Real deal from a real barber

Werner Gamma tends to a client. Photos: Bruce Barnard.

When I booked in for a haircut this week, Werner could only give me half an hour. More than enough time to do the job, but still not enough time.

Because I pay $29 for a complete experience - to hang out with Werner, to relax, to have a civilised chat, exchange blokey banter, and get a good haircut. And you can’t do all that satisfactorily in half an hour.

He is a barber, a master craftsman who’s plied his trade from Zurich to South Africa, and points in between, and now Tauranga. From Werner’s chair at Strandz End Barber, 27 The Strand, you gets vistas of Tauranga Harbour.

“My father was a barber, my sister was a barber, it’s in my blood. I tried other things and then came back to making people look good.”

Werner Gamma, barber, and I are aligned.

A good haircut goes without saying, but it’s also a catalyst for greater things.

“I just like talking stuff with people.” And he has a lifetime of stuff to share. He’s of Swiss origin, but a global citizen. He’s seen places and done stuff. and he is an astute observer of life itself because he has lived a bit of it.

To maximise my $29 I like to book in late on a Saturday morning. Because Werner can turn a ‘15 trim and tidy’ into an hour long variety show. We expound, we hoot, we grumble, we share, we agree, and we disagree. And all the time he is bringing decades of craftsmanship to making me look good. He suggests, he tweaks, he cares, and I enjoy.

Is $29 a cheap cut from a barber? I don’t think so. You can get a $17 job up the road, once round the ears, no-nonsense, no chat and out the door, thank you very much. I pay $29 for a product delivered with finesse and theatre.

Before Werner Gamma, I endured an Auckland salon where swank was the standard, a giggle of girls tut-tutting over what’s left of my hair, an Italian espresso coffee machine, and a vibrating massage chair. All I wanted was a haircut with an old fashion neck shave. A nice clean finish.

In Auckland they mention the dreaded ‘P’ word. P for product, which can easily double the cost of a haircut.

Product to me is Bay Rum, originally distilled from Bayberry leaves and rum. My father used it, my grandfather before him. Werner sells Bay Rum. There’s history and memories in a bottle of Bay Rum.

In just 12 months Werner has become a confidante. He knows more about me than most. I trust Werner implicitly with my secrets, my prejudices, my forlorn hopes. And there’s humour.

John wanders into the shop and apologises for being ten minutes early. “You are ten minutes early,” replies Werner. “I am ten minutes late, so everything fits just perfectly.” There’s logic there somewhere.

Another bloke whispers to me that we are lucky to have Werner. I know what he means. And no matter where life takes me, I will return to Werner’s for a tidy and an experience.