A cut above the rest

2019-12-03 06:00
Warren TheunisPHOTO: samantha Lee-Jacobs

Warren TheunisPHOTO: samantha Lee-Jacobs

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He slept on the floor of his backyard barbershop for two years while staying off the streets and away from drugs.

Now Warren Theunis is giving back to the industry that saved his life by “trying to make barbering cool again.”

“I want to see barbering be valued as a profession; something that is cool, that kids strive to become one day. I want barbering to receive the respect it deserves,” says Theunis.

His passion for the craft stems from the role it has played in him becoming the person he is today.

“I was a drug addict from the age of 15 to 20. I was doing drugs every day and that was my lifestyle.

“I dropped out of school and because my mother wasn’t very happy with me she kicked me out,” he says.

He adds that his addiction became progressively worse; from smoking dagga to buttons and then to doing rocks.

“My drug habit was aggressive. On 25 May 2000 I gave up on drugs. I remember being drugged out of my mind, having uppers and downers the night before.

“I was up early that Sunday morning and ironing my pants when a friend asked me why I was ironing and if I was going to church. Being cocky, I said ‘yes, are you going with’. Here we have these two drug addicts heading off to church. On that day I got saved and really started loving God.”

He began offering free haircuts and found his passion.

Succumbing to societal pressures, he accepted a job in sales, but he never felt he was living his purpose.

“I felt like I lost my way, as if I was doing something to please other people, because we are pressured into wanting to do something more mainstream because it pleases someone else,” he says.

After being retrenched he decided to venture into barbering full time.

He took his last wage and bought a basic clipper kit.

He had converted his bedroom in his grandmother’s backyard into a barbershop.

He says he owes much of his success in staying clean on his determination to make barbering a success while sleeping on the floor of this shop.

Since then he has put much of his focus on getting barbers to become qualified, compliant and seeing the industry become more regulated.

He has achieved this through advocating for funding from SETAs, working on and with the boards of various bodies, establishing the Western Cape Barbering Association, running and facilitating workshops on health and safety and teaching as part of qualifications.

“I spent the first few years just sharpening my craft and then for the last 10 years, I have been working and focusing on every other barber. In order to do that I first needed to sharpen my own skills,” he says.

Theunis is also the South African owner to the rights for BarberCraft SA. BarberCraft started out in New Zealand in 2016 and recognises the professionalism and achievements of barbering in their country, and the diversity of services available to Kiwi men.

After attending BarberCraft in 2017, The Claremont resident enquired about bringing the exhibition to South Africa and was able to buy the rights to present the event in the country, with the first event held in 2018 and the 2019 edition held in October.

In noticing his advances in the industry and his nature of giving back through his Groomed for Change initiatives, Theunis was approached by fashion retailer, Markham who offered him an in-store barbershop at the Golden Acre in the CBD.

Theunis also owns Urban Cuts in Strandfontein where he started Groomed for Change, which sees the shop offer free haircuts to pensioners on a set Wednesday of every month.

“When I accepted it, I signed the contract that will see this shop handed over to the next young barber who will be trained to take over it and take ownership. Right now, 20% of all proceeds of this shop goes toward Groomed for Change,” he says.

This pays for meals and supplies for the pensioners.

Theunis soon realised there was further opportunity for him to use the platform to help educate the seniors and create a platform for socialising.

“As addictive as my personality was in doing drugs and all the bad things, that’s how addicted I am to doing good now,” he says.

“Seniors are very close to my heart. It started as a senior’s day at my shop and then listening to their stories I saw many of them found it difficult to embrace senior or retired life. It so quickly grew to more than 65 seniors coming to the shop,” he says.

“I want it to be more than just a haircut. It must be a haircut plus education.”

His hope is to see the project grow beyond Strandfontein, with several other shops offering a chair or two to expand the reach of the programme.

“It is not about me or the fact that I started the initiative. I just want to see the project grow so that all seniors can benefit. This is a great need and he seniors must be taken care of,” he says.

  • For more information on how to get involved, visit www.mrbarbersa.co.za.

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