In Battle of the Barbers, Patersonian Emerges On Top
Saturday, October 6, 2012 • 4:01pm
PATERSON, NJ – From the outside, The Palestine Hair Salon at 965 Main Street looks like a typical barber shop.
But inside, the South Paterson salon has something you don’t in many barber shops – a makeshift trophy case. It features ribbons, medals, gold stars and trophies won by owner Raed Odeh in various sartorial competitions
“Something good should happen when you work so hard,” said Odeh, explaining his success in barber shop competitions. “It’s all about the trade and skills.”
Odeh won his latest award on September in “First Annual Fight for the Throne Barber Showdown: Fastest Clean Shave w/Razor” in Connecticut. He also won the “2012 Barber Competition” from IBS (International Barber Shop) show in New York recently.
Odeh said the Barber Showdown competition was fast-paced. Each hairstylist had 10 minutes to create freestyles, Mohawks, fauxhawks, designs and colors. There were about 100 competitors, he said.
Over the next several weeks, Odeh plans on competing in Florida, Somerset and the state championship in New York on Oct. 15. He says he makes plenty of friends through his travels to competitions.
Odeh has been a barber for over 21 years and has been in business for himself the past 12 years. His shop specializes in both old-school and modern cuts and styles. Whatever comes up, his team of workers will grab it, he said. “We’re so passionate about what we’re doing,” he said. Odeh works with several assistants including Saady Kaldy and Saad Shawana, who has been cutting hair for 45 years.
Odeh said he normally puts in between 10 to 12 hours per day, cutting hair and learning new skills, including such things as shaving the New York Jets’ logo into a client’s hair.
Odeh has customers from all over the East Coast, including a man from Boston, another from Atlantic City and even a pilot from Florida who only gets his haircut when he comes to New Jersey.
Why do people come from all over? Odeh says the secret is that he’s always bringing in new techniques, which he learns when traveling overseas. For instance, eyebrow threading is a fairly new thing in the United States, something people have been doing for 10 years or so, but overseas it’s been popular more than 25 years, he said. “There are so many things in the game of barber that we bring to competition,” Odeh said.
Matthew D’Andrea is a customer who comes from Lodi to get his haircut. “He’s awesome,” said D’Andrea. “I don’t have to tell him what to do anymore. I’m afraid to let anyone else touch my hair. My sister cuts hair but I won’t let her cut mine.”
D’Andrea was a customer of Odeh’s when Odeh worked “Wet and Dry” in Paterson before he started his own business. Once D’Andrea got wind of the good news he said, “Hell, yeah, I’m following you!”
Even though Odeh cuts extremely fast and it looks like it’s a rough job, D’Andrea admits getting a haircut is relaxing and Odeh takes his time. “I could fall asleep sometime.”
When Odeh first started his business, of course it was with a struggle. “You have to start with a struggle to establish yourself,” he said. “It takes a while until people get to know you. It’s a long way to get there.”
But now he’s not struggling and says he’s doing “very good.” His busiest time of year is when the kids go back to school and people are returning from their vacations.
When Odeh is not busy in his shop he spends his free time preparing for competitions, playing sports such as soccer and helping out in the community by being a part of various associations and community programs.
Since childhood, Odeh was interested in hair. It all started when he was a preteen living in Jordan in the early 1980s. He used to have long curly hair and hated going to the barber shop. “When you’re little, they chop it all off,” he said. So he started cutting his own hair and by the age of 13 he was cutting his family’s hair and then moved on to the whole neighborhood.
He also experimented making his own shampoos and hair treatments using natural products from his mom’s kitchen.
For more information go to www.palestinehairsalon.com.