We met him in his salon in Randazzo: “I do not have only elderly or middle-aged customers, some young people come to me too and I never say no to their requests, of course”
Time seems to have stopped at number 99 of Via Umberto, Randazzo: among the medieval streets of this Sicilian town there is in fact a shaving salon dating back to the ’60s and managed by Giuseppe Foti, who was born in 1926 and is now the eldest barber in Italy.
ONE GENERATION LEADS TO ANOTHER. Don Peppino is such a well-known worker in the village, that he has become an institution in Randazzo (province of Catania): whole generations of young people have passed through his shop. Nowadays they are adults, but there is no lack of representatives of new generations. “My clientele – says the barber – is quite mixed. some young people come to me too and I never say no to their requests, of course”.
A CRAFT THAT DOES (NOT) CHANGE. Mr. Foti has been a barber for 85 years, having started as a child as an apprentice in a shop. Thanks to his experience in the field, now recognized by everyone, he tells how the profession has changed: “No doubts that today there are more modern tools facilitating our work in part. Nevertheless, being a barber still requires some skills. You can not generically say that this job is changing, because actually any barber obeys to the requests of each individual customer. It is the customer who chooses a modern or a classic cut and I need my experience in order to satisfy him”.
A PRIVILEGED PERSPECTIVE. The workshop of Don Peppino is located not far from the central Piazza del Municipio and this privileged position allowed him to cast a glance on his native village between a shave and another. He remarked with with bitterness that “times have changed and the our country inevitably looses workers. Many young people leave and here we are mainly the elderly”. This heartfelt reflection is combined with another unfortunate remark of Don Peppino: “Today it is not easy for a boy to set up shop and take up a job like mine. This is because before starting out on your own you need a period of training as an apprentice in a salon, with someone who already has some experience”. And here is the problem: “You can hardly ever find a person willing to hire an inexperienced young man: I am the first who never does that. Why? Because the taxes to be paid after you declare the employment of a worker are too high! Moreover, the boys rightfully demand to be paid even when they are still apprentices and I can not afford it”.
AN OLD YOUNG MAN. The old barber is still working and feeling passionate about his job, but he also keeps on because it is necessary: “My wife is 84, she does not get retirement benefits. And my two daughters still live with us. I’ll continue doing my job as long as I can, because it is a pleasure and a duty to me”. Being a barber requires some skills wich this “young old man” (as he called himself) has got. “You need to be healthy to keep on working, of course, but I have a contract valid until I turn 115, so I am fine”, he ironically concluded.
Translated to English by Eva Luna Mascolino