There aren’t much of the old, sparsely furnished barber shops left in Hong Kong, but still you can find them. Most of them have only a few customers, most are managed by some elderly hairdressers and if you are lucky to find one who is willing to be photographed there is only one thing missing: an old mandarin song from the 1930s playing in the background and a lovely model in a cheongsam on one of the chairs.
This would look like a scene from a classic old movie. During 1950s to 1970s, Shanghai barber shops were very popular in Hong Kong. Those days have gone. Where they were once seen as stylish, Shanghai barber shops are now seen as old-fashioned. Their survival is threatened by rising rents and the loss of customers.
The decline in the business has led to fewer workers in the industry. Most of the Barbers now have to do everything themselves; hair washing, cutting, blow-drying and shaving.
Most of the customers who visit shops like this are old regulars who started getting their hair cut there when they were young. They stick to the same hairdresser for many years.
As for most of the old guard, they are proud of the haircutting skills they gained from many years of experience. Although electric razors are available, they still think that everything should be done the old-fashioned way, by hand.
As long as barbers still guard the old ways, that essence can be preserved. But the days are numbered for Hong Kong’s Shanghai Barber shops.