January 2010
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Haircut in Vietnam

Dude...are you sure you know what you're doing?

I’ve used the same barber in San Antonio for over 30 years.  My barber Ken Nutt is a great guy.  He is a former Marine who served in Korea and a classic car aficionado.  He has built himself a few hot rods over the years and shows them off at a lot of the Texas auto shows.  I used to be afraid of him when I was a kid because he looked real mean with his handlebar mustache…and the fact that he rarely smiled…but as I grew older and started talking to him…I realized that he was an old softy.  Ken’s Barber Shop is one of those old fashioned barber shops with the swirling red and blue barber poles out front.

When I moved to Austin after high school to attend The University of Texas at Austin, and then later moved to Indiana after getting married….I had to find different barbers….however, every couple of months whenever I would drive/fly home to visit my mom in San Antonio…I would always remember to stop by and get a haircut with my old barber Ken.

When I look for a new barber…I make sure to look out for the red and blue barber poles.  I refuse to get my hair cut at a fancy stylist that will charge me $30-$40 (not including tip) for a simple hair cut.  Ken’s Barber Shop was always one of the cheapest places in San Antonio to get a hair cut ($9….$15 with a tip)…but that’s not why I get my hair cut there.  I have a very simple cut….I buzz it military style on the sides…and leave it just a little bit longer on top.  Sounds simple enough right?  Every single barber I’ve used aside from one in Indiana…has managed to mess up the cut.  They usually make my head look more rectangular than it already is…or they completely shave the top off even though I ask them to keep it longer.  Ken cuts my hair to my liking 100% of the time.

Imagine my trepidation when I started looking for a barber (tho hot toc or tho cat toc)  in Vietnam.  Most Vietnamese men have the typical medium length….just got out of bed hairstyle.  I have noticed a few that have short, buzz type cuts…but the length is uniform throughout their head.  When walking around Vietnam…a common sight you’ll see are the outdoor barbers that set up shop just right off the streets.  They usually only use scissors though and my head requires the use of an electric hair clipper to get the sides really close and even.

When I went to Vung Tau last weekend to practice driving the motorbike, I decided I would just walk around the neighborhood and try out the first barber shop that I saw.  There was one that was just a couple blocks from my grandmother’s house.  There were 4 barbers in the shop…but only 1 was working.  Two of the barbers were napping on their chairs and the 4th was apparently using the rest room.  I was told to sit and wait in the 1 empty chair.  The two napping barbers, were older men…one I later found out was the owner, the one barber actually cutting hair looked like he was in his mid-20s and my barber when he finally appeared from the restroom looked about 17 years old….pimples and all.

If I knew that my barber was going to be a pimply faced kid….I probably would have just waited for the other barber to finish and just have him cut my hair….but I was already sitting in this kid’s chair and I didn’t want to be rude.  I describe to him in my best Vietnamese (which consists of weird guttural sounds with a dash of sign language) how I want my hair cut.  The kid nods in understanding and starts slowly cutting my hair with the electric clipper…using a comb to measure the length of my hair with each buzz of the clipper.  I ask him if he has the standard comb attachments for the clipper….since I knew that my barber in The States uses the number 1 length attachment on my sides.  He seems surprised that I wanted my hair cut so short…but to my approval he pulls out an attachment and quickly runs the clipper along the sides and the back my head.  That was easy enough….but the true test was how he cuts the top.  The kid carefully combs the top of my head and using scissors he cuts away just the right amount of length.  I was impressed.  He then finishes off by shaving my neck and around my ears with a disposable razor and some clear foam-less gel.

This kid cut my hair just as good as my old barber Ken on his very first try!  Cost of one of my best hair cuts ever?  15,000 Dong…..about 75 cents!! I was so happy with my cut I gave him 30,000 Dong.  Next time I’m in Vung Tau I will definitely go to this barber shop again….and I’ll be happy to get my hair cut by the same kid.

Never judge a book by it’s cover.


p.s.  In case you didn’t deduce…that is not me in the picture.  Thanks to Minh Man, (yes…that’s his real name.  How awesome is that?) who was just 2 years old at the time, for letting me use his picture.

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7 comments to Haircut in Vietnam

  • Benny

    Dude, you are spoiling the pimple-face kid for the next VK. Now, he’s going to think that we all tip at least as much as the price of a hair cut. Thank God, you didn’t get a shampoo and a shave. Just kidding.

    FYI – My kid (and money) go to your alma mater. You realize the Horns lost to Alabama, right!

    • odgnut

      or maybe he’ll think….I’ll do an especially good job on the next VK and maybe he’ll be appreciative and tip me well.

      I don’t keep up with UT anymore…will glance at the scoreboards every now and then but not a fanatic like most ex-alumni. Condolences to your kid though.

      p.s. I think you’re around my age right? And you have a kid attending UT already? Damn we’re old!!

  • Craig N

    What is really crazy, is Benny has a kid at UT. I am your age as well (38), and that is my 2 year old in the picture (he is 3 now)! My oldest is only 6 now.

    If you want to feel old, try having a 3 and 6 year old!

  • Benny


    I am 52. All my children are no longer 3 or 6. The oldest is 23 and finishing pharmacy school at Univ. of Houston. The next kid is 21 and attending UT. The next one is 16, and the last is 13.

    Craig – Just wait until your kid drives a car, then (God forbid) wrecks it wihtin the first year. Or wait until he or she smokes & then inhales. And, I don’t mean cigarettes.

    Cheers, dudes!!

  • Thuy

    You always overtip!

  • leung

    Do you accidently know any good and affordable barbershops in hcm ? thanks.

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