“Maybe not the oldest job of all times but certainly a very old occupation that will surely continue for a while. In an occidental view, a haircut may seem to be a big deal, but here in Nha Trang, which has a different case, haircuts have become more than just a daily routine.”
You’ll normally see these men sitting on big black chairs. It would seem that they are just waiting on their comfy seats. But in fact, if you start observing them for a while, you will understand that they are actual barbers.
Immediately before lunchtime, you’ll see them setting up their equipment and start waiting for their first customers.
It is a pleasure to look at them all in one line. No competition and no hard feelings even if someone chose one over the other. They are here to shave you, cut your hair, and you don’t even need to setup an appointment with them. This is the daily life of a Vietnamese street barber.
One of them we were lucky enough to meet. His name is Mr Li Xuan Thanh, a 56-year-old Vietnamese man. This has been his job for the past ten years and before working on the streets, he used to do little jobs that he could find.
He learned his work by practicing with relatives. And finally, when he felt ready, he started his own small business. We asked him what the basic things are for someone to be able to start this kind of business. He just smiled and calmly pointed at his equipment. We immediately understood what he meant. No license is required to start on the streets.A list of things that he uses are a comfortable chair that can bend down, a pair of scissors, an electronic shaver, and a brush. He also has a headlamp to be used when cleaning his customers’ ears.
Not to forget the standard equipment you would expect at a barbershop like a mirror attached to the wall. A regular day for Mr Thanh starts at 7:30AM and finishes around 5PM. The number of guests changes from a maximum of ten on busy days to nothing for the not so lucky days. With an average of five customers a day, he is more than happy to make a living out of it.
He has told us that he is not advertising in anyway and he has a good relationship with each of the seven other barbers on the same street. If a guest is happy, he will come back, and if a guest arrives while he is already cutting someone’s hair, he will send him to the other barbers.
He lives a couple of miles away but he does not have to transport all his equipment as he has a friend in the neighbourhood who keeps everything for him.
He works seven days a week all year long and is happy about his job even though his only holidays are during the Vietnamese New Years. He knows his job and he does it well. He also explained that he does not need to ask for a specific kind of haircut because with his experience, he can just imagine the perfect one for each of his customers.
At the end of the conversation, we asked him what were the most important things he needs to remember with his job; he replied with “Carefulness, resiliency, and imagination”.
Carefulness because he works with sharp objects and he does not want to hurt any of his clients.Resiliency is important because it helps him to adapt from busy days to quieter ones.
And finally imagination because he would have to have a great sense of imagination to be able to provide the right haircut for the right person.
Ly Tu Trong St., Nha Trang, Vietnam
Open Monday to Saturday
2.00PM to 9.30 PM