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State-owned barbershops dying out

By Ma Danning | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2013-05-16 20:03
State-owned barbershops dying out

Chen Shuiping, a 59-year-old barber, gives a crew cut at Tating barbershop in Fuzhou city, capital of East China's Fujian province, on May 14, 2013. Chen said crew cut is the hairstyle he can do best after three years of apprenticeship back in the 1970s. [Zhang Bin/Asianewsphoto]

Old-fashioned door frames with peeling paint, faded hairstyle posters, tarnished razors and hair clippers, worn-out barber chairs that seem to be used only in the 20th century.

One look into the barbershop will bring you instantly back to the old days, when people who had their hair done at such shops were nothing but modern and fashionable. But for children born in the 1990s, a shabby barber shop with outdated tools like this one can only be seen in movies.

Chen Shuiping, a 59-year-old barber, is cutting, shaving and dying hair for one of his old customers. The shop he is working at is Tating barbershop, located in Fuzhou city, capital of East China's Fujian province. It is the last state-owned barbershop in the city, with a history of more than 30 years.

Chen was hired by a local state-owned company at the age of 19. After learning the craft for three years as an apprentice, he was appointed by the company to work at Tating barbershop. Chen is planning to retire after one year and nine months. That's his time to say goodbye to the shop where he has spent his entire working life.

In its prime, Tating barbershop once had more than 10 barbers. Entering the 1990s, as China policy makers started restructuring state-owned enterprises, some barbers from Tating were laid off. Now only Chen and one other barber still work there. They still use the old hairdressing tools and methods to wash hair—they pour water into a bucket on the wall and let the water flow through a rubber tube into an enamel basin--exactly how customers had their hair washed in a barber shop in 1980s.

Chen and his colleague now run the barbershop independently, although they hand in fees to the parent company as the barbershop is still state-owned. The subway station on Shangteng street, along which the barbershop is located, is now under construction. After it's finished, the street will be expanded, and the buildings along the street are set to be destroyed. Tating barbershop may not be able to escape its destiny.

"If we cannot find a cheap and suitable place to resume our business, Tating will not exist anymore. State-owned barbershops of this kind are fast dying out," Chen said.

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