According to the Guinness World Records, Anthony Mancinelli was the world’s oldest working barber at 108-years old. The honor was bestowed upon him in 2007, when Mancinelli was a mere 96 years old.
Born in Naples, Italy in 1911, young Mancinelli came to the United States with his family when he was about 8-years old, landing at Ellis Island in New York Harbor on September 11th, 1919. The family settled in Newburgh, which is now New Windsor, because an aunt of his lived there.
Mancinelli began cutting hair in 1921, when he was just 10 years old and a haircut cost just 25 cents.
However, on September 19th 2019, Mancinelli’s passion for staying active ended peacefully at his home in New Windsor, N.Y., about an hour’s drive north of New York City, when he passed-away at 108 years old, ironically just weeks after reluctantly retiring.
During one of his numerous interviews with The New York Times he jokingly stated; “I cut them all. Long hair, short hair, whatever was in style, the shag, the Buster Brown, straight bangs, permanents.”
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Adding; “I have some customers, I cut their father, grandfather and great-grandfather, four generations.” As hairstyles changed over the decades, he simply adapted to the new styles.
According to Mancinelli’s 82-year old son Bob, his dad never stopped cutting hair, except to join the Army and serve in World War II.
“He didn’t know the meaning of the word retired,” Bob Mancinelli said.
In 1930, Mancinelli opened his own shop, under the trade name of Anthony’s Barbershop in his hometown of Newburgh, where for over 40 years he cut the hair of thousands of customers, before deciding to sell the business and going to work at other shops.
Jane Dinezza, the owner of Fantastic Cuts, where Mancinelli last worked told The New York Times, after Mancinelli was recognized by the Guinness World Record as being the oldest working barber in the world, “The longer he kept working, the more famous he got.”
Over time, Mancinelli’s notoriety and passion for work put Dinezza in an awkward position, becoming less of a boss and more of a liaison to media outlets, as reporters showed up at her shop unannounced disrupting her business, looking to interview Mancinelli, seated in his barber chair. “He was spending more time in the chair than his customers,” Ms. Dinezza jokingly acknowledged.
Customers would insist on giving Mancinelli up to $100 to cut their hair instead of the usual $20, she said. Along with being invited to so many social events, “I started saying, ‘No, I’m sorry, it’s just too much hoopla for him, you know, he’s not the pope.”
Dinezza credits Mancinelli’s longevity to natural good health which baffled his doctors, because he wasn’t on any daily medication and never wore glasses, which is almost unheard of, considering his age. Mancinelli was also fortunate in retaining a steady hand, which is extremely important for a barber. Even in his final years he spent long hours on his feet, in a pair of worn, cracked black leather shoes, working 8-hours a day, 5-days a week.
Ironically longevity did not run in his family, and he was never big on exercise. Diet-wise, he said, “I eat thin spaghetti, so I don’t get fat.”
“He never took a pill in his life,” Ms. Dinezza said. “Towards the end, people would follow him through the grocery store just to ask him the secret to living that long. He’d just point up to God.”