Saturday, October 04, 2008

Another sign of De-Olympification

It's not just the street-food stalls that have returned, it's also..... the backstreet "hairdressers".

These are tiny, squalid salons - usually just off a main street, down one of the little side alleys - where no-one ever seems to be having a haircut, but the exclusively female staff are...... well, rather garishly dressed, and, by Chinese standards, rather voluptuous. Yes, they are in fact mini-brothels.

There used to be a lot of them on Jiugulou Dajie - The Street, my home in my first couple of years here; at that time a main road in name only, it was really no more than a wide hutong (though subsequently redeveloped and broadened into a majestic boulevarde) - where the presence of the private English college I taught at provided a significant source of business (lots of relatively affluent young kids who didn't know how to get laid any other way). Since the Olympic redevelopment of the area, they've all been forced into 'hiding' down the little alleyways round about. And earlier this year, they were all closed down. (I'm not sure if there was any policy targeting them specificially, although I would imagine that there was. However, the general crackdown on migrant workers living here without the requisite residence permit - hukou - will have led to most of their employees being kicked out of the city for the summer.)

Now, at last, they are starting to reappear. There's something oddly comforting about it - even the sleazier aspects of the city form part of its familiar charm.

I was terribly naive about these places when I first arrived here. The girls would become terribly excited whenever a foreigner walked past - tapping loudly on the window with a coin to get our attention and beckoning us agitatedly to come in. "My god!" I'd think to myself. "Do I really need a haircut that badly?"


moonrat said...


i've never heard of hairdressers before.

im working on a book right now that's about beijing pre-olympics. this, however, was not one of the topics covered. so thanks :)

Froog said...

Always glad to be of service, MR dearest.

Anonymous said...

Having lived on the same street from 2003-2004, I found the trickiest part was finding a place to get an actual haircut. Finally found one next to your old school in the same building as the Quicky mart and the pharmacy.

Froog said...

There was an OK one (VERY slow!) on the other side of the school entrance, at the front of the dormitory block that was mysteriously named "the Japanese building". Back in those days I usually used to use one of those white-coated sidewalk barbers - an old dame I used to think of as The Nit Lady - who set up stall in the lane at the NW of the Drum Tower.