eyes wide open, aware that he needs to put in some serious effort to make things work.
The new barber shop, due to open on April 27, is among the shops surrounding Reds Cafe in Arthur Street. Called Most Faded – after an American trend of “fading” the length of hair – the shop is to be what Tomai calls traditional barbering for men of all ages and hair choices.
“I like to think of it as a man cave – somewhere guys can come in and feel comfortable, whether they’re a young dude who wants a flash cut and beard styling, or an older guy who just wants a clean cut and a shave,” Tomai says.
“We’ve got traditional barber chairs, I love using cut-throat razors and you’ll get a hot towel at the end of it,” he says with a grin.
The image of wild west barbers shaving the lathered face of a cowboy would not be out of place here.
Assuming a wild west lack of professionalism, however, would be. After doing some building work and teaching at a local kohanga reo, Tomai worked for several years with barber Andy Ross of Andy’s Barber Shop at Paraparaumu Beach. It was the best on-the-job training he could get.
“Andy taught me heaps,” Tomai says. “And not just about how to cut and style hair. There’s customer relationships, looking after the business, all that sort of stuff.”
With the blessing and support of Andy and Tomai’s wider whānau, Tomai now has the opportunity to have his own barber shop – and he’s making the most of it.