Booming barbering industry looks to sharpen its blade
When Julian Maloney shampooed Thea Muldoon's hair in Remuera as a teenager he never expected being a barber would become the "blossoming, recognised, respected" career path people talked about today.
But after 30 years in the hair industry, the owner of Auckland's popular Maloney's Barber Shop has seen barbering's popularity ramp up like never before.
Record numbers of people have picked up razors and clippers to train to shape and tame hair and beards to perfection.
That barbering boom meant every new building or shopping centre fitout came with the expectation a barber shop would open with it, he said.
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"Ten years ago there were 10 barbershops in the [Auckland] CBD, now there's 30.
"There are extra people in town, but there's not that many."
For Maloney, it has all been driven by people wanting to both go to, and become, barbers.
Maloney started with a women's hairdressing apprenticeship in 1987, at a time when hairdressers made fun of barbers who were seen to be older guys who did one style of haircut.
As a teenager who rode a scooter and wore Doc Martins, he quickly discovered shampooing hair was not really for him.
A move to Christchurch, and some advice from a late boss, planted the seed of opening his own men's cutting bar, but it was not until he went to the United Kingdom that he first worked in a traditional barbershop.
Barbering had peaked during the 1930s to 1950s, before The Beatles came along and barbers refused to cut the newly popular long hair.
As a result, men's hairdressing became popular and men stopped going to barber shops.
By the time Maloney came back to New Zealand in 1994, he did not see himself as either a hairdresser or a "crusty, old" barber.
A new generation of barbers formed and Maloney opened his shop in 2003 as part of this wave.
Men who had previously paid about $70 at a hairdresser could now get a haircut for $25, and business boomed: the store has since expanded from one floor to three.
At the same time, people saw it as being relatively easy to start and a cool thing to do, and barbering also presented a great opportunity for new immigrants, particularly from countries where traditional barbering was strong.
The influence of "urban barbering" out of the United States, associated with hip hop music and fashion, had also contributed to the boom.
Hairdressers he spoke to were losing their male clients, Maloney said.
"There is an image that goes with barbering now that's really appealing.
"If you want to get tattooed on your neck and have metal in your face and maybe listen to your music and maybe express your own individuality, at a barber shop you can do it.
"As long as you can work hard you can, but that's completely driven by, and has to be driven by, the consumer and people wanting to go to barbers."
Statistics New Zealand data showed the number of hairdressing and beauty service businesses in the country has been expanding, as well as the number of people employed in the industry.
The average men's dry haircut was priced at $28 at the moment, up from about $20 ten years ago, while a wet haircut was about $40.
Women's wet haircuts, meanwhile, had an average price of $68, up from $50 ten years ago.
The Government-funded Hair and Beauty Industry Training Organisation (HITO), which developed qualifications for the industry, has seen more interest in barber training than ever before.
This has particularly been the case since 2013, and has been coupled with an influx of interest from Maori and Pacific Islanders.
HITO marketing manager Marama Cole said there had been a change in culture which saw a lot more men going to barbers.
Men were not afraid to worry about their looks these days, while younger people were realising you did not have to go to university to start a career.
The country's tourism boom had also had an impact on demand, Cole said, because people travelling here were from countries where going to a barber for a cut or shave was normal.
"It's just a way of life, a regular thing that everybody does."
Cole expected the number of barber trainees would increase a lot over the coming years.
"We have certainly had a lot more interest than ever before."
With the boom has come an industry recognition for maturation, however.
Cole said barbering had self-moderated well as an industry, but more needed to be done to maintain standards.
HITO was reviewing its barbering and hairdressing courses to better fit what people were asking for, with an eye to building a brand similar to the Master Builder stamp in construction.
Maloney said it was important people understood the standards, which about 70 to 80 per cent of the industry were at, and that they were not lowered just to get more people in.
"Not everyone gets on with everyone but the industry's so new that if you create a really good standard it's only going to get better and better."
He believed consumers would decide whether the boom would last: long hair would inevitably come back into fashion, which meant barbers had to be ready to adapt.
For Cole, the number of barber shops opening would have a natural tapering off.
"But I don't see the number of shops going down.
"There's been no scandal or anything, which is really good."