There was a time when hipsters were defined as people who followed the latest trends, especially those outside the cultural mainstream. However, the growth of hipster culture lately has led to the term losing its original intended meaning and in fact, ‘hipsters’ seem to be the most mainstream crowd of them all.
With an increasing number of ‘hipster barbers’ opening their doors in recent years, it may be hard to even call them hipster any longer. To stay ahead of the mainstream crowd and establish yourself as a true blue hipster, this is one barber you should get your haircut at.
Meet the mother of all hipster barbers – Xin Xiang Barber Salon.
Located in a quaint alley along Boon Tat Street, there was already a queue when we arrived. Apart from the occasional curious stares and murmurs from office workers walking through, the old-school aesthetics of this barbershop seemed like a scene from a long forgotten past.
Welcoming every customer warmly before settling them down and powdering them up, I was reminded of my childhood when I used to get my hair cut at a neighbourhood barber. At the same time, I couldn’t fathom the history behind a place like this since even then, street barbers were already uncommon enough.
With over 50 years of experience, Mr Lee began learning the craft at a young age from his shifu. Previously, Mr Lee ran his business out of a shophouse in the building just behind this alley and only relocated in 2002 after the sudden surge in rent proved too much to handle.
Shifting out into the alley, Mr Lee had to set up this makeshift shelter all by himself. He went on to explain how he didn’t mind a little sun or rain, but to him, his customers’ comfort is of utmost importance and it wouldn’t be nice if they had to get wet while getting a haircut.
Unlike upscale salons or even the more recent ones located around the neighbourhood, it is rare to find barbers who still use these single-blade razors. Needless to say, this fine art has slowly been lost due to the reliance on modern electric shavers but in recent years, it is showing signs of making a comeback due to the rise of hipster barbers.
However, Mr Lee’s technique and expertise is something that can only be perfected through years of experience and time spent honing his skills. With clean, precise strokes, the end result of the shave looks sharper and gives some edginess to the traditional ‘slope’.
Also, if you think old-school barbers are all about crew cuts and buzz cuts, you are wrong. Mr Lee is well aware of current trends such as the two-block cut or what many would call the ‘undercut’.
See how he clips up a portion of hair before shaving the sides? Fans of the trendy ‘undercut’ would definitely find this a familiar sight.
Having his lunch only at two in the afternoon, Mr Lee was busy all morning giving haircuts to customers whom he did not want to keep waiting. This dedication is what I really respect about his services.
From the work put into singlehandedly erecting a makeshift shelter, to his thoughtfulness towards customers, it is evident how he tries his best not to compromise on the quality of his services despite being in a humble space.
Hold up if you think that only old Uncles get their hair cut here – Mr Lee’s customers come from all age groups and there’s a reason why they keep coming back. Playfully boasting that he has new customers who come by after seeing how stylish their friend’s haircut looked, the undying passion he still has for his work even after five decades is admirable.
Next time you’re having a headache choosing the most hipster-ish salon, just book an appointment with Mr Lee and earn bragging rights from getting a trendy haircut at a street barber. After all, how many of your ‘hipster’ friends can say the same?
Price: $6 per haircut
Xin Xiang Barber Salon: Back alley of 1 Boon Tat St, Singapore 069611 | Opening Hours (subject to change): 10am – 5pm (Mon to Sat)| Tel: +65 9771 2146
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