Galashiels man Luigi Caterino has had a long history in the barbering trade. And having started out in the profession aged just ten, it seems that all the years of practice have most definitely paid off.
Luigi, who own The Italian Job barbershop in the town’s Channel Street, beat off razor sharp competition at the regional final in the search for Britain’s Best Wet Shaving Barber, and will now go head to head with the top seven competitors from across the UK at the grand final, to be held at the prestigious Celtic Manor hotel near Newport on May 25.
“The competition is very important to me for many reasons”, says Luigi.
“Obviously it allows me to demonstrate what I do, and it’s an opportunity to build my reputation as a barber. However, it means more to me than simply winning.
“I am representing my family’s business and carrying on the traditions my family started in Naples. It is important to me that barbering is recognised as a skill, a profession.”
Luigi’s father was first to dip his toe into the proverbial water when it comes to the family trade, but later had to give up the profession and become a carpenter when he found that the wage he was making was not enough to support his family.
However, it did not end there.
“My father was passionate about this profession and moved to Naples when he was 17, in the early 1960s, to follow his dream”, Luigi explains.
“ He trained for 3 years and opened his own shop when he was just 20 years old.
“He still works there today, and is one of the few traditional barbers left that still uses the old belt/razor skill.”
Luigi himself was brought up in the barbering environment, and from the age of ten would head straight to his father’s shop after school.
“I started from the bottom, helping out by sweeping up hair and hanging up jackets”, he says.
“My father built a special box for me to stand on so I could put the shaving foam onto the clients faces – it started as a bit of a joke.
“My older brother Franco was to follow in the family business. However, he died tragically and my other brother Antonio went into catering, so my father needed someone to help him.
“He sat me down and said: ” Now is the time for you to replace your brother.” I was 15 years old.”
In 2003, Luigi made the momentous decision to move to the UK in order to further pursue his dream.
“Unfortunately my English was not very good, and no barber would give me work, so I started work as a waiter for my brother who had an Italian restaurant in Melrose”, he explains.
Nine years later, he was given a chance to do show off his skills by a barber in Galashiels, who gave him a chair one day a week.
He said: “After he saw me work it became three days a week.”
Luigi now runs his own very successful barbershop in the town, and is relishing the prospect of representing Scotland in the competition final.
The event is to take place inside a boxing ring at the Barber Connect 2014, where competitors will face a grueling speed shaving challenge, with the winner walking away with 3k of grooming products from The Bluebeards Revenge, as well as a starring role in a shaving commercial – not to mention, of course, the prestigious title of Britain’s Best Wet Shaving Barber.
Tickets to the final are still available, and can be purchased at www.barberblades.co.uk .