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Meet Elyas and Yunoos, the formidable duo behind Son & Dad Barber in historic Georgetown, Penang.
You could say that it runs in the family for Elyas bin Yunoos (owner and the ‘son’ in the Penang-based Son & Dad Barber), that it was in his blood to take up the same profession his father, Yunoos bin Salleh, did close to four decades ago, even if he did not realise it when he was younger.
“When I was kid, I was very much intrigued by the calming buzz the razor would make,” Elyas recalls. “Once, when I got home from school, I just picked up one of my dad’s razors he had lying around, and with only a ruler, gave my friend a close shave.”
“Funnily enough, it worked!” he adds with a laugh.
Of course, when one hears about a family inherited business (rare, in this time and age), one would like it to be somewhat of a fairy tale; something along the lines of, “I used to follow my dad to work when I was a kid,” so on and so forth. And perhaps, that moment when Elyas gave his friend a ‘haircut’ would be the moment he realised his aspiration to be like his father one day.
But that wasn’t quite how it began for him. When Elyas was younger, he had wanted to become a professional footballer instead. Unfortunately, he was met with a serious injury, and his dreams of becoming a footballer professionally came to a screeching halt.
“It was a rather depressing time for me back then, not knowing what to do next,” Elyas recounts. “One day, my dad sat me down, and gave me an ultimatum. He told me that I had two choices: I can either become a hairstylist like him, or a car mechanic.”
“I grew up seeing my dad work as a hairstylist, so back then, in the eyes of my younger self, it did seem easier to just get into the same profession, compared to fixing up cars, which I knew nothing about,” he adds. “I figured, if my dad can do it, why can’t I?”
It was easier said (or in this case, seen) than done, of course, whether it was “in his blood” to do this or not. Little did young Elyas knew back then that many challenges still laid ahead for him; it was more than just picking up a razor and giving a close shave with a mere ruler for measurement. Elyas had to take classes from his dad’s friend, and even complete a short stint with a hairstyling academy.
“I have to be honest, there wasn’t much passion in me for hairstyling, and halfway through, I did feel like giving it up altogether,” Elyas says. “But I suppose, practise makes perfect, much like how being a footballer would be like if I did go down that path. And the better I got at it, the stronger the passion grew, and got me going to where I am today.”
Yunoos, his father, worked at a hairdresser from 1980 to 1990, before venturing into other businesses. It wasn’t until the turn of the millennium that the family got back into the hairdressing business, when Elyas decided to open up his own hair salon - a smaller one compared to the one Yunoos used to work in.
Elyas was already working in the hair salon for six years, when a visit to Singapore changed the entire course of his career in years to come. The son stumbled upon The Panic Room, a barbershop located in Geylang. Seeing how things were done over there, which was a whole new concept in the hairgrooming industry, gave Elyas the inspiration to start up his own barbershop in his hometown of Penang.
“I actually learned all I needed to learn about men’s barbering on YouTube, if you can believe it!”, Elyas mentions heartily. “My friend and I would sit down in front of the computer for hours on end, just teaching ourselves about all sorts of grooming techniques.”
“To be honest, there isn’t much difference between what a hair salon and a barbershop has to offer, besides the more technical flim flam of things that I’d rather not get into or we’ll be here all day,” he says. “I’ve already obtained the skills in hairstyling during my years working in the hair salon, so when it comes to setting up a barbershop and learning about the trade, it’s just a matter of brushing up some new skills to fit in with the new concept."
Son & Dad Barber has been around for three years now, located in the heart of the Georgetown UNESCO Heritage Site, practically next-door neighbours with the Acheen Street Mosque. With price tags ranging from RM20 (Junior Barber) to RM40 (Head Barber), the barbershop tends to sway towards classic cuts, but upon request from the customers, they are more than happy to oblige in providing more contemporary cuts. Besides that, there are also two kinds of shaving treatments available for men: the hot towel, and the simpler foam-and-shave treatment. A full cut and shave treatment may take up to an hour, but if you’re one who is pressed for time, the barbers can whip up a haircut-only session in as little as 30 minutes.
The family was not completely sold on the idea of setting up a proper barbershop at first, considering they were surrounded by the mamak hairdressers left, right and centre – their haircuts would cost only RM7, even to this day. However, Son & Dad Barber does promise a more meticulous and professional work done for their customers, and will only charge based on the customer’s treatment request and the seniority of the barber in service.
“So far, it has been a good run in the last three years. We have gained traction amongst our customers,” Elyas says. “We have returning and regular customers coming in for their usual trims, but it does brighten the heart to know that we have new customers coming in every day!”
Get a relaxing hot towel treatment from Son & Dad:
Address: 53A, Lebuh Acheh, Georgetown, Penang
Tel: 04-263 0019
By Celeste Goh
Photos by Hizwan Hamid
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