Saturday, November 07, 2015

cheap barbers

My buddy Tom had told me, months ago, about a legendary barbershop in Jongno, right around Jongno 3-ga, where you can get a cut for around W3,000-W6,000. This sounded much better to me than suffering through another W15,000 cut from the beauty salon in my building, so I asked Tom, yesterday, to elaborate on the magical barbershop's whereabouts. Turns out it's a short walk from Jongno 3-ga Station's Exit 12. Just walk straight, look for the barber pole on the right, duck inside that old building, take the narrow stairs up to the second floor, turn left at the top (you have no choice), and it's the first door on your left.

The flimsy metal-and-glass door gave me a glimpse inside right as I knocked, and I saw that the tiny barbershop looked full: three guys, all dressed in Mafia black, were lounging in the old plush chairs. Turns out they were the barbers.

"Come in!" they shouted heartily as I hesitantly pushed my way inside. A man came up to me and gestured aggressively for me to take off my jacket. They obviously thought I spoke no Korean and had switched to pantomime mode. Another man grunted and led me to a chair. I asked for a "regular cut," which all barbers and salon workers understand the same way: moderately short all around, but especially on the sides.

The sacred, solemn work began and ended quickly. The guy asked me if I wanted a shampooing; I reflexively nodded and was led to the sink, where I received a quick and violent scrubbing from a different guy. I was left to rinse my face and towel off on my own.

The base price for the cut was an incredibly low W3,500: barely three dollars. The guys tacked on an extra W500 for the wash/rinse. I paid a mere W4,000 for today's service, and I had to wonder why these guys weren't swamped with customers. Was it the quiet, cramped, and marginally creepy atmosphere? A reputation for giving clandestine blowjobs? I had no idea.

Anyway, boom. In and out. With barely a dent to the wallet.

I asked the ajeossis about their Saturday work hours; the gent who cut my hair (these were all crusty, older guys) said the shop opened at 8 and closed at 7. I was impressed: a lot of shops open much later—closer to noon—because of the general dearth of morning customers. I took a business card, thanked everyone, said I'd be back, then clumped back down the stairs, out into the light fall rain.


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