Slice of Life: “People like telling their problems to strangers”

Opening my first barbershop – in Johannesburg’s Melville – was the best feeling. It’s like having your first baby; it was a very happy moment.

To open my own barbershop, using my own designs and style, was one of my dreams as a boy in Jordan. The name of my first shop was Youseph Barber Shop.

I was about 26 at the time and I had just arrived in South Africa. I was a barber in Jordan and I had been doing it for a long time but I was young and wanted to see the world. I had that shop for two years and then I moved to another location.

My grandfather was also a barber. I learned a lot from him, not only how to cut hair but also how to thread (removing unwanted hair using cotton thread). You mainly find threading in India but he taught me that special skill.

But I love cutting hair more. It was my dream and now it’s my job. My grandfather passed down the old-school way of cutting hair but now I know the new fashions, too. My grandfather passed away before I opened my first shop but I know he would have been proud.


I have been cutting hair for about 17 or 18 years now. My favourite part of having a barbershop is that people tell me their stories and problems when I cut their hair. I’m like their therapist – I always ask if they need to talk. My customers become my friends. We talk about each other’s families and wives and sport.

It’s always short, about 15 minutes, and it’s always with strangers. People like telling their problems to strangers. – Rosebank barber Leo “Zohan” Aldardanji (39), as told to Youlendree Appasamy

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Youlendree Appasamy
Youlendree Appasamy
Youlendree Appasamy is a freelance writer and journalist based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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