Men who won’t change with times

Sakhawe Ahmed trims his client’s mustache, Mohamed Khalifah, using a flat razor. PHOTO | COURTESY
Sakhawe Ahmed trims his client’s mustache, Mohamed Khalifah, using a flat razor. PHOTO | COURTESY 

A barbershop in Mombasa is selling a kind of nostalgia to customers who remember the old times of grooming products; razors and scissors.

At a time when barbershops are closing, ushering in a new era of men salons, 62-year-old Sumar Zakria and his brother Sakhawe Mohamed Ahmed, 40, have maintained the old school styles of cutting hair.

Sumar, who has been in the business of cutting hair for more than 30 years, uses scissors and razors. His father was also a barber.

At their Al Hayat barbershop, you will rarely find young people coming in but older loyal customers who love a ‘‘classic’’ shave.

“I use the scissors to trim the hair, reduce the beard with the machine and finish with the razor blade to get a clean hair line cut. We were taught by our father and with interest we were able to develop the skill,” Sumar says, adding that they get about 15 to 20 people a day.

The barbers have tried to modernise but have only added shaving creams and head massages.

As women walk into men’s salons to shave their hair and get additional services such as neck and shoulder massages, Sumar says they cannot serve women because of religion.

“It is against our religion. It is not permissible to interact or touch a woman who is not your wife or sibling,” Sumar says.

One of their clients, Mohamed Khalifah says he finds it more relaxing while the barbers exercise their art on his head.

“With a razor blade and scissors, you get a perfect shave. This has been my barbershop for four and a half years,’’ he says.

Issak Hassan, another customer who is in his late 70s says he has frequented the barbershop since it was located at Marikiti.

“Sumar is my friend since our heydays. I love his work and this is because he uses the scissors. He has been my barber for the last 10 years,” he says.

For Issak, cutting hair using scissors and razor blade requires mastery.

‘‘The scissors makes the barber concentrate and be keen on his work unlike using the clippers. The youth love quick money, easy jobs and that is one of their undoing. They want to quickly use the hair clippers,” he said.

The traditional haircut is not, however, cheaper. They charge from Sh100 to Sh450.
The old style in hair grooming comes with its benefits.

“Whenever there is no power, it is business as usual for us.”

The two brothers have four old-fashioned heavy duty razor blades made from steel which they sterilise after use.

Sumar and his brother are now teaching the younger barbers to use scissors.

‘‘But most of the youngsters have no interest in the scissors. They even do not know how to handle the scissor and it is a pity,” he says.

Modern barber

Moses Kituwai, a younger barber is among those working in men salons that ditched the old-school styles. His salon deals with women and has masseurs and a customer can get a pedicure and manicure.

His customers are also trendier and they want hairstyles that they seen on the Internet.

Moses’ hair-cutting skills has seen him win awards.

“This job is sensitive, you deal with people’s looks and any mess will make you lose clients,” he says.

As a hairstylist, not just a barber, he does not only rely on word-of-mouth, he uses Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to market his business.