Monday, January 04, 2010

At the Barber's

It was New Year eve. For some reasons, I felt that I must go for my haircut. Just like in the old days, one must have his hair cut before the Chinese New Year. And so, I strolled to the S$10 barbershop in Chinatown.

This is one of the modern Japanese styled unisex quick-cut barbershop. Unlike the old days when the ladies would go to their hairdressing saloon and the men to the barbershop with white (almost-dentist-chair lookalike) adjustable chairs. Most hairdressing saloons seemed to have the hairdressers speaking in Cantonese and chances are the Chinese Barbers might be Hock Chew (Fuzhou). While the hairdressing saloons are still around, perhaps less, the barbershops seem to go to the way of the dinosaurs. Ah, there is still one in a lane in Chinatown with its regular clientele.

If one was told of the barbershop with lady barbers, one might raise one's eyebrow as to what were the services offered. There used to be two popular ones in Chinatown. They are now extinct.

Now in this barbershop, men and women waited for their turns, to be cut by men or women. The customers could choose their barbers or cutters.

A barbershop is also an interesting place to sit and watch and although each customer is to be dealt with in 10 minutes, there was still much to watch and hear as the queue was quite long. Ah, one, probably newly qualified senior citizen, was enjoying a haircut by this lady barber (his regular by the way they talk). In a way, he was entertaining her with tales of his adventures overseas, with polite responses. What a way to relieve stress, I thought to myself as I was trying to concentrate on a book I brought along to read. Reading an English book and eavesdropping Mandarin conversations.

I wondered to myself too, what if this barber has her own blog. Won't t be fun to read about her clients. (^^)

Sat next to me was an elderly couple as well. They were conversing in Cantonese. From the look (or rather hearing them speaking) of it, the lady, who was to have her hair cut, was rather nervous. It must have been her first time. The brave husband was assuring her that he has already chosen the lady barber and at least she could speak Mandarin. He has to assure her many times. I did not stay to watch what happened as I was ahead of them.

A rather elder lady was struggling with the money eating machine. She could not get the machine to take her ten dollars. A young guy who had earlier given up his place for the old couple offered his help. After a few tries, the machine decided that it liked the ten dollars and swallowed it, spitting out the ticket. He then offered to write for her which barber she might want to have. Like me, she opted for anyone. Ah, she's adventurous, not knowing if she was going to encounter a non Mandarin or dialect speaker.

The only scene I missed was that of the old barbershops where they had pulley systems with lights (almost like dentist clinic again) and all the tools for the cleaning of the ears.

It was a delightful new year eve at the barber's.


James said...

Hi chinatownboy,

There are still old barbershops along the 5 foot way alleys in Singapore. I just passed by 2 of them last week.

They were located near Ann Siang Hill. If you still want to know, you can email me. :)

Anonymous said...

As a regular visitor (every couple of years or so) to Singapore, I look for the old fashioned barber to deal with what I hair that I have got left. On my last visit in 2008, a regular contributor to, Peter Chan, took me to an old Indian Barber on Upper East Road. Near Palm Road if I remember correctly . The New Star Hairdressing Salon it was called. I hope that it is still there for this year’s visit. You could still get a razor cut there. When I ask for that where I live in the North of England, I get the distinct impression that the hairdresser thinks that I’m a little ‘gila’. We lost good old barbers years ago, and Singapore is following us on that. Yes Peter, I’ve still got the short video you took of the razor cut.
Peter Stubbs

chinatownboy said...

Yes, these days, the barber scene is evolving fast. With the introduction of the Japanese style 10min cut for S$10, there are many such shops.

But there are still some typical Malay, Indian and Chinese (mostly Fuzou) barbers.

James has pointed out one lone barber on a typical old barber chair in the lane next to Mohd Ali Lane. Perhaps, you want to try the next time? (^^)

Anonymous said...

Firing up Google Maps and Street View, I went to Mohd Ali Lane, and who is sitting in the side lane waiting for a customer? I may just pay him a visit. See him at:-,103.845209&sspn=0.00517,0.008256&ie=UTF8&radius=0.29&rq=1&ev=zi&hq=Mohd+Ali&hnear=&ll=1.28267,103.846051&spn=0,359.991744&z=18&layer=c&cbll=1.282695,103.845964&panoid=AEgO4prClCFP687KuHU8DA&cbp=12,231.5,,0,13.54

chinatownboy said...

Wow! That's fantastic!