Dying Trades: Street Barber
After convincing someone to become my hair model so I could document a street barber, Mr Tan Boon Kee, at work, we made our way to Aliwal Street. We peeked around before spotting a little makeshift store in a side alley. Tarpulin (better known as the blue plastic canvas - Tarp) formed a shield from the sun and rain, and boy, was it a hot day.
We waited in line as he gave his old-time customers snips and shaves, One customer had fallen asleep while he chatted away in dialect with his subject in a very old, worn out chair. Everything from the tools to surroundings was a relic, and apprehension begin to set in. Were the blades rusty? Did they get changed after every customer? Was the environment sanitary?
I observed Mr Tan sharpening or cleaning his blade on leather inbetween cuts, and he did change to a new blade once, though I can't say if it was for every customer. It was a shame that neither of us spoke the language, as we were missing out on engaging with the master at work.
The cut was over quickly, and left out the extra services of shaving and trimming the nose hair.. By then it was sweltering, and it was time to find the now regretful hair model some air-con to cool down.
As for the haircut, let's say the lack of communication left a lot of hair on the top, which was promptly snipped off the next day in a regular, air conditioned barber.
Oh how have times changed (Also if you are fluent in dialect and interested to go down with me again to have a chat with Mr Tan, please let me know :) )