In a world where gender stereotypes are being shattered left, right and centre, one Santa Claus coach is determined his team of men in red will remain just that — men.

For around 10 years, Neville Baker has been running My Santa, an Auckland-based recruitment company specialising in training and placing professional Santas.

Baker will have the starring role as the big man in Sunday's Farmers' Santa Parades (his fifth) down Queen St.

Speaking to the Herald on Sunday, Baker said there was a greater focus on following the "Santa guidebook" — particularly in a #MeToo era.


Some things were moving with the times, Baker said, but the role of Santa was less changeable.

There wasn't one female in My Santa's portfolio. Baker said this wasn't due to a lack of applicants.

"They apply, and you say, 'have you misread the ad?' Putting politically correct things to one side, there's a certain character people expect to find when they come to meet Santa," Baker said.

"We employ Santa's Little Helpers, and they wear a little skirt and top ... but I wouldn't put a guy in a skirt and top — right?"

Baker said kids "weren't so silly" today. Many questioned whether his Santas were the real deal.

Neville Baker has been in the Farmers' Santa Parade for the past four years, including in 2015. Photo / Michael Craig
Neville Baker has been in the Farmers' Santa Parade for the past four years, including in 2015. Photo / Michael Craig

"That's something we already have to contend with, let alone kids saying 'Santa's got boobs, mum. I couldn't place one with one of my clients, they would think I'm stark-raving mad."

Baker said the most common criticism was Santa was "listless".

He tried to recruit more active than docile Santas.


While Baker was determined Santa's gender would remain the last bastion of set gender roles, he said the rules he drilled into his team of Santas were becoming "more and more prevalent".

"Things are being more emphasised out there in terms of good Santa, bad Santa," he said.

"We teach the new Santas and refresh the existing ones, about the right and the wrong way to say, help a child onto their lap."

Other rules included making sure Santa's hands were visible, and lifting children by the side of the body. You don't lift them up by the seat of their pants or anything like that ... that could be taken the wrong way," he said.

Santa's trademark white gloves were a must, he said, as they helped his hands to stand out and made it easier for onlookers to establish everything was going by the book.

"You can't be put in a position of any accusations about inappropriate touching."

Another rule was fairly basic. "Make sure the parent doesn't think you're in control if you're not ... and then drop the kiddie."