Slice of Life: ‘I’m not a writer. I’m a barber’

(Hiram Alejandro Durán/ M&G)

(Hiram Alejandro Durán/ M&G)

I’ve been cutting hair at Scala for 50 years now, and I’ve learned something new about life from every customer that sits in my chair. They tell me everything. They trust me with their stories and in return I offer my advice.
It’s my job to leave them feeling refreshed when they walk out the door.

When I first started writing, I was just trying to not forget what I had learned that day. I wanted to write it all in this book by hand and pass it down to my children and grandchildren. It is their legacy, after all (especially since there is no guarantee the barbershop will remain open after I retire). But when I mention my idea to customers and people who’ve spent some time in Melville they always say, “Yo chief, please, I’d like to get a copy.”

There’s just something about Melville. Maybe it’s the bars, shops and restaurants that draw people here. Or maybe it’s the fact that you can go anywhere in this neighbourhood and speak to someone you’ve never met like you’ve known them your whole life.

Whatever it is, it worked on me. And it’s fed my stories.

I’d like to do my book properly. I’d like it to be successful in Johannesburg and across South Africa, but I don’t know if that’s possible at the moment. I don’t have a publisher, agent, fancy layout or anything else required to successfully sell a book. I’m not a writer, I’m a barber, and this book is nothing more than one person’s memory of Melville throughout the years.

Don’t worry, this book isn’t a sign of retirement. It’s a collection of everything I’ve learned so far. — Fred Moss, owner and sole barber of Scala Gents Hair Salon, which has been in Mellville, Jo’burg, since 1967, as told to Hiram Alejandro Durán

Hiram Alejandro Durán

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