Luigi Caterino’s barbershop in Galashiels has only been open for two years, but he’s already at the top of a cut-throat business.
Last year, his remarkable skills and steady hand brought him within a hair’s breadth of winning the Best Shave in Britain award, in a competition run by the British Barbers’ Association.
On Sunday, he found himself back in the ring for the final, held this year at the NEC in Birmingham. And this time he not only made the cut – he won the title.
And for Luigi – who prior to opening his Italian Job shop on the corner of Channel Street, had been working for 14 years as a waiter for his brother in the Monte Cassino restaurant in Melrose, where he still helps out – it was the culmination of a life-long dream, to be recognised for doing what he loves.
He said: “I was very emotional when the guy lifted up my hand to say I had won. I started to cry like a baby. Everyone around me was so nice and they cuddled me.
“It is great to win this, for me it is a dream, for me and my family.”
Luigi learned his trade in Italy from his father, who has come to work for his son when he is on holiday in Scotland.
He said with pride: “My father is so special, he is one of the last barbers in Italy to work in the old style, with the leather belt.”
Luigi’s journey to Birmingham again began in the regional heat at Gateshead, where he retained his title of Best Barber in Scotland.
This qualified him for Sunday’s event, sponsored by The Bluebeard’s Revenge shaving range and held, for some reason, in a boxing ring.
I started to cry like a baby. Everyone around me was so nice and they cuddled me.”Luigi Caterino
He swept aside North West champion Phil Christodoulides in the quarter-final, getting his eye in by shaving his own model.
But for the semi-final and the final, he was given a new person to work with.
Nerves escalated with every move, but he managed to beat South East victor Elvis Gjokaj in the semi.
By this time, the crowd had become very animated and was shouting his name when he stepped into the ring to take on Shakar Bakani, the Midlands winner, for the title.
“I was very nervous in the final, said Luigi. “I was trying to check everything, every movement I do around my customer in this moment. It was tense.”
But his calmness, knowledge of his craft and skill with the blade won through and he was crowned the best shavemaster in the land.
He said: “It has been an amazing time of my life. It has been good for me, for my family, and I think for the Scottish Borders.
“And, of course, it is very good for my business.”