I had a haircut last week. Haircuts aren't just haircuts these days. There is also a fanciful financial term called "haircut" that I don't quite understand:
Back to the haircut that I understand. I looked for my usual $8 Malay barber in the basement level of this unpretentious shopping centre in my neighbourhood but the shop had folded. On the same level is this Indian barber shop but I knew it to be pricey. So I scouted around the upper levels and found another Malay barber who gave me a good haircut. It cost me $10. I did not take a pic of his shop but this one, found online, is typical of the facade (I have also been to the barbershop in the photo -- located in another unpretentious shopping centre):
Anyway, the barber and I had a chat and he agreed that his business was being affected by the "new wave" immigrant barbers who charged as low as $6. These days, there are also the franchised barber shops -- mostly in the trendier malls -- which promise a $10 haircut in 10 minutes. It is a rather impersonal service: you drop the money in a vending machine which spits out a token which you then hand to the uniformed barber who may be a man or a woman. You get to keep the comb when the haircut's done!
I got curious about who goes to what kind of barber these days. So I sent out a text message and got these replies:
* My wife has been cutting my hair for the past 20 years [this guy has a medical degree and a PhD in law; his wife has a PhD and it's not in haircutology!].
* Used to go to Toa Payoh Lorong 4 -- $5 only. But I now go to my sis-in-law's salon. Wife pays so I don't ask how much! :-)
* My most recent haircut at Clementi HDB shop, a sole proprietor. He charges $8.
* I trim my hair every fortnight [DIY?]
* My Malay barber charges $8. But standard slipping. His cuts a bit old-fashioned too.
* Wah, you orang kaya (so rich, ah?). Snips avenue at Clementi $2.80. Fast but now not so good. Another snips avenue opposite Ginza Plaza [note 1: think it's called West Coast Plaza now] run by a few ladies... $3.80 and much more satisfying. 10 cuts, one free! These are retirees' favs [note 2: I am meeting this respondent to have lunch and a haircut at this location the next time round].
* Usually, Malay barber at Compass Point, $10. But recently went to one of the 10-minute haircut salons. They gave out packets of tissues with Bandaid. Need I say more?
* Mine charges a lot more [this one ang moh, shy-shy, won't tell me how much more].
* Haha. Tell you my long story cut short. For 40 years I went to the same HDB Chinese barber. He closed shop this year. Was $10 the last time I paid him. I now go to my daughter's gay hairdresser. $32.
* I go to salon 20 bucks or so.
Postscript 1: I used to go to Raju, the barber at ACS Barker Road. He died some years back.
Postscript 2: The old-time barbers in Singapore are fading into history. Read this excellent account:
The Last of the Street Barbers in Singapore