Christchurch barber changing men’s lives takes mission to Palmerston North

Christchurch barber changing men’s lives takes mission to Palmerston North

A new Palmerston North barbershop aims to not only change looks, but also change lives by creating a safe place for frank and open discussions of men’s issues.

My Fathers Barbers is celebrating the opening of its new shop on Main St with an evening of free music, food and haircuts, and an exhibition of hair art on Monday.

Founder Matt Brown’s barbering skills have taken him around the world to teach his craft, after he became internet famous for shaving an intricate hair portrait of rapper Tupac Shakur, and he’s styled celebrities, from All Blacks to musicians, such as the Wu-Tang Clan.

But Brown believes his true calling is to help men break free of toxic masculinity and end the cycle of domestic violence affecting families across New Zealand.

Brown grew up with his eight siblings in a three-bedroom house in one of Christchurch’s poorest neighbourhoods, and is a survivor of family violence and childhood sexual abuse.

Finding his passion and talent for barbering helped Brown deal with the trauma and pain of his upbringing, and he started his business by giving mates haircuts in a backyard shed in 2012.

As word of mouth spread, and his business grew, Brown found men appreciated a sympathetic ear and frank talk with their haircuts.

“The barber chair is one of the few remaining safe and acceptable places for men to talk and be real.

“You become a friend, counsellor and advocate to men who sometime have no-one else to talk and unload to.”

So he opened the first My Fathers Barbers in Christchurch five years ago as a place where men could connect and learn from each other and feel safe to discuss men’s issues openly, or simply socialise outside of pubs or sports clubs, where there was pressure to drink and act “manly”.

Alongside his wife Sarah Brown, the barber has become an active community advocate working with domestic violence shelters, the homeless and the Ministry of Social Development’s “It’s not OK” campaign.

The new Palmerston North shop is the first My Fathers Barber outside Christchurch and will be run by Aku Morrow,who worked at the original barbershop for four years.

Sarah Brown said Morrow was a talented barber, with a knack for making the people in his chair feel comfortable no matter what.

When Morrow decided to move back home to Manawatū to be closer to his family, it was the perfect chance to spread My Fathers Barbers’ approach to men’s issues to the North Island, she said.