Fact: Bald men need to get their hair done, once in a while. So when my usual Malay barber at Bukit Timah Plaza closed down and moved out, I was in a quandary. What do I do next? Where do I go? Hairstylists are not for me, namely because they are expensive ($25 for a hair cut???) and usually they serve women. In order to maintain a nice trim a la Alexis Weissenberg or Shura Cherkassky, I had to find some place, somewhere fast. Then I discovered in Commonwealth Crescent (an old part of Queenstown)... Sin Palace!
SIN PALACE. I just love the name of this place, just like something out of Las Vegas. If this were in Taipei or Shanghai, it would certainly be a front for dubious activities of ill repute. Once a friend of mine innocently went to a barbershop in Taiwan for a haircut, and the lady serving him excused herself to buy a pair of scissors.
As this is Singapore, there are absolutely no fears here. Neither are there any women to be found in this establishment, a good old bona fide barbershop for real men. There are rows of barber seats, cropped hair on the floor and the reassuring sound of scissors doing its work. This certainly reminds me of my childhood, where my mother would bring my brother and I to the Modern Youth Indian barbershop on Orchard Road opposite the old Cold Storage, where a gleaming new shopping centre now stands. Haircuts were $2 a head in those days, and patrons also had the pleasure of perusing lad mags before their turns arrived (I read only the war comics then).
|Tools of the trade, in a real barbershop. Notice the pool of safety razors on the right.|
A typical scene on a lazy Saturday morning at Sin Palace. Its clientele are mostly middle aged men and senior citizens. Many of the people in the shop come for friendly chats with the barbers, read the Chinese newspapers, gossip and to enjoy the air-conditioning. Some have their hair cropped. A radio tuned to a Mandarin-speaking channel is perpetually on, and this is de rigeuer in the Singapore heartlands.
|The owner Mr Ong attending one of his clients.|
|Thumbs up from my personal hair-stylist Mr Chen, who retired as a bus driver many years ago to go into the hair business.|
The best part: men's haircuts go for $8 a head, while boys' haircuts are a modest $5. I usually tell them to keep the change. How much longer can these heartland barbers carry on, given their age and the increasing rentals from the Housing & Development Board? As long as I still have follicles on my head, these gentlemen get my vote!