I never knew this about the hair industry in Singapore!

Posted On: February 4, 2014

I had a hair cut (after winning a HerWorld Singapore promo voucher) with hair stylist Marcus Jiang of Kim Robinson yesterday morning (3 Feb – 4th day of Chinese New Year).

The last time I had a hair cut was probably two years ago! I decided to grow out my hair because I wanted to donate it towards those people who need hair for wigs. Eventually though, as my hair grew to the longest ever, I’ve grown quite fond of my mane, and begun feeling more feminine.

I learned a lot about the hair industry from chatting with Marcus (from China) and the shampoo boy Alex (from Singapore). At one point, I had both of them fiddling with my hair. Nice!

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Conversation in Mandarin (recalling from memory):

Me: How long have you been doing this?

Marcus Jiang: Cutting hair three years.

Me: And before that?

Marcus: Five years from the bottom – shampooing, drying, colouring…

Me: Wow… that’s a long time.

Marcus: Yeah.

Me: And all along here?

Marcus: Yeah.

Me: It must have been hard on you… and away from home. (Looking around while he trims my hair).What’s the most difficult part of your work?

(Spoke very briefly about handling challenging clients)

Me: And physically? On your feet all day?

Marcus: Don’t you know all of us tend to suffer from neck and shoulder pain?

Me: Oh yeah.. the repetitive motions…  What have you tried to do about the pain though? Massage?

Marcus: In the beginning, I used to go for weekly shoulder massage. It helped. But I stopped after a while. The pain is only relieved temporarily.

Me: (Omg!) Does the pain get better as you get used to it though?

Marcus: Not really. Having a good support pillow helps me. If I have a well-rested sleep, it does go away. But it comes back. Even my seniors have the same problem.


With shampoo boy Alex (while washing my hair):

Me: How long have you been working here?

Alex: 3 months.

Me: Do you want to be a hairstylist like Marcus?

Alex: Yeah.

Me: It took him five years! Can you wait five years? Or maybe you will succeed sooner?

Summarising what Alex said: I could speed it up by going for classes.(On asking where he would go)… But there is no point in deciding now where is the best place to go when without the experience, I’d still find it difficult to understand what the teacher is saying. There are still lots more that I need to learn. For instance, it’s not easy to cut in a straight line.

Me: Yeah. I can’t even draw in a straight line!

Alex: Use ruler.

Me: I meant without ruler.

Alex: Come to think of it, I can’t draw in a straight line too! How does one draw a straight line?

Me: Quickly.

Alex: Yeah. Cannot think. Just do. Must be decisive. Need to practice. (Couldn’t hear the rest… he really got into the whole thing about drawing straight lines)

Me: How much would it cost to study to be a hairstylist?

Alex: The wig we practice on is already $50. And it has to be 80% natural hair.

Me: That’s not too bad.

Alex: The stand is $100. Tell you the truth. I got one wig for myself.

Me: Wow, the stand is more expensive than the wig!

Alex: There are lots we can learn from a wig – from washing, blowing, highlighting, to cutting. You cannot go to cutting straight away though. Once you cut, you can only cut shorter. And you might end up with nothing to cut.

Me: (Laughing inside) Yeah.

Alex: How come you’re asking so many questions? You want to be a hairstylist too?

Me: It’s just that I’m learning today things I never learned before about your industry! That you guys suffer neck and shoulder pain all the time. Marcus started from the bottom like you.

Alex: We also have to buy our scissors.

Me: What? Doesn’t the company pay for them? How much do they cost?

Alex: They start from $300. There are even those that are $1,000.

Me: What?! (Going crazy thinking what a huge financial burden this must be on them)

Alex: No. You use it. You buy your own.

Me: How many pairs does one need?

Alex: Minimum two. There are those who have six.

Me: (Speechless!)


Later when blow-drying my hair:

Me: How many pairs of scissors do you have?

Marcus: Four.

(Chatted about other subjects)

Marcus: … we have to buy our own scissors.

Me: Yeah I know. Alex told me.

Marcus: Is that why you were asking me how many pairs I have?

Me: Yeah.

Marcus: They can cost as much as $3k.

Me: Huh?! How long do they last?

Marcus: Up to 10 years. But if you drop them… (shakes his head)… it can be very serious.

Me: 10 years. That’s $300 a year! So unfair right?

Marcus: Swordsmen have their own swords. Assassins have their own guns.

Me: (Jaw dropped as I was amazed by the beauty of his analogies)

Marcus: Look at the extension and hairdryer. We have to buy our own too.

Me: What?! (Can anything else shock me now?)

Marcus: It’s not just here. It’s an industry practice.

Me: He wants to be like you.

Marcus: Who?

Me: Alex.

Marcus: He’s new. Just came out of N.S.

Me: Oh. He’s Singaporean.

Marcus: The problem is that a lot of people come and go. High turnover.

Me: Why? They are impatient?

Marcus: That and they have options.

Me: Yeah they are not bonded ‘cos they don’t need a pass (work permit).

Marcus usually works 11a.m. to 9p.m. (with his last client being at 8p.m.) He’s personable, and kind. If you are looking for a hair stylist, do consider Marcus Jiang.

The moral of the story… the point of my post, is this: You never know what you don’t know. Be open. Ask questions. But most importantly, be kind. You never know what other people are really going through. There is so much artistry, heart and pride (and downright hard work) involved in the hair industry and what had to happen for a hair stylist to be one – much less a great one. Respect.

I gained more than a haircut yesterday. I learned appreciatation, gratitude, respect, humility, and humanity.

Hope you liked this post. Please reshare. 🙂

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