The Hairstylist and the Hipster??

Posted in Barbershop at 8:22 pm by Benjamin Ross

“This job sucks.”
“It’s meaningless.”
“I’m only doing it because I failed in school, and had no other choice.”

These were the comments I heard when I would ask my colleagues about their jobs at the Red Sun in 2007.

“Hairstyling is fun.  It’s creative.”
“This is a clean industry.  You don’t dirty like you would doing construction work.”
“Hairstyling is fashionable.  I’m into fashion, and this job works well for me.”

These are the comments I am hearing at the hairstyling training school in 2014.

Granted my sample size is small, and regionally constrained, but there has been a marked shift in the attitudes of this generation of hairstylists, compared with those 6 or 7 years ago.  When I worked at the Red Sun in 2007, every single one of my colleagues, (with the exception of Li Wen Zhong whom I never asked directly) categorically despised their occupation.  And of the 15 of them, only 2 are still working in the industry.  It’s too early to estimate how long the new trainees I’m interacting with will stay in the industry.  But one thing is becoming apparent.  Hairstyling is starting to become a desirable (or at very least less despicable) avocation.  It’s also being viewed as creative, fashionable, and artistic, adjectives I rarely, if ever heard to describe the industry several years back.

There’s a lot that could be causing this.  One is that more opportunities for youngsters has meant that hairstyling is becoming more of a career of choice than simply a last resort.  It also could be that as the industry is maturing and expanding, newbies are seeing more potential for upward job movement.  But particularly interesting is this connection to fashion, which I am repeatedly hearing from both students and teachers in the school.  Once considered a lowly, despicable, dirty job now becoming, is hairstyling in China now becoming….hip?


  1. James China said,

    March 20, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Also many hair salons are starting to charge big bucks for their services. While a cheap salon in a 2nd or 3rd tier city may still only be about 20 or 30 kuai for a men’s haircut, trendy salons in Shanghai and Beijing can easily get away with charging 100+ RMB for a wash and cut. I’m seeing more of the really trendy places in 2nd tier cities now, and although their prices aren’t really high, the interiors are better designed, and it looks like a much nicer working environment. People are taking more pride in their work. These might be factors.

  2. Benjamin Ross China said,

    March 22, 2014 at 8:51 am

    They are doing this in Fuzhou as well. Basically any place where there is money, there will be expansive haircuts. And from everything I’ve learned, you usually aren’t paying for a better trained stylist, as much as you’re paying for fancy interior decoration and nicer complimentary drinks. Working environments have indeed gotten nicer, and this is indeed a major reason people cite for joining the industry. Complimentary wifi at this point is also an absolute given, probably for employees even more so than the staff.

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