When Larry Sutherland left school at 16 to be a barber his first ever client was a boot maker from the shop right next door.
Last week, and 50 years on, Larry is still cutting Les Sangster’s hair.
Larry says when he started at Ted Wilkes Barber Shop on the Rutherford St end of Hardy St the barber shop was a busy place but he always remembered his first haircut. Les was in his mid-thirties and was about to buy the boot maker business he worked in off the Smith brothers.
They say Nelson city was a different place back then.
“There were about 50 Barbers around in those days,” says Larry. “After about ten or 15 years that went down to about half a dozen because the Beatles came out in ’63 and everyone wanted long hair and they all went to women’s hairdressers.”
He says the barber shop was a meeting place for men and often there would be eight or nine men waiting for a haircut on a Friday night while their wives shopped in the city. He says for men who didn’t like to drink in the pubs, the barber shop was a place they could meet, talk and even play pool.
Les says being a boot maker was a busy business 50 years ago, making and mending shoes for people all over the district. They even made all the shoes for the hospital and had to make three shoes at a time for amputees because one shoe would wear through so much quicker than the other.
Les’ haircut hasn’t changed much over the decades says Larry but the friendship has certainly developed. “We’ve talked about all sorts over the years and when I came back to being a barber 15 years ago Les was one of the first that was back in my chair. I should be able to cut his hair blindfolded by now,” he joked.
Les wasn’t too keen for Larry to give it a go but says he trusts him so much he doesn’t even tell him want he wants, he just lets Larry go for it. He says he can’t imagine having another barber. “I think I’ve got him for life. If I don’t like what he does by now it’s a bit late to say so.”