In many ways, in spite of meritocracy, democracy or whathaveyou that we put on, it often feels like we are suffering from the weird lingerings-on of a primitive system...

But this is really about hair and hairdressing.

剪 (cut-cut)
Before, During, art by J

A one-party landscape and a monarchy have these common types - an emperor, the crown prince, a select group of favourite princes/princesses, eunuchs, courtiers and generals...everyone else a tax-paying subject. On a small island, substitute the emperor with a feudal lord and his clan.

In such a world, that rigid, unquestioned hierarchy of occupations also prevail. The way to the top is either to commandeer troops or be a scholar, and rise to be a magistrate, first in the small town, and perhaps to the capital to join the court of ministers. Merchants are respected and disdained for their wealth. Poets drown. Artists (if they survive) must pander to the taste of the emperior and the court, or the lord and his clan - service the legitimising and celebration power with the display of prosperity and human achievement. But hairdressers. Folks who use their hands, service the body or its appearance - thair dressers, ear-cleaners, tailors, artisans, singers - they are at the bottom.

The Cloth Maker (裁縫)

Against this limiting order emerged the liberating, fictional jiang hu - an alternate universe of swords(wo)men, and bad evil villains on the extremes of yin or yang. The jiang hu and its unwritten codes of coduct (not unlike the Italian mafia underground), return compassion and justice to the alienating forces of officialdom (whose bad eggs are often in cahoots with the villains with the red eyeliner and green smoke bombs).

Aiyah, I don't really know why or what I'm ranting and rambling about here. Perhaps it's just been a frustrating week at work, and I almost wish I could, like Terz and Tym, imagine living away from this small island.

But back to hairdressing.

In Singapore, a hairdresser is not something a child dreams of becoming. It is a job associated with low-wage foreigners from across the border or the Middle Kingdom, and Secondary School dropouts. Designers and artists are marginally higher on that ladder. J and I know go to G for our haircuts. After so many years, he's a friend who amazes us each time with some fancy two-headed scissors he's just bought from an 18 year-old master in Japan, a new tale of his new snazzy salon in Shanghai, or some strange concept salon he's been dreaming about.

But hairdressing can be more than an occupation stuck on some invisible ladder going nowhere, it can be an art. And as with most arts, it takes skill, experience, knowledge and understanding - creativity and vision. I remember a conversation with G once about what he does. We talked about texture, fashion, form, perspective and lines, logic and intuition, sculpture, cultures, ergonomics (in the design of scissors!), business, the future and shampoo.

life saver

In the end, hairdressing saved my week.

:: At its start, I learnt about Read Singapore, and the Library Board's initiative with several hair salon owners to introduce a reading club in their salons. What a great idea! Why can't there be a politicians book club? A civil servants' reading club? These are folks who really ought to read more -and not just management books or reports, but fiction, glorious fiction, redeeming fiction of jiang hu!

:: Two nights ago, I invited J to try his hand at trimming a fringe that demands to be trimmed. Tonight, after studying the results, we're going to do more cutting. After all, he has been observing G for almost a decade now, surely he had picked up something! Time for an experiment! (see images above)

:: Yesterday, I chanced upon an article in Forbes that listed the 10 jobs that will disappear, 10 jobs of the future, and 10 jobs that will never go away. Guess what's #5 and #6?(*)

:: Today, I met with Wheyface and orange clouds (back from Beijing). Over a yummy lunch of fish roe spaghetti, what else did we talk about for 30mins but that fascinating art - hairdressing - Japanese haridressers in China, horror perms, selective rebonding, tri-coloured highlights. Even hairy Lee made a guest appearance, courtesy of Wheyface's professorial observations during the conversation.

So long live hairdressing! Long live hairdressers! Long live hairy hair!

(*) 1 - politician
2 - prostitute
3 - mortician
4 - tax collector
5 - barber ("nothing is certain in life but death, taxes and haircuts")
6 - artists inc. designers, writers, entertainers
7 - parents/parenting
8 - religious leaders
9 - criminal
10 - soldier


avalon said…
where did you eat the fish roe spagetti? sorry, first thought on my mind...
Unknown said…
i let BBOJ dye my hair b4. it was a harrowing experience! esp when he asks "is it supposed to look like this?" u r a brave brave girl to let J touch it with scissors. glad it turned out ok =D
ampulets said…
avalon - cafe rosso at holland village. recommended!

sb - haha, i think it was more harrowing for J, cos i was stressing him about having the scissors next to my eyes. in the end he was so careful and took so long, i fell asleep.

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