Friday, January 24, 2014

The Edward Scissorhands Experience: What it's like to get a haircut in Korea

Not your average hair shop. But what do I know? 
It’s safe to say that things in Korea are done a little… differently. That doesn’t change with hair shops, or how Westerners refer to them, salons. I’ve had this pleasurable and often odd experience a handful of times since coming to Korea.

During my first month here I was in dire need of some split-end removal, so I headed to a Gil Hair after a solid recommendation from my friend Guissell. I memorized how to say “I would like a haircut please” before heading to the shop, but when it came down to it I ended up miming cutting my hair with an imaginary pair of finger-scissors. Lucky for me a kind lady who spoke enough English to understand what I meant ushered me into a salon chair.

One major difference between Korean and Western salons is the presence of group cooperation that occurs between the employees of Korean hair shops. The majority of salons I have been to in the United States involve the stylist renting a chair from the salon and paying rent to use the space. That stylist is typically the only person who touches your hair and in turn they get the entire payment from whatever services they provided.

At this hair shop I had no less than four people touching my hair throughout the course of the haircut. The first person: a middle-aged man who took to my hair with a pair of shears and a skill that I can only compare to that of Johnny Depp in “Edward Scissorhands” going to town on the neighborhood women’s hair, dogs and topiary. The second person: a young man who led me to the hair washing station and proceeded to give me the most invigorating scalp massage to date. A couple interesting things I noticed about this: the chair customers sit in while getting their hair washed automatically rises so that your feet are on level with the rest of your body. Secondly, the person washing your hair lies a small white towel over your eyes. I'm not sure if this has anything to do with Korea's stance on eye contact, but ultimately it added to a more relaxing experience.

The last two people who came in contact with my hair proceeded to attack it with a blow dryer, then not one, but two straighteners with one person on each side of my scalp. If Korea knows how to do one thing well, it's efficiency. Throughout the straightening process random salon employees stood behind my chair to watch. It was slightly strange but it must have something to do with this hair shop not having too many foreign customers walk through its doors.

When all was finished the total came to 20,000 W, less that $19. Gil Hair, I'll be back.

1 comment:

  1. I had a most pleasant hair style when I was there, and I must say, the nicest cut I have ever received. i may fly back just for that very purpose!