HCMC hair salons swept with post-lockdown clientele

By Dang Khoa, Long NguyenOctober 1, 2021 | 12:23 am PT
Hair salons and barbershops across the city have been overwhelmed by a wave of customers following months of lockdown.

This Friday morning was the first time Nam Hoang, 34, had woken up early in the last few months to prepare his barbershop in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1 for reopening.

"This is a new start. I won’t receive appointments until next weekend since all slots have been booked," he said before going to a pharmacy to stock up on hand sanitizer.

It is a busy day for hairdressers and barbers across Saigon, with the city having lifted its stringent lockdown measures that lasted four months.

Except for some sectors considered to pose a high Covid infection risk, most public and private production and service facilities in HCMC are allowed to reopen from Friday, including hair salons, which are allowed to operate at half capacity.

Hairdressers and barbers are all set for back-to-back appointments as bookings came flooding in even before the end of the lockdown.

A barbershop on Ngo Tat To Street, Binh Thanh District, HCMC, October 1, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Dinh Van

A barbershop on Ngo Tat To Street, Binh Thanh District, HCMC, Oct. 1, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Dinh Van

Many have ditched walk-in customers, only receiving those with appointments. But the demand is so high that many people will have to wait for days to have their hair cut.

"We only receive appointments after Oct. 4, since slots on the first three days of this month are all fully booked," 4RAU barbershop, part of a popular chain in town, stated via its Facebook page.

Also facing a huge number of patrons, Tran Vu, owner of a hair salon on District 11’s Au Co Street, said he is thrilled to welcome customers after months of hibernation.

"It is not just about the money, but working also makes me feel useful, I am so thrilled I could not sleep last night," the man said while having a banh mi before reopening his shop.

"I think I will not have time for lunch, but it is okay. Reopening is a blessing, the closure had created a huge financial burden," he added, saying slots in his salon have been booked until Oct. 5.

And as restrictions are eased once more and reopening is feasible, hairstylists are ready to adapt to the "new normal".

Barbershops and hair salons across the city have been busy with sanitizing and cleaning up their shops as well as chairs, mirrors and other equipment. Many require all of their staff and customers to be fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid with certificates from local health authorities.

"100 percent of our employees have been vaccinated to serve our clients... They will also be equipped with protective gear and face shields," 30Shine, another barber chain, wrote on its Facebook page.

Like many other barbershops and hair salons, Vu also requires his patrons to show their vaccination status before entering.

"I also place bottles of hand sanitizer outside, they must sanitize their hands first and show their ‘green pass’."

Over 95 percent of the HCMC adult population have received one Covid-19 vaccine shot, and 45 percent are fully vaccinated.

Barbers at a salon on Le Thi Rieng Street wear protective gear to serve their clients, October 1, 2021. Photo courtesy of Maison de Bil

Barbers at a salon on Le Thi Rieng Street wear protective gear to serve their clients, October 1, 2021. Photo courtesy of Maison de Bil

Much-needed trim

Saigonese, cooped up for four months, are excited to ‘shape up’ their hairstyles. With eased restrictions, many headed straight to the hairdresser or barber to get that much-needed trim this morning.

Many made their appointments days ago, before official news about the lockdown relaxation came out.

Manh Cuong, 30, had his first post-lockdown haircut Friday morning at his favorite barber that is only a couple of blocks away from his house in District 3.

"It is wonderful. I feel like me again," he said, adding he feels a stone lighter and that his wife would surely appreciate the new look.

The last time Cuong had a haircut was in mid-April and his hair had grown so thick during the lockdown that he even had to wear a hairband.

"My hair was ‘like a beast’ and I felt like ‘a caveman’ for months."

Many yearn for new hair before returning to the office in the new normal.

Ngoc Bich, 53, feels "ten years younger" after a hairdresser helped fix her gray roots and "more confident and representable" prior to returning to the office.

"Finally! This day has arrived," she wrote while sending a photo of her new cut to her children.

While some people long for their first post-lockdown trip to the hair salon, some people remain cautious since they don't feel comfortable and safe venturing out at the moment.

Phan Thi Kim Lien, 34, admits her hair had become unruly during social distancing but that she would wait for another week to seek professional help.

"I do not feel confident and safe, and want to avoid crowded places as much as possible on these first days of reopening," she said.

HCMC previously experienced more than 120 days under many different levels of social distancing.

In his hair salon in District 1, Hoang is serving his first post-lockdown customers and talking happily behind his face mask.

"It is so great to be back, we will be cautious because we do not want any lockdown to return."

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