Thursday, September 1, 2011


I’m not much of a snob about haircuts. In fact, for several years now I’ve been cutting my own hair with clippers (yeah, that’s why my hair looks so meh; and as my parents will attest, it’s not the first time in my life I’ve taken clippers to my hair). I thought about bringing the clippers to China, but the voltage is different and I’d need a transformer, so I left them in the US.

Hair grows, of course, so I came to the point this week at which I needed a haircut. I’m certain I could find some ridiculously cheap set of clippers here in a street market, but I thought it would be more fun to figure out how to get a haircut. (I confess to being inspired in this by Anthony Bourdain, who makes a point of getting haircuts wherever he travels, sometimes to ill effect.)

As I said, I don’t require a deluxe high-end salon cut, but I don’t want my hair hacked and brutalized either. Moreover, I hear there are in Hong Kong a number of hair salons that will, for the price of a haircut, also include some, ahem, “other services.” Tempting as that sounds, my moral compass points me away from such places. Given these considerations, I had to be at least somewhat discerning in my choice of hair salon.

I figured a good way to start was to look in the malls. You can stroll by and look in easily to get a sense of the place, and prostitution seems unlikely in close proximity to an Apple Store or Esprit. Around here, there are really two choices. Closest (only about 8 minutes walk) is Fung Tei, which is small and doesn’t really have any major name-brand stores aside from the Park-n-Shop and McDonalds. Further, about a 10 minute ride on the #46 bus (which merits its own blog entry), is the megaplex of malls Shannon blogged about in an earlier post. This set of malls (TMT Phase 1, TMT Phase 2, Trend Plaza) is a true destination for shopping. You can buy high-quality versions of just about anything here, and there are plenty of fashionable stores like H&M and Zara. So, I felt like this would be a good bet.

Unfortunately, after an hour of hunting around these malls, all I could find was the 10-Minute Haircut place. The procedure for getting a haircut here was plainly laid out on the placard (helpfully in English): you must have a HK$50 bill (no change given); you must put it in the machine and get a ticket; then you wait for the haircut which is guaranteed to take no more than 10 minutes. While a haircut for less than US$7 was appealing, I have to confess that intense speed is not one of the characteristics I look for in a salon.

So, I headed back up on the #46 bus to Fung Tei, where I was able to find two salons right next to each other (another example showing Hotelling knew what he was talking about). One was sort of a barber shop (spinning pole and all), the other more of the kind of hair salon I was used to in the US. It was called Power Salon. It had lots of chrome and mirrors and lime-green chairs. Yes, this was my place.

I went in and quickly realized no one spoke any English (this is common at Fung Tei, less so at the major malls). They discerned I wanted a haircut and whisked me off to the shampoo chair. The shampoo girl washed my hair (and only my hair, thankfully) TWO times, plus a round of conditioner. The whole washing process alone took close to 10 minutes, which leads me to understand the market for the 10-minute haircut.

Escorted to a salon chair, I met my stylist. He was an overweight (rare around here) guy with long, lightened hair. He kind of had a hip look going, so I felt reassured he had some sense of what a good haircut looked like. There was only one problem: he was wearing a Yankees shirt.

I tried to turn this clear problem into a positive thing—a conversation point, a way to make a connection. I could razz him a bit about being a Yankees fan, give him crap about being unable to catch the Sox in the AL East.

“So, you are a fan of the Yankees?” Nothing. Didn’t understand a word. “Yankees.” Still nothing. I move my hand across my shirt and point at his. “Yankees?”

“Oh, Yankees.” A smile. End of conversation.

I used my fingers to show him how long I wanted my hair, and hoped for the best. Turned out OK, I think. Total cost with tip: US$12.


  1. I would say you did well. You look as handsome as ever. Its always a frightening thing when you go to a new hair salon. Will you go back again?? Not bad for 12.00 USD Love ya - Mom

  2. I'm not sure who you look like-Richard Gere in Gigilo or Matt Dillon (older version) in The Outsiders. Either way, you still have your ears and that's a good thing. Just another experience on the journey. Judy