Pete Nunez (@nunez.the.barber) is one of the most popular barbers on social media, but becoming a master of hair wasn’t always in sight for him.
Born in 1984 in Pampanga, Philippines, Pete lived a humble childhood. He relocated with his mum when he was 13, knowing no English and without experience of the western world.
“It was a big culture shock and it was pretty alienating,” explains Pete, “but what choice do you have but to just get on and survive. It taught me that if you’re willing to put the effort in you’ll get there in the end.”
After realising he was on the wrong career path, working as a labourer on a building site in Lowestoft, Pete realised he had an interest and passion for hair.
“My interest started originally when I was out of work and needed my two boys, Cruz and Noah, to get haircuts but I had no money,” he recalls. “I somehow managed to find some clippers at a car boot sale for £5 and I had a go myself.” Pete’s family, friends and neighbours soon noticed the children’s fresh haircuts and started asking for recommendations on where to send their children and husbands. Pete saw an opportunity.
After spending hours on YouTube watching Nomad Barber, he started to understand the fundamentals and was able to routinely follow a haircut. Once he had the taste for cutting hair, mixed with positive feedback, he knew he was on to a winner.
BUILDING SITE BARBERSHOP
“I was already regularly cutting people’s hair out of the backroom of my house, but it was important to me to make it legit and to really nail the fundamentals of hairdressing,” he remarks, “so I enrolled onto a hairdressing course in the evenings.”
Slinging bricks and plasterboard by day, by night Pete would be knuckling down as a student to secure his future in the hair industry. He would regularly skip a lunch break and create an impromptu barbershop on the building site, just to gain further experience and secure future clients.
Knowing where this journey was heading, he started visiting local barbershops to enquire about apprenticeships but he came up short, with no offers on the table. With stubborn determination, as he qualified from his course, he borrowed some money and opened his own shop; if other people didn’t offer an opportunity, Pete was going to create his own.
JUST DO IT
“It was a risk but my journey to becoming a barber had relied on me putting myself out there, so I had developed a customer base and was becoming more known in the area for my approach to cutting and how I styled hair,” Pete says. “This meant my confidence had grown and I had such a clear vision, not only of how I wanted to cut hair but the environment I wanted to work in. Really, I just knew I had to do it for myself!”
Although he had drummed up a base of loyal supporters, he kept hearing mumblings that he would never amount to anything. Instead of allowing this to slow him down, he felt more motivated and moved forward with opening his own shop.
“IF YOU’RE WILLING TO PUT THE EFFORT IN, YOU’LL GET THERE IN THE END.”
“Ultimately, I wanted to do better for my kids, I’m a single dad and want to provide more and set an example that with hard work, grit and determination you can do something you love and also get paid!”
YouTube and Instagram were important to Pete discovering his love of hair, and to learning new techniques, so it made sense that he would use social media to continue to grow.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Instagram and got taken up on the content I was putting out pretty early on, but it was 2020 when people were dropping comments on the videos of my work”.
Using his Instagram as a journal for self analysis and critique, Pete gave a unique and raw view of his work in the barbershop, working with his friend Ryan Grice to perfect his camera angles. This led to a collaboration with Slick Gorilla whilst drumming up thousands of views, followers and potential customers.
With his shop celebrating six years of business this year, he humbly pushes the responsibility for its success to his customers. “The key to the success is that I have a dedicated customer base who have been with me from the beginning as well as new customers. I am really humbled by this,” he tells us.
In 2021, he got to work on stage at The Great British Barber Bash, where he worked alongside Slider Cuts and Mickey Graham. “Being in the same space as them was amazing, let alone cutting hair in the same space,” he smiles.
To add to his noteworthy successes, Pete was asked to join Gamma Plus UK as an ambassador this year. “I’ve been using Gamma gear for a long time, and it’s always been a dream to be recognised for my clipper work” he explains. “To be endorsed by such a respected company has given me more confidence in what I’m doing. I’ve worked so hard to perfect my fade work and using Gamma tools has been a huge part of that”. Since then, he has also been announced as an ambassador for Crazy Bull.
“I WOULD LOVE TO GO BACK TO THE PHILIPPINES AND RUN A HAIR SEMINAR. IT WOULD BE A DREAM TO GIVE BACK TO WHERE I CAME FROM.”
As the shop turns six, Pete is looking to expand his shop and add additional chairs in to his space. He wants to find barbers with similar thoughts and styles so they can align with his personal and business values, as well as work with local colleges to show his techniques to other up-and-coming barbers. “As well as working with colleges, I would love to go back to the Philippines and run a hair seminar. It would be a dream to give back to the place I came from” he says.
“My ambition is to maintain the same hunger I had when I started; wanting to find personal stability and success in a career I have control over,” he says, in the hope that he will inspire others to reach their goals and fight against set backs.
What’s next for Pete Nunez? From a small town in the Philippines to the building sites of Suffolk, then on to representing some of the largest brands in the industry and gaining over 20,000 followers on social media, it’s been a diverse and rocky, yet successful and adventurous entry in to the industry for him. Still full of hunger and passion, will we see him dominating the education stages this year? Keep an eye on his work…
“I’m never going back to those building sites,” he laughs.