Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Barbershop closes its doors after years of service in the community

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Owner Mataio Taimalelagi (Matt Brown) in front of his barber shop, My Fathers Barber. Photo: Provided
Owner Mataio Taimalelagi (Matt Brown) in front of his barber shop, My Fathers Barber. Photo: Provided
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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

My Fathers Barbers calls it a day after almost ten years of operating in Christchurch. Owner and acclaimed author Mataio Taimalelagi talks about the impact the shop has had in the community over the years, and his plans for the future with his online app “Inner Boy”.

For many people, a trip to the barbers is really only just for a haircut which usually will last under an hour. However for those that know Mataio Taimalelagi (Matt Brown), a trip to his barber shop in Christchurch is quite the experience.

My Fathers Barber on Riccarton Rd, has not only served customers in need of fresh fades, but has also been a safe haven for many men who needed healing and comfort. Mataios passion for barbering and community work became the combination for the perfect result; My Fathers Barber.

A survivor of family and childhood abuse, his story has been a light for many all from the seat of his barbershop.

Hundreds of texts and online messages flooded through Mataio’s inbox, people sharing their stories and memories of finding comfort in his shop when word of it closing down went around. It’s something that Mataio is truly humbled about.

“I’m sad that it’s the end of an era, but I am also excited for this next journey I am on,” Mataio said.

“It’s been an honour and honestly a highlight in my life”.

Barbering started as a side hustle for Mataio. Originally he wanted to become a teacher.

Mataio and his 2016 MFB crew. Photo: MFB Facebook

His first clients were his best mates and family members who he would cut for a dollar pie at the bakery from his backyard in the suburb of Aranui . As he continued he realised that there was an opportunity to expand and elevate his craft.

“I reached out to my best friend at the time who is now my wife, and said I want to get into barbering,” he said.

“So she told me how her dad had started Sevilles in Auckland … I made the move to Auckland and learnt from this third generation Turkish barber just off of Queen Street”.

After perfecting his craft, (which began in his first shop at home in his shed), Mataio moved back to Christchurch to begin his venture as a full time barber.

His passion for hip hop and rap music became his point of difference, as he created portraits of rappers and artists on his clients. As the business began to grow, Mataio found himself fully booked every day.

With the success of the shed, the thought of being a teacher and helping out the community still lingered in his mind. Once again, he sought the advice of his wife who encouraged him to use barbering as a way to connect through stories.

“But listening to the stories in the chair, and having men who sit in your chair that dont look like you or dress like you who wear suits and uniforms, I soon learnt that we are more alike than we are different”.

“If these men felt lonely and in pain yet they seemed like they had everything, I wondered what could I do other than just giving a good haircut?”

As the years passed, Mataios’ success grew. He launched his anti violence movement She is not your rehab in 2019 and later released his book also titled “She is not your Rehab” which went on to become a NZ #1 Bestseller.

Mataio and wife Sarah being made members of the NZ Order of Merit. Photo: Provided

Both Mataio and his wife Sarah were also made members of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2022 and were awarded a Commonwealth Points of Light award by the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Mataio didn’t stop there, he also opened an art gallery last year under the She is not your Rehab banner. The art gallery contains different illustrated work under the phrase “Who is She?”, with men from different parts of the country giving their answers to the phrase.

Mataio has bigger dreams helping more people heal through his work. Part of these plans include an app that he has developed over the past two years. He hopes the app called Inner Boy, will aid those who struggle with their mental health.

“It’s an online platform where men can jump on. It’s a 30 day journey for 30 minutes a day where men can go and learn how to regulate their emotions”.

“I called it inner boy, because I don’t see the gangs, I don’t see the men in suits, I see the little boy that needs to be healed”.

The online tool is free for everyone in New Zealand and can be accessed when released. Mataio believes that having an online app like inner boy is similar to having “therapy right in your hands”.

In the meantime, Mataio will continue to serve the community.

“I’ll be doing this till the day I close my eyes. Until the day that one child is not murdered at the hands of unregulated adults, until women are no longer dying at the hands of men, and until men are not taking their own lives. I will still be doing this work for a very long time”.

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