After 43 years of being an “institution” in Lansdowne, Harry Nathoo, 68, decided it was time to close his barber shop.
On Tuesday January 30, many of his clients and neighbouring business people popped in at Gents Barber, in Lansdowne Road, as they came to greet him on his last day.
Mr Nathoo, known by locals as Mr Harry, was still at school when he learnt the trade by helping his late father, Chagan Nathoo, and his late uncle, Bugla Nathoo, at their barber shop in District Six after school and on weekends.
“I wanted to be a motor mechanic, but those years, because of apartheid, I did not have that opportunity. My uncle died at the age of 53, so my father opened a barber shop in Cape Town. By that time, I worked for another barber in Crawford. I worked there for two years, and when he moved to Mitchell’s Plain, I decided not to go with him. I then heard about the barber shop in Lansdowne that was up for sale, and I told my father about it. Then my father bought it for me.”
He remembers when he started there were only three styles of haircuts for men.
“The GI, or government-issued, for the men in the military; the French cut, now known as a fade, and the American, which I can describe as a gentleman’s cut with sideburns. I never had any specific training. The guys just brought me a photo and asked me to cut it like that.”
Over the years at his barber shop, he served up to three generations in a family. Most of his clients have become friends, he said.
Asked what he would miss the most, Mr Nathoo said: “I will miss the people the most. Even when I was just sitting outside on a quiet day, so many people who passed the shop would greet me. I have made so many friends. I am a bit sad, but my wife is very happy that I will spend more time at home.”
He thanked all his clients over the years, saying he is grateful for their support and friendships.
Berenice Warden, who had a shop next door to Mr Nathoo, was among those who came to greet him.
“Harry is an absolute gem. We have a shop next door and we have been friends who became family. I’m going to miss him. This was the place where we came to blow off steam, have good conversation as well as coffee and biscuits with Harry’s wife, Neeru,” Ms Warden said.
Mr Nathoo will continue doing haircuts from his home in Lansdowne, but he said he would be working on a much smaller scale.