The cool­ing in­ter­est in old-fash­ioned hair sa­lons

China Daily (USA) - - SHANGHAI - By XU JUNQIAN in Shanghai xu­jun­qian@chi­

Thanks to the cur­rent heat wave in the city, busi­ness at Nan­jing Hair Salon has been very brisk as many peo­ple seek out breezier hair­cuts.

How­ever, de­spite the vol­ume of cus­tomers, busi­ness hasn’t ex­actly been prof­itable.

“Sum­mer is par­tic­u­larly tough. With less hair-dy­ing and curl­ing, we have been prof­it­less even though all the hair­dressers have been very busy,” said Chen Mingx­ing, the man­ager of Nan­jing Hair Salon.

Founded in 1933 by a Chi­nese-born Amer­i­can who was very up­set with the poor hair­cut he got in Shanghai, Nan­jing Hair Salon was once the largest of its kind in China with 27 seats and 70 staff. It was also a very cov­eted es­tab­lish­ment — dur­ing its peak, celebri­ties and wealthy peo­ple of­ten had to wait for hours for a hair­cut.

“We were more like celebri­ties back then,” re­called Chen of the salon’s golden days be­fore pri­vaterun sa­lons be­came more pop­u­lar af­ter the turn of the mil­len­nium with their of­fer­ings of trendier Ja­panese and Korean hair­styles.

To­day, the two-floor space which spans about 500 square me­ters in the city’s most bustling shop­ping street has be­come the go-to place for senior cit­i­zens in­stead.

“The most im­por­tant thing in this busi­ness that has dis­ap­peared over the years is the bond­ing be­tween cus­tomers and bar­bers. It’s some­thing nur­tured by time and fa­mil­iar­ity. It’s a lux­ury,” said Chen, who added that the high staff turnover rate at pri­vate-owned busi­ness nowa­days make it dif­fi­cult to es­tab­lish such a bond.

Chen said that many bar­bers at Nan­jing Hair Salon had cut the hair of peo­ple from dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions of a fam­ily. An­other el­e­ment of lux­ury of­fered at Nan­jing Hair Salon is the warm tow­els pro­vided to ev­ery cus­tomer who steps into the shop.

“But young peo­ple these days care lit­tle about the bond­ing or white tow­els. All they are look­ing for is a trendy hair­style or color that lasts no more than one month,” said Chen.

Ac­cord­ing to Chen, the hair­dress­ing mar­ket is “ex­tremely un­reg­u­lated” in China. He es­ti­mates that about 90 per­cent of the shops in China are pri­vately owned.

Dai Xiangjie, a hair­styl­ist at Nan­jing Hair Salon, be­lieves that the lack of for­eign com­pe­ti­tion in this mar­ket is due to the fact that “only Chi­nese bar­bers know how to cut Chi­nese hair”, which is de­scribed as be­ing thicker and harder than that of for­eign­ers.

Last sum­mer, the fa­mous Xinghuo Hair­shop closed down due to poor man­age­ment, leav­ing Nan­jing Hair Salon as one of the few re­main­ing old-school sa­lons in the city.


The Nan­jing Hair Salon in Shanghai is among the old­est of its kind in the coun­try and it used to at­tract celebri­ties and wealthy peo­ple.

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