A fascination with cutting hair has led Horsham’s Peter Wood to a successful lifetime career spanning nearly half a century.
When Peter was sent to boarding school in Melbourne, he started cutting other students’ hair and they paid him for it.
He thought that was okay, so he completed a hairdressing course when he finished school.
At the time, in the very early 1970s, the fashion for men was long hair and beards. Peter thought there would not be much money in barbering, so he went for hairdressing instead.
He joined Gordon Hall, which was based in Geelong but had salons in many major towns including Horsham.
Peter started work in Warrnambool in 1971 before a vacancy came up in Horsham and he moved back home.
“I’ve been here ever since,” he said.
In 1981 he and another hairdresser from Gordon Hall opened their own business as a partnership until 1992, when Peter went solo.
Until 2015 Peter had operated from a shop in Roberts Avenue, before moving into his current premises in Bradbury Lane.
The salon in Roberts Avenue had been at the back of another shop. When that shop closed in 1987, Peter and his partner bought it and knocked down the dividing wall to create one big shop.
It eventually became too big, leading Peter to move into smaller premises.
He now rents chairs to a couple of regular hairdressers and a few more casual hairdressers, which helps them in having a place of business and helps him in paying the rent.
Peter said he had witnessed fashions come and go over his 48 years in the business.
Even the mullet is making a comeback.
Peter laughed when he remembered a family photo he saw recently of himself taken in the 1990s, where he was sporting long hair hanging over his shoulder.
“You went with the fashion,” he said.
Now, with his years of experience, he tries to tell young people that what they are asking for in a hairstyle is not the fashion. But they don’t care.
“They want to be different, make a statement. They want to be noticed,” he said.
“We just wanted to fit in with the fashion.
“I’m in the old farts league.”
For Peter, it’s all about the cutting. Though he has done – and still does – colours and perms for his regulars, his greatest satisfaction comes from giving a good haircut.
Peter said he did end up completing a barber’s course through TAFE in 1990.
However if he had waited a bit longer, he would not have needed to go to the expense and trouble. Just as he finished his course, the government announced that anyone doing hairdressing could also do barbering.
Peter learned to shave with a cut-throat razor, but he said that was a skill that had sat on the shelf.
Peter still uses his original brush and razor from the kit he received when completing his hairdressing course.
“They would be 48 years old now,” he said. “Of course they’ve been cleaned many times.”
Products have changed over time as well, with some well-known brands that used to be sold exclusively to professional salons now on the shelves in supermarkets.
“For years and years we were told these were the best products, now they’re on the supermarket shelves,” Peter said.
He moved to different products and agrees with the trend towards more natural alternatives. He even stocks a locally-made organic product.
“People are becoming more aware of what’s in things now,” he said.
Peter’s business has stood the test of time in Horsham, and he is optimistic about the town and its potential.
“Horsham is a growing city compared to other little district towns where everything has been taken out of them,” he said.
The long-term success of his business is reflected in his care for his customers.
Peter still cuts hair for people who first came to him in the 1970s. For some of them, it is one of their only weekly outings and socialising opportunities in the community.
“You become good friends with customers,” Peter said.
“With the older people, they enjoy the outing. They come in taxis and with carers and it’s an outing.
You become good friends with customers. With the older people, they enjoy the outing. They come in taxis and with carers and it’s an outing. We have a bit of fun and brighten their day up.Peter Wood
“We have a bit of fun and brighten their day up.”
Peter used to play a lot of sport until a dodgy ankle slowed him down for a few years. After an operation last year where he was out of action for about nine weeks – something that nearly drove him mad – Peter said he was ready to get back into being more active through walking, cycling and swimming.
And with his last child finished at university, he might look at moving into a more part-time role with his work. But retirement is not on the horizon – not while he still enjoys his profession so much.