There are more beauty parlours and hair salons in China alone than in the rest of the world combined. At least, eyebrow threading fountain gate that is my impression. Well, if you make allowances for a little exaggeration you will get the picture.
It’s not that the Chinese have more hair but what they do, they like to flaunt. Walk down any street in any Chinese city, town or village and you will see salons cheek by jowl – well, almost! And, there are streets where there are more of these establishments than any other. Beauty parlours and hair salons serve a dual purpose. They do cut, trim, shape and colour hair but many also front for less innocent pleasures. More of that later.
Most Chinese have a thick head of hair that neither age nor time can seemingly wither. Old and young, all seem very hirsute – but only at the head level. Cast your eyes a little lower and all signs of hirsuteness begin to wane. Thus, moustaches and beards are a rarity in China. One does see a few people, although rarely, with a not-so-thick moustache but beards seem to grow only on artists’ chins and those of beggars and mendicants.
Yet, business thrives within the confines of glass-paned beauty parlours and hair salons. Expert hands scissoring away at long, dark, luxuriously beautiful hair are a sight one can behold any time of the day or night, almost. Around festival times and annual May Day and National Holidays, in particular, business explodes in anticipation of long-awaited vacations and happy reunions. That’s when beauticians and barbers work like Edward Scissorhands, their fingers inspired, their hearts on song.
These establishments are often staffed by trained personnel, some with certificates from vocational insitutes specialising in beauty treatment and hair care. Walk into one and you will see stacks of magazines and catalogues from China and abroad, replete with latest pictures of hair styles, beauty treatments and the like.
The salons bleach and clour, cut and shape hair into styles that sometimes look captivatingly beautiful on some faces and atrociously inappropriate on some. It’s not entirely their fault when the results are negative for there are clients who want the blonde of Scandinavia or the turquoise of peacocks on their hair.
A hair shampoo followed by a cut, dye, another shampoo and a perm can be had for as little as a hundred kuai or twelve dollars fifty! And, young men and women, in particular, are flocking into these establishments to add a zing to their lives and a thing to their hair.
Beauty salons that provide services other than beatification, nonetheless, have employees who can wield the scissors and lessen the burden on some heads. These parlours look like their more genuine counterparts, except their glass panes are either smaller or tinted or both, giving passersby just about enough occasion to see their wares, nattily dressed young women with shoes up to their calves and hair styled in all shapes, sizes and colours. Walk in, negotiate, do your business in a curtained/ply-walled room at the back and walk out, singing your favourite song.