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September 16, 2019

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Home » City specials » Hangzhou

Barber’s shop still cut above after 50 years

Some of the regulars at Yu Defa’s barbershop have been getting their hair cut by him for half a century. Yu’s business, located in Xinpuyan Village, Xihu District of Hangzhou, has been running since the late 1960s, and continues to turn a steady trade thanks to his low prices and top-notch skills.

When Shanghai Daily visited, 70-year-old Yu was busy cutting the hair of 12-year-old Zheng Xinyu.

“My grandfather gets his hair cut in this barbershop every two months and so do I,” said Zheng.

In recent years, Yu’s customer base has grown to include many other grandchildren of his older clients.

Yu charges 15 yuan (US$2.1) for every haircut, far cheaper than most of his counterparts in Shanghai.

“Fifty years ago when I opened the shop, there was no water heater or electric razors. I had to fetch water from the neighboring Fuchun River and then heat on the stove,” Yu recalled.

In those early days, Yu charged only 0.2 yuan for a haircut. At the time, the average salary is around 60 yuan per month. This was good money and trimming hair brought him a decent income.

When the country embarked on reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, his business boomed, allowing him to buy his present-day house in the center of the village. He’s also invested in a new water heater and electric razors.

For the most part though, things haven’t changed too much over the past 40 years in terms of the barbershop’s appearance. In its aesthetics, the shop is still quite basic and traditional.

“In the 1990s, new hair salons began to pop up. Young people go to trendy shops now rather than trimming their hair in my outdated barbershop,” Yu told Shanghai Daily, “From then on, senior villagers became my primary consumers and business started to decline.”

The barbershop gradually turned into a secluded nook in the village as more modern houses were erected around it over recent decades. The once-advanced water heating machine and electric razors have also turned into antiques.

“At the peak of my life, I worked from 6am to 10pm in a bid to earn more money. Today, I open the barbershop only for a few hours each day and trim hair for a dozen fixed guests,” said Yu. “But I will continue running it until I cannot work.”


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