Do you know Asian hair is the most difficult to cut?
Four words: Black. Straight. Thick. Coarse.
And I was, all of the above. Plus I have more than three swirls in the back.
Why is it so hard?
- Because it’s black, it’s heavy visually.
- Because it’s straight, every cut shows. You can’t afford too many fuck-ups.
- Because it’s thick, you need to trim a lot without making the client look like he just had a round of chemo.
- Because it’s coarse, it tends to blow up if you never studied this type of hair cuticle.
- And lastly, because you are dealing with swirls, you need to engage probably three or more different techniques (concave, overdirection, blending shears) to cut around or along.
In Shanghai, finding a legit hairdresser is not so much a scarcity issue, but more of a budget and vicinity issue. However, it was a nearly mission impossible when I moved to LA in 2015.
Why didn’t I grow my hair long like other Chinese women living abroad? Well, long hair was too much work for me because of my cursed greasy scalp. For the record, I did grow out my hair three tries before I called it a total strike-out.
I heard more than a few times how scarce good Asian-hair hairdresser was in the US. Then I arrived. It was, well, by and large the truth.
Here are some observations and lessons-learnt:
- Unlike Shanghai where men dominate the hairdressing business; in LA, there are many more women cutting hair.
- At first I went to a hair salon school for my monthly trim. It was cheap, good, although time-consuming. Because the hairdressers there were students who just began to learn cutting hair. I was their guinea pig.
- Either the students cried for their sensei to save my hair, or I would end up screaming for supervisor to rescue me from some ballsy students’ attempts to be Edward Scissorhands IX.
- Overtime, I learned a bank full of haircutting jargons, in order to convey what I want.
- After I started working, I found a new hair salon in Westwood by a Vietnamese American couple, I gave it a try. It was expensive plus tip. But totally worth the money and the time. The hairdressers not only learned their techniques at the Vidal Sassoon Academy that is known for stylizing short hair, they also had trainings in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Before the Westwood joint, the owners used to cut hair in San Gabriel, where the Chinese populated.
In order to be the best, you need to cut as much Asian hair as possible. I asked my new Shanghai hairdresser today when a protégé can really start cutting hair that is not off the mannequin heads or their empathetic friends. He replied, “Three years. He can start cutting clients’ hair but it doesn’t mean he’s any good yet.”
Let’s do the math here:
- You get a steady stream of Asian hair,
- On an hourly basis,
- Within a shop that opens from 10 am to 10 pm,
- You take one day off per week,
- You work through holidays like the Chinese New Year…
How much better and how much faster would you be comparing to the students in the LA beauty schools who may very well flip the fuck out when I’m assigned to them? And some really did…
The next question I’m thinking is:
So, where is the ‘Asian hair’ in the trade of screenwriting?