Haircut, Reminisces, and Woolgathering

I started cutting my own hair when I was living and studying in Vancouver.

It was for practical reasons – saving money.

I can’t recall how much it was for a haircut in Vancouver. But when I left Singapore at that time, I could get a haircut for a few bucks. Maybe two. Or three dollars. Or maybe my memory is fading.

I remember when haircuts were 50 cents for a kid. A dollar for an adult. It went up to about $2 by the time I left for Vancouver. If memory serves me well.

So I was a poor student with limited budget in Vancouver and there were either no barbers (all hairdressers), or even the barbers were expensive. I suspect it was the former. Or I didn’t know where to find a cheap barber.

So I got some clippers and trimmed my hair for the 3 years or so that I was there.

it was not too difficult. Which is not to say I did not make any mistakes. But I was never a handsome person, and I was not too vain, and in winter in Vancouver, I could put up my parka hood and cover my hair.

And I got better at it. I learned that a little is enough. A lot can be too much. The thing about cutting your own hair is that if you cut too little today, tomorrow you can cut some more. But if you cut too much today… It won’t grow back for a few days… or a few weeks.

When I got back to Singapore after three years, I went to look for my old barber.

He was an old man, with a few colleagues… or partners… or employees in his barber shop. He seemed semi-retired and would sit outside the shop and direct customers into the shop for his employees (or partners) to serve.

But not me.

I do not know why, but he would cut my hair himself.

When I came by, he would drop the newspaper he was reading (probably for the 15th time that day), smile and wave me to a chair. And trim my hair himself. Sometimes he had to wave off the other barbers.

And then at the end of it, he would ask, with a mischievous smile, if he could shave off my moustache.

I would smile and shake my head.

And he would smile.

It was our little joke.


I sometimes thought, when I was in his chair, maybe TODAY I’ll let him shave off my moustache.

But I never did.

Then I left for Vancouver.


Well, I came back from Vancouver with my moustache… and a beard. And I decided that it was a long time since I had my hair cut by someone else. So I went to look for my barber.

But… he wasn’t there.

The old barber shop was now part of a minimart.

No barber shop. No old man with the mischievous smile who wanted to shave my moustache off.

I never did find out what happened to him. I wondered if his eyes would light up even more if he saw my beard. I wondered if he could even recognise me.

And would he want to shave my beard, as well?

And would I let him?

Anyway, I went back to cutting my own hair.

Going to any other barber seemed… wrong.


Anyway, now there are $10 haircut in 10 minutes in shopping malls. I do not know if customers there become “regulars”. Most of the “barbers” are young. This job seems like something they are doing before moving onto better jobs. I don’t know if they have a chance to built up relationships with their regular customers. I do not know if they have regular customers. I do not know if the customers want to be regular. Maybe they don’t.


So I’m back to cutting my own hair. Have been for years now.

And now, I have a wife. So most recently when I cut my hair, I had her to edge the back where I could not see.

Life is easier when you have a wife to cut your hair.

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