Cut corners: At Hanoi street barbershops, style doesn't cost much

Thanh Nien News

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Photo credit: Lao Dong

Street barber stalls in Hanoi are recognizable with high chairs and mirrors. But, they can also be easily ignored amidst many stylish and fancy hair salons.
It is a sad fact, given that a majority of the city’s most luxury salons were founded by hairdressers who actually came from street stalls, said Ha, who has worked as a barber for 15 years and has recently opened a small shop himself.
It is unclear when and how the job was started in Vietnam. Some documents claimed that it was born in the 18th century, while some historians believed that it was dated to nearly 100 years ago, when Vietnamese men got rid of their traditional buns to adopt Western short hair styles.
During the early years of the 1900s, the profession became so popular that there was a barber village in Hanoi.
Many families in Kim Lien Village, in fact, have been barbers for generations.
Some local barbers even gained national reputation like Pham Duy Hien, who used to work as a personal hairdresser for Bao Dai, the last king of Vietnam who ruled from 1926 to 1945.
Due to many reasons, like a ban on street hair-cutting service many years ago, the number of street barber stalls has now shrunk to just a few on certain streets.
The barber village is gone, too.
Many barbers said they still hold onto the job, because it doesn’t cost them much to run such a stall – no utility bills and no rentals.
All they have to pay for is a chair and a mirror. Low costs mean that they charge their customers just half the price of beauty salons, thus they still have regular patrons.

A stall of a veteran barber near the famous Van Mieu, also known as the Temple of Literature 

 A young barber at a corner of Phat Loc Street, Hoan Kiem District

At some other places, barbers prefer to work as a group, saying that by creating a venue, they can attract more customers.  

 Veteran barbers with decades of experience have great respect from their colleagues. They are known for their masterful skills in creating odd yet stylish hairstyles.

It is much more difficult to cut hair for kids, because many of them do not like to sit still, according to many barbers. So, they have to give them something to read.

 Street barbers said while hair salons can operate regardless of time and weather, they are greatly troubled when it gets dark. Cold weather also annoys them, they said, as winds can upset their stalls’ setup like the canvas used as its roof, or blow hairs into their face.

Original Vietnamese story can be found here on Lao Dong

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