Roadside barber Daz Paewai offering cuts, kōrero and careers

Rangatahi paying a visit to one Hamilton barber might end up with more than a new haircut - they could find a new career.

Chatting to younger clients, Darren 'Daz' Paewai recognises when they are struggling at school. He knows what that's like. He's been there.

"I used to go to school to play sport and eat my lunch," he told The Hui.

So the owner of 'Daz's Barber Shop' is encouraging young people to think about a career in hairdressing.

"I have had people in my life that have helped me along the way, and for me to return the favour that's been a pivotal moment for me."

But you won't find his barbershop in a mall or at the local shops.

His solar-powered salon is a self-contained trailer on wheels that's completely off the grid as he travels around the Waikato and the East Coast.

"For me, it gave me the flexibility to be everywhere or anywhere that I needed to be. That meant I didn't have to pay for a lease, didn't have to pay for power, and customers were like, 'Oh, this is such a cool idea'."

Paewai got his start cutting his rugby teammates' hair and has been in the trade for 25 years.

His passion for showing young people a possible career path was sparked three years ago when he set up his mobile barbershop outside a Hamilton high school.

He asked a duty teacher whether she might have pupils who would be interested in learning how to cut.

"And she says, 'I've got a few that are, wait here'."

Since then, the popularity of grooming salons has boomed. During that time Paewai has inspired 12 young barbers to get a hairdressing qualification.

One of them is 22-year-old former delivery driver Johnny O'Brien. He said Paewai is a role model for more than just his scissor skills.

"I've learnt a lot from Daz, just the way he upholds himself and how he is as a man. [It's] sort of the way that I want to go about life as well," he said.

Paewai said some clients don't even come for a haircut. They come to talk. He's made a point of training his apprentices to create a safe place for clients to talk, no matter who they are or what they are going through.

O'Brien's taken that message on board in his year with the clippers.

He said clients who were once strangers are now regulars and find it easier to talk.

"They get more comfortable talking about stuff that males, you know, don't really talk about."

With two mobile barbershops in Hamilton and one in Wairoa, Paewai has ambitions in the future to expand his business around the motu.

"[I want to] dot these around all parts of New Zealand just so we can offer apprenticeships to those who are aspiring to be barbers."