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February 27, 2020

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Trashman’s ‘salon’ fights outbreak in style

BECAUSE of the coronavirus epidemic, most of Shanghai’s hair salons and stylists has been closed and it forces many local residents to make do with unkempt looks. This is not the case, however, with colleagues of Gao Jianjiang, a 48-year-old barber-turned-sanitation worker in Baoshan District.

Over the past six years, Gao has offered free haircuts to his colleagues every Tuesday afternoon.

His makeshift “barbershop” is full of “customers,” many of whom refer to Gao as “Tony” — a generic nickname for barbers in China.

This past Tuesday, Gao was even busier than normal as that day marked longtaitou (“Dragon raises its head”). The second day of the second lunar month, this day is believed to be an auspicious time to get a haircut.

“It’s difficult to find an open hair salon these days, thus my skills are extremely popular,” Gao told Shanghai Daily. He gave free haircuts to 20 colleagues on the day.

Over recent weeks, he’s also given haircuts to sanitation workers from other companies as well. “I’m happy to give them a clean shave,” he said.

Gao learned the art of barbering from a Yangzhou master when he was only 18. He worked as a professional haircutter until 2013, but hasn’t managed to put down his shears entirely.

“At first, I just wanted to help my colleagues with my skills because we are good friends,” he said. “But it’s been going on for six years.”

He also provides free haircut services to seniors living alone at residential complexes near his work unit.

Nowadays Gao carefully disinfects each piece of his kit, as well as the barbershop, before each cut.

Customers wait outside and are called in one at a time to avoid crowding. Gao also wears a mask and protective eyewear while snipping away.

“I’m skilled, so it takes 10 to 20 minutes for each person depending on the complexity of their hairstyle,” said Gao.

Gao’s regular job though is somewhat less delicate.

Mostly, he loads barrels of trash into garbage trucks. In a single day, he can lug upward of 200 barrels at residential communities — rain, sun, snow or wind. The job is even harsher now due to the outbreak.

“I change my mask and gloves every four hours to eliminate hazards,” said Gao.


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