MR BUGS BUNNY BARBER: Mr Abdul Kadir Samin outside his shop Bugs Bunny Barber.

Will these barbers' succession plans be clipped?

Toa Payoh barber sees surge in interest after Defence Minister writes Facebook post praising the 'great haircut'

With one picture, this humble barber was propelled into the spotlight.

But then it is not every day that you cut the hair of Singapore's Defence Minister.

On Dec 27, Dr Ng Eng Hen posted on his Facebook page about his haircut at Toa Payoh's Bugs Bunny Barber and the man behind the clippers, Mr Abdul Kadir Samin, 62.

In his post, Dr Ng praised Mr Abdul Kadir for a haircut that, at $8, was good and cheap.

  • The Barber of Toa Payoh

"I knew that he took a picture of me while I was cutting his hair," said Mr Abdul Kadir.

"I didn't expect him to post it on Facebook, much less the attention it got."

Mr Abdul Kadir has been fielding requests from various media outlets and was inundated with calls from family and friends.

"I'm a bit embarrassed by all the attention," he added sheepishly.

With more than 40 years' worth of haircuts under its belt, Bugs Bunny Barber is an institution in the area.

It has been at Block 94, Toa Payoh Lorong 4 since 1971.

Although the shop has had a number of facelifts over the years, the interior has a tinge of the retro, with a bright orange and white colour scheme.

The furniture is unmistakably from an era gone by, though still fully functional.

It does not have the gentleman's club feel that some modern barbers have, but there is a friendly and cosy atmosphere.

HANGOUT

Bugs Bunny is more than a place for haircuts. For regulars of a certain age, it is a hangout.

The shop name was not a deliberate choice and the cartoon rabbit had been the shop's emblem long before the move to Toa Payoh.

The business used to be called Abu Nawas Barber Shop and it was started by Mr Abdul Latiff Mohammad Fahmi in Paya Lebar in the early 1960s.

"It was just a small shack with four barber chairs," said Mr Abdul Latiff, 78. The neighbourhood kids had a habit of drawing on the walls outside his shop.

"Then one night, one of the kids painted a huge Bugs Bunny on the wall outside my shop," said Mr Abdul Latiff.

"It was very nicely done, so I let it be. Over time, people came to know us as the Bugs Bunny barber shop."

When Mr Abdul Latiff moved his business to Toa Payoh in 1971, the name became official.

Mr Abdul Kadir started working at the shop in 1972, when he was 19.

Through four decades of men's hairstyles, Mr Abdul Kadir has heard many unusual requests.

He said he rarely turns down a customer's hairstyle request.

"As long as they are able to describe the hairstyle to me, I will give it a try," said the father of five and grandfather of one.

COMPETITION

In recent years, Singapore has seen the rise of the cheap and fast salons, which have opened up around the area.

"We don't really think about them, we have always been focused on our own business and customers," he said.

The bigger issue for Mr Abdul Kadir is who carries on the Bugs Bunny legacy.

He has worked the majority of his life there and he wants to see the barber shop continue.

But finding someone to take it on is proving difficult.

"There have been a few who try to pick up the trade, but they have never lasted," Mr Abdul Kadir said regretfully.

While he has heard of the recent trend of high-end gentleman's barber shops that look old-school but cost considerably more, he is not bothered by them.

"They cater to different customers," he said.

"We will just do what we always do - give good haircuts."

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