The Crosstown Barbershop in Bloomington, Indiana is the epitome of what a barbershop should be. Its a place for men only, where the tv is always on ESPN, the walls are covered in IU sports memorabilia, the jokes are raunchy and rapid, and it serves as a community center for the men of Bloomington. It is the sort of place that if it hasn't been there for the past 50 years, it sure seems like it has, and things probably haven't changed much there for the past 50 years. The shop is authentically retro, not just retro because that is whats "in" at the moment. In my 7 years there, the price went up from US$9 to $11, and that change, toward the end of the 7 years, was an extremely difficult one for the owner to make and for customers to accept.
Why do I discuss this in a post about Shenzhen? The fact is there is no equivalent to this sort of barbershop in China. While I say the Crosstown is the epitome of what a barbershop should be, every town has its own version, the one place (other than a bar) where men go to be men, talk about sports and girls, and get a simple, no frills hair cut. I guess the closest thing is the guy who is cutting hair in some local park or on the street. Salons rule the city, and most other cities in China. The process involves the longest hair washing of your life, followed by (for men at least) a very short hair cut and then yet another hair washing.
There is no need for me to go over all of this, Ben's blog details the situation well after having spent a month working at a barbershop. Why I want to talk about this is that as someone used to a no frills, cheap experience, its hard finding a place to go for a haircut here. There's a place right outside my building where they do it all for RMB35. For the price, the place is actually very nice. However, I was curious as to what else there is out there. I considered briefly going to the Salon Esprit in MixC, but figured the price (whatever it is) is too much considering my hair is not the most stylish and is extremely simple to cut.
After having seen a tip online about another place close to my apartment, on Bao An Nan Rd, next to Xiao Fei Yang, I figured I'd check it out. From the outside, the place looks very high end and the products are from the French line, Kerastase. The owner (or who I presumed was the owner) greeted me at the entrance and showed me to the washing area. There one of the "little sisters" took my bag, put it in a locker and gave me the key, as well as giving me a robe to put on over my clothing. This place has one innovation that I haven't seen elsewhere, while they have a flat screen tv at the entrance and tvs by the hair cutting stations, so that you won't be bored during the lengthy hair washing process, they have 3 tvs mounted on the ceiling, so as you look up, you can watch. The hair products were high quality, if not very manly (even today after 2 showers, I still catch a wiff of a baby powderish smell on my hair and back). Also, beyond the typical cup of lukewarm water, they offered pop, orange juice, and a few other options.
Overall, this is an excellent place for a mid-priced (well, I guess more high end) haircut. To a westerner, even a guy used to barbershops, the RMB118 I paid for the wash and cut won't seem too bad. Sure, they didn't do that much better than the guys charging RMB35 (and I had to walk a different way to avoid their looks, out of guilt, sort of like Jerry and Uncle Enzo), but I'm embracing the high end customer service. Having had my haircut for RMB6 and for prices that might cause even John Edwards to blush, I have to say that this place, which is higher end for China but still far from the most expensive, is a very good choice.
If you'd like to try them out, the shop is called 主流发型美容情报站 and it is located at 罗湖区宝安南路2078号深港豪苑首层, for those that can't read Chinese, just look for the "Hair Salon" signs next to Xiao Fei Yang on Bao An Rd. It isn't like the barbershops that I'm used to, but it will certainly do the job.