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20 May 2014 / leggypeggy

Poor John and the almighty cheap haircut

Barber shop, Beijing

Chinese barber shops usually have black and white poles

Poor John is obsessed with getting cheap haircuts—not so much so that he’ll let me cut his hair, but obsessed nevertheless.

He happily recalls many $2 haircuts on our travels throughout Africa. In Nigeria there was a difference between barbing and barbering. Barbing was done with clippers only (or so Poor John surmises) and barbering throws in a bit of scissor work. He stuck with the barbing only—no sense overspending on a haircut.

He was also pretty pleased with a $4 haircut (plus a $1 tip I made him give) at the hairdressing school in Denver Colorado.

getting a haircut

Poor John finally getting a haircut

The equivalent school at the Canberra Institute of Technology charges about $12. It was closed during the Easter holidays so Poor John decided to let his hair grow until he made it to China and another land of cheap haircuts—don’t mention the time he got gouged in western China.

So we’re back in China. We landed in Beijing about 5:30am on Friday. Within four hours we had checked into the hotel, had showers and were on our way to see—you guessed it—a barber.

Of course, we weren’t looking for any particular barber, just any old barber who could/would do the job on the cheap. Any sign that said ‘unisex’ and any hairdresser wearing chains or high heels were to be avoided. Sequins were out and so was silver trim.

I spotted the black-and-white, checked barber poles first. Poor John hadn’t even noticed them, but I suppose he was looking for the standard red and white striped poles you see in most of the world.

Using a bit of sign language and a note pad, the receptionist explained that he had a choice of a 40, 60 or 100-yuan haircut. Not surprisingly, Poor John thought 40 yuan would do the trick, so we sat down to wait for his turn.

Well what a palatial joint. Each barber had his own ornately carved and well-equipped cubicle.

barber's cubicle, China

The most palatial cubicle

The sixth and last cubicle was quite a bit larger than the others and was probably where he-who-commands-100-yuan-per-haircut operated. He was, indeed, laboring away—hair by hair—on a fellow’s meticulous crew cut. What a production.

But that wasn’t Poor John’s barber. No, that fellow was in the middle of someone else’s cut when we arrived so after we sat down, the receptionist brought us two cups of refreshing green tea.

Soon enough it was Poor John’s turn and his 40-yuan cut was done with care and attention. He even got his hair washed—twice.

He reckons this will hold him until we are back in China towards the end of July. I suggested that, as 40 yuan is less than $7, he might spring for another cut in between, somewhere in the Stans. He’s thinking about it.

Chinese barber shop

I doubt we’ll ever see such a palatial barber shop again


Leave a Comment
  1. Derrick / May 20 2014 9:45 pm

    I do it myself, nothing wrong with a short back and shine, last time I had a haircut in Sth America, but that was I got a free shave if I got a hair cut


    • leggypeggy / May 20 2014 9:49 pm

      Ah, another bargain-hunting man in need of a haircut! 🙂


      • Derrick / May 20 2014 9:54 pm

        Funnily enough I have just had one, looks fine from where I am 🙂 No idea what others think of it though, the best part is if you make a mistake, it will grow back and I can do a better job next time.

        The barbers here have a red and white pole, I never took much notice until you pointed it out.


      • leggypeggy / May 20 2014 9:57 pm

        You must be looking all spruced up. Sometimes barber poles are red, white and blue, but I read that no one knows exactly where the blue comes from.


  2. Your loving daughter / May 20 2014 9:58 pm

    What – no before and after pics?


    • leggypeggy / May 20 2014 11:53 pm

      Oops, sorry! But you know what he looks like before and after.


  3. weggieboy / May 20 2014 11:16 pm

    I am not so much a bargain hunter for haircuts as a haircut delayer, which accomplishes the same end: twice a year I get a haircut, pay a decent price plus leave an extravagant tip so the poor lady who cuts my hair can afford to stay in business if she depends on my patronage. Ha! 😉


    • leggypeggy / May 20 2014 11:56 pm

      Methinks you spend most of your grooming money on your cats. Nothing wrong with that, but I don’t think Poor John could stand to wait six months between haircuts.


  4. Mike / May 21 2014 1:41 am

    It’s always good when us old guys have hair to cut. 🙂


    • leggypeggy / May 21 2014 1:55 am

      Oh gosh, you made me laugh. You bet, it sure is good when there’s hair to cut. 🙂


  5. bibseyb / May 21 2014 4:22 am

    Hi Peggy,

    This article was especially fun and I am sharing it with Brian as he always enjoys haircuts in exotic places.

    Thanks for the great fun,

    Sandy and Brian


    • leggypeggy / May 21 2014 12:14 pm

      You’re most welcome. Surely Brian must be about due for a haircut in Australia. Start planning. 🙂


  6. Vicky / May 21 2014 8:11 am

    Looking smart John. My two — poor Graham and young Luke — aren’t so much keen to get a cheap haircut as too lazy to head out to the barber — when they consider they can get a free cut in the garden or watching the telly from me! Have been doing it for years.


    • leggypeggy / May 21 2014 12:11 pm

      Ah, there’s the difference Vicky. John isn’t all that keen to have me do the job, which suits me fine. In future, perhaps he can line up behind Graham and Luke. Just suggesting. 🙂


  7. David York / May 28 2014 12:49 am

    Very nice, Peggy! I’d forgotten John went to the barber school here for the $4 haircut!

    My best cheap cut was in Thailand where they also had individual private cubicles though very plain especially when compared to this one! Nevertheless they were private cubicles with a closed coor even. The $4 (about, certainly not much more) included the washing, cutting, nose trim, eyebrow trim, ear trim and neck & shoulder massage at the en! Awesome treatment and if I remember right I went ahead and gave him about a 100% tip as I was so pleased.

    Keep those good cheap haircuts coming!


    • leggypeggy / Jun 13 2014 1:39 pm

      Oh yes, I often remind Poor John of his cheap cut in Denver, and the need to tip in the USA. 🙂

      He’s not ready yet for his next cut and is trying to work out in which country to have it.


  8. lmo58 / Jun 3 2014 10:13 am

    Hi Peggy,
    Unlike loving daughter, I don’t have a before photo. Where is it please? Ha ha ha he he he


    • leggypeggy / Jun 23 2014 10:32 pm

      Sorry Louise, but I completely missed getting one.


  9. hungrydai / Jun 22 2014 11:07 pm

    John would love Nepal’s 50 rupee (31pence) haircuts. Our nephew Kumar pays half that in the nearby police barracks.


    • leggypeggy / Jun 22 2014 11:24 pm

      Oh wow! I reckon Poor John will be booking our next trip to Nepal. That’s a haircut price too good to pass up. 🙂


      • hungrydai / Jun 23 2014 12:00 pm

        Peggy, John might not like the barber shops here. They are primitive and filthy mostly. There are much better places in the capital but prices multiply in those.


      • leggypeggy / Jun 23 2014 1:07 pm

        Thanks for the warning, but Poor John can cope with dirt and grime. The bargain-priced haircut is what he’s after. 🙂


      • hungrydai / Jun 23 2014 1:32 pm

        You are welcome. In the nearby APF barracks, they charge only 25 Nepalese rupees which is half price so it’s almost worth coming to Nepal for. There sre some cheating barbers down in the city who rip off unsuspecting tourists for 400 rupees and I went to one once who demanded 400 rupees. I just threw a 100 rupee not on the counter and walked out leaving him protesting. I usually leave 100 rupees which is 50 rupees for the haircut and a 50 rupee tip. My Nepali friends cringe at this but I am well pleased.


      • leggypeggy / Jun 23 2014 10:30 pm

        I agree with you. At that price a huge tip is mandatory. We also know about tourist-cheating barber. Encountered one in Kashgar in China.


  10. Claremary P. Sweeney / Dec 29 2015 9:21 pm

    I could live in one of these stalls! I totally understand the benefits of waiting for such an experience. Poor John is definitely a Kindred Spirit!


    • leggypeggy / Dec 29 2015 10:45 pm

      Those stalls were so elaborate, I can see how you be tempted to move in.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. payel / Jul 19 2016 8:17 am

    Hilarious story of hair cutting 😀 Now I am thinking to have Chinese hair cut. Not bad at all :D.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jul 19 2016 12:18 pm

      He did have an earlier haircut in the western part of China and they cheated him on price, so be sure to ask the cost before you let them start 😀


  12. bacardi gold / Aug 30 2016 2:13 pm

    I didn’t know Chinese barber shops are grand ’till I’ve seen your pictures…wishing I could experience it on how they fare on modern cuts!…:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 30 2016 9:17 pm

      I don’t know if all Chinese barber shops are so grand, but this one was amazing. The guy at the back (the biggest stall) was doing fancy haircuts.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. barkinginthedark / May 19 2020 5:43 pm

    And now, guess who will be cutting PJ’s hair Peggy. Sharpen those scissors girrrl. continue…

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 19 2020 7:52 pm

      Hahaha. He got a professional haircut last week. He’s feeling very smug.

      Liked by 1 person

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