Keeping It Trimmed – Getting a haircut in Dongguan

Dongguan has a litany of hair salons for all tastes and budgets, HERE! took a look at some of the options available…

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Haircuts are the great human equalizer. No matter who you are, it is always a case of ass anxiously in the chair, desperately hoping that things aren’t going to go horribly wrong. In China things are scarier still, and lost in translation moments can affect your appearance for months—and not in a good way. Of course, after a bad haircut one option is to simply shave your head and (sort of) end all your woes, like me. A mere 20 RMB and I strolled out of the shop looking like an obese Lex Luther—a timeless look indeed.

Cautionary tales among expats are common. In addition to the daily grind, bad haircuts seem so frequent that the unprepared customer in a Chinese barber shop is constantly taking the risk of leaving the salon as a dead ringer for Kim Jong Un, only with marginally less style.

The unprepared customer in a Chinese barber shop is constantly taking the risk of leaving the salon as a dead ringer for Kim Jong Un, only with marginally less style.

If there is one thing offered here it’s variety, and this is reflected in the price and location of salons and barbershops all over the city: there’s something for everyone, taking into account peoples’ various time and budget constraints. The best strategy to avoid crippling disappointment is to survey the landscape, make an informed decision, and (hopefully) leave with an awesome haircut. HERE! decided to take a look at a few of the options in Dongguan.

The Vacuum Barber Shop
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This style of shop originated in the land of the morning calm, South Korea. Many of the frills associated with a traditional Chinese haircut are omitted in favor of value and speed. If the multiple hair washings are taking more time than you have, a vacuum shop might be for you. In most scenarios it is necessary to speak Mandarin well, that or come bearing a color picture of David Beckham. These are the only ways to ensure that you leave satisfied.

The good news is that it doesn’t get cheaper, 10 RMB. And from front door to vacuum, you are only looking at a 30 minute time investment. Most salons wash your hair twice, but a vacuum shop uses a centralized vacuuming system and a shop vacuum hose in lieu of a scrub down and a neck massage. Those placing a high priority on cleanliness should look elsewhere, but adventure seekers find a fast and economical haircut with no adverse consequences the majority of the time.

Low Priced and Out of the Way
0316_featuer_4A standard haircut and wash will run you 20 RMB, and this style of shop can be found in most residential and industrial areas off the beaten path, or conveniently located near your home depending on where you live. Cleanliness and competence vary and can run the gamut—caveat emptor.

Finding shops that are high quality in this price range, though challenging, can be a great way to maximize value. It is possible to get roughly the same service for a basic haircut as a higher end shop for a fifth of the price if you know where to look.

Located in the heart of Wanjiang’s industrial district, Long Jian Hong is one shop owner dedicated to his craft and his customer base, “Keeping up on the latest trends is an important and ongoing process. In order to be successful you can never stop learning,” he says.“It’s all about keeping the customer happy. Every year I spend 30,000 RMB on training, because I care about the customer and know that their satisfaction and the vitality of my business are one and the same.”

Long Jian Hong also emphasizes that the difference between his shop and others comes down to location only: “We offer the exact same experience as other, more expensive shops. The difference is simply the location. This is an area with a lot of working class people. They earn much less and the rent is cheaper, so we are able to charge less money for the same service.”

Foreign patrons should also be potentially prepared for having their picture taken and put on Wechat. Such glamor is just the cost of doing business here.

Competent, low cost shops are not the norm, and once found may require some time spent on the bus or a couple of extra kuai in taxi fare. Those located outside the epicenter should definitely give shops like these a try. Come prepared with some instructions in Mandarin or a picture. Foreign patrons should also be potentially prepared for having their picture taken and put on Wechat. Such glamor is just the cost of doing business here.

Scissor Holstered Chinese Stylists Coiffed in Pink and Purple

0316_featuer_5For hipster barbers, modern décor, and convenient location look no further than the 100 RMB haircut hair salons. Most high traffic areas come equipped with multiple shops of this variety. A higher priority is generally placed on cleanliness and service. Those who find washing and neck massages cathartic have a comfortable relaxing option that, while a little pricier, hardly breaks the bank. A three year certification for stylists is the standard, and most flaunt their fashion acumenthrough unconventional wardrobe choices, dyed hair, and scissor holsters. By no means am I being judgmental about the final affectation. If I decided that my life’s calling was hair-styling, I too would go for the camp cowboy look and rock a scissor holster on each hip. Shops like these can be wildly popular, especially on the weekend, and it may be required to make a reservation in advance.

High-end with Flair
Located in well-known and beloved Dongcheng, where the majority of executives and expats lie their heads, you will find Joseph Fernandes is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of finest hairstylists in the PRD. Dark skinned, with shocks of beautiful dyed-blond hair, and penetrating eyes, he is difficult to miss; he’s a slightly eccentric hairstylist who offers a unique experience that cannot be replicated anywhere else. His walls are lined with various pictures of himself in different poses, sometimes aloof, sometimes reaching for the camera clasping a high-end pair of stylist shears. Upon entering his salon, he offers me some tea and assures me it cannot be purchased in Mainland China. Sometimes the finer things in life can be so satisfying, a fact well known in this high-end cuttery. Fernandes strikes me as a man who likes the finer things in life, and he seems to have an innate sense of style, not to mention a skill for putting his customers instantly at ease.

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Traumatized foreigners can always take the high-end road, and Fernandes acquires most of his client due to the past mistake of dodgy hair dressers, “Before my clients came here, they tried other hair dressers. But quality reflects the price. If you pay a low price, chances are the quality will not be as good,” he says. “Out of ten clients looking to get their hair dyed blond, nine come out of the process with their hair looking orange or yellowed and all dried out. With me that doesn’t happen. My customers come to me and after they never go anywhere else. They know something like that would never happen here.”

Those looking for a highly skilled stylist with more than a touch of bravado have found both with Fernandes. After being trained in his home country of Brazil, he has been cutting hair in China for almost five years. After spending those years traveling around China on a weekly basis cutting hair in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou, Fernandes finally decided to open a space in the luxurious confines of the Tangla Hotel.

With a little research and the help of a Chinese friend, getting a haircut in a foreign land does not have to be an anxiety-filled roll of the dice. There are even options out there for those who prefer not to rely on a translator

In addition to being highly skilled, he also speaks almost perfect English. Patrons are guaranteed to be understood, and take comfort in knowing that Fernandes is very proud that his brand has become synonymous with amongst the very highest quality in the city. He is so busy that a reservation beforehand is an absolute must. Starting at 200 RMB, he is not the cheapest, but he can guarantee you a cut that’s the very height of fashion.”

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With a little research and the help of a Chinese friend, getting a haircut in a foreign land does not have to be an anxiety-filled roll of the dice. There are even options out there for those who prefer not to rely on a translator. Whether your idea of a perfect haircut comes with an oil massages or a no frills shop vacuuming for a bargain basement price, there is a shop that fits every consumer and style. Now, my tour of Dongguan salons complete, hopefully, I will never again need to hear the sentence, “Wow, Stone Cold Steve Austin really let himself go.” Perchance to dream.

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