Address: 151 Sydney Rd, Coburg VIC 3058
Phone: (03) 9386 9498
From a chat with Ross that has been edited.
I was a hairdresser in Calabria, Italy, and I was 19 when I came to Australia.
But I was working in the salon with my father from the age of six. I have two brothers, and we all did the same apprenticeship under him.
At the age of 11, I started to do my first shave. When I was 13 or 14, I began doing haircuts. Growing up in a small town in Italy there was nothing to do, so you had to learn a trade. My father made that choice for me. I didn’t make it.
My brother came here in 1965, and he did the paperwork for me to move to Australia in 1971. My father put me on the ship – SS Galileo Galilei – and I came here on my own. If I had the money, I would have moved back within the first six months.
It was tough. I had no English and I just knew my brother and a cousin.
I started to work in the city from day one, off Collins St.
I had a job as a hairdresser and hairstylist lined up with a man named Edward Bill. I worked with him for six years.
Back in the day – during The Beatles era – everyone had long hair. It used to be the difference between barber shops and hair stylists. Barbers used to do short, back and sides, and nothing else. We specialised in long hair at the time, as that was the fashion.
I didn’t go to school to learn anything, but I have been doing this all my life.
About 50 years.
Domenic started in 1974 and we began working together in 1977.
He was working near Melville Rd, and he heard of me through a friend of mine.
I cut his hair once and he liked the way I did it. We became partners from there.
We moved across the road in 1981, designed everything and we’ve been here since.
Everything you see has been here from the start.
The older it gets, the better it looks.
I still enjoy the work, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.
I’ve been doing this for a long time, and it’s the only thing I know how to do.
So many of our customers have been coming for the last 40 years. We have a customer who is the third generation getting his hair cut here.
It’s all word of mouth, and it’s the best advertising.
We have loyal clients and, if you do a good job, they keep coming back.
I didn’t see my parents for 19 years.
From 1971 to 1990.
You start a family, buy a house and other things come up. That’s the life of a migrant. After three or four years, you make up your mind on whether to stay or go.
And if you go back 25 years, there was a big Italian community in Coburg with a lot of coffee bars. It made the transition easier and, in this business, you make friends very easily.
Now it’s a lot of young families moving in from other areas. If you work in the city, it’s easy to get there from Sydney Rd, so new people are coming in all the time.
Some customers say, “I’m here to see Ross,” and others say “I’m here to see Domenic.”
We try to please customers as much as we can.
What I’m doing now, I was doing 50 years ago.
I can retrain myself without going to school, and learn on the job with new experiences.
The skill is already in my hands, head and in my imagination. Because I have had so much training, it comes to me automatically.
And you have to have a creative mind, otherwise you can’t do it. If I see a face, I think, “I can do that.”
I can create my own sort of style, and my own way of cutting.
Customers tell me their life story.
This job can be like therapy, or confession. You hear a lot of stories everyday.
But it is not an easy sort of trade.
The customer has to trust you, and judgment comes from the people.
If you do a good job, they’ll come back.
Domenic and I don’t interfere with each other’s work.
We respect each other for what we do, that’s why we get along. Most marriages don’t last this long.
There are 12 barbers from here to Moreland Rd, we’ve been here the longest and we still survive.
We see the same faces, along with a few others who then become regulars. That’s how this shop has been built.
Through doing a good job, and with friendship.
Written by Aron Lewin, with all photos by Tatiana C C Scott