Hanging up the clippers after 50 years

Faiek Karlie cutting his son, Nithaam Karlies, hair.

When Ottery resident Faiek Karlie, 72, spent his holidays with his grandmother in Simon’s Town as a young boy he could never have imagined the success he would have in the town as the local barber.

He recently retired after 50 years in business.

He ran the Cosmos barbershop in the Dawood building, now condemned, for 41 years before moving to the main road for six years.

He recently moved to Wickboom Lane and celebrated the opening of the new shop on Saturday September 5.

As it was also his and his wife Jasmina’s golden wedding anniversary, his family decided to throw him a surprise retirement party as well.

“As my son drove up the road, I was wondering why there were so many people outside the shop, and as we got closer, I started recognising all the familiar old faces,” Mr Karlie said.

As a young man, Mr Karlie started working as a builder but soon realised it wasn’t for him. His father’s friend, who was a barber in Retreat, then agreed to teach him the tricks of the trade, and he worked there for a few years before taking over from the Simon’s Town barber in 1973.

It was also the year his eldest son, Nithaam, who will take over the reins from him,- was born.

Mr Karlie and his family stayed in Vanguard Estate at the time and he travelled by train. He soon became a familiar face in town, and as he walked through the streets of Simon’s Town he would be greeted by one shopowner after the other, and on some days he would get to the shop and there would be a queue outside.

Most of his customers were from the dockyard, the navy or the police.

“Simon’s Town was busy at that time, and I worked long hours and would never show anyone away even if they arrived at closing time,” he said.

After operating for a few years, the navy approached Mr Karlie to become the navy barber. He says he would have been the first barber of colour in the navy, but he declined the offer and continued running his shop.

At the time, a haircut cost less than R1.

He recalls cutting out a large chunk of hair from a young man’s head in his early years.

“He had very thick hair, and I struggled to get the clipper through it. I applied a bit of pressure and the attachment on the clipper came off and I cut a chunk out of his hair.”

And that is why he still places one finger on the clipper attachment today.

“Just in case it comes off.”

Mr Karlie says he was grateful when his son, Nithaam, showed interest in his work. He has been working with his father for the past 20 years.

“I taught him myself, and he was a quick learner. He also cuts with one finger on the clipper’s attachment.”

Throughout the years, Mr Karlie became friends with many of his customers and knows them by name.

“I’m also known as the poor man’s psychologist. I’ve heard the most amazing stories throughout the years, and sometimes I would just listen when they needed an ear.”

Nitaam says he is happy to continue his father’s legacy.

Long-standing customer and friend, Krzysztof Tanewski, met Mr Karlie about 15 years ago.

“I had a great interest in the Muslim community and religion, and Faiek helped me to learn more about it,” he says. “He even arranged a visit to a mosque for me.”

Mr Tanewski says Mr Karlie always insisted on cutting his hair shorter than he had asked for. “But he did so brilliantly.”

Mr Tanewski describes Mr Karlie as a kind, gentle and polite man.

“He is a famous man. Everyone in town knows him.”