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Daily DripSociety

Haircuts, Skaters, Champagne: Shanghai’s First Few Days of Freedom

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As the clock struck midnight on June 1, the lockdown in Shanghai was officially lifted for most of the city’s 26 million citizens. Residents in low-risk compounds are now free to roam the streets while enjoying the warm spring air.

Freed from (most of) the shackles of anti-Covid lockdown measures, many have fled their homes in the past 24 hours, carrying champagne bottles and Bluetooth speakers into the streets and letting loose.

A disconnect between the official lifting of the lockdown and the city’s remaining anti-Covid restrictions (many businesses are still shuttered) has birthed a new phenomenon: Streetside hair salons have popped up around the city — it isn’t unusual to see men, women and kids sitting (or standing) on sidewalks as hairdressers snip off their unruly lockdown locks.

shanghai lockdown

A customer getting his hair cut at Tony Chen’s pop-up salon in Jing’an district

Born in Anhui province, Tony Chen, 40, has been a hairdresser in Shanghai for almost 20 years. He lives and works in central Shanghai, specifically in Jing’an district.

“I started coming out to work about a week ago as soon as my compound eased restrictions,” Chen tells RADII. “I have not had any source of income for the past month and a half, but I still had to pay rent for my apartment and the hair salon. I’ve really been struggling to make ends meet.”

Like Chen, many other barbers have also decided to reopen their businesses outdoors. Most have chosen a spot close to their salon, enabling their regulars to find them easily.

Some essential tools of the trade for ‘outdoor barbers’ are a stool, a cape, and a hairdressing kit. Chen also chooses to set up a full-length mirror and play music on a Bluetooth speaker to create a pleasant environment for his customers.

“It helps me get through the day and puts a smile on people’s faces after this rough time.”

Chen’s street salon serves 30 clients a day on average and up to 42 customers on particularly busy days.

shanghai lockdown

Chen brings a mirror, a broom, a Bluetooth speaker, and hairdressing tools to his chosen spot every day

Prior to lockdown, Chen charged his customers between 108 RMB (16 USD) for men and 228 RMB (34 USD) for women. But the public has been enjoying his haircuts for half the usual price.

“I charge less because I can’t wash their hair here on the street, and the overall experience is not as comfortable [as being in a proper salon],” said the hairstylist. “They might also have struggled financially during the lockdown, so I try to keep my prices down.”

shanghai lockdown

Street massage parlors have also popped up in Shanghai’s city center

Anyone who has not enjoyed an ‘alfresco hair appointment’ should seize the opportunity while they can.

On May 31, Chen was informed that he would soon be able to reopen his salon. As such, he has been rushing to restock his supplies and disinfect the space.

“I liked working outdoors and was able to connect with new customers, but I can’t wait to reopen my salon,” said the hairstylist.

A young couple sits outside of a market enjoying skewers and milk tea. Image courtesy of Haedi Yue

A young couple sits outside of a market enjoying skewers and milk tea. Image courtesy of Haedi Yue

While many have prioritized getting a haircut straight out of lockdown, as exemplified by a trending hashtag on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo, others have been itching to carry out other activities.

Ian Wu, 25, a student from Fujian province, knew what his first activity would be as soon as he was freed on May 30: “I went straight to West Bund to skate. I was there for five hours, skating until nighttime.”

Local skaters hanging out at a local skating spot colloquially known as the ‘Seven Stairs’ in Shanghai’s West Bund

West Bund, a public space facing the Huangpu River, is known to locals as a popular spot for recreational activities such as skateboarding, ultimate Frisbee, basketball, picnics, and even daytime camping.

Although some of Shanghai’s metro lines have yet to resume normal operations, Wu willingly pedaled to West Bund for half an hour to reach his destination.

shanghai west bund

The area adjacent to the Long Art Museum in West Bund is one of the city’s hottest skate spots and was quickly reclaimed by the community on June 1

Unsurprisingly, Wu was not alone at West Bund.

On May 31 and June 1, thousands of citizens sped to the iconic hangout spot to stake out their places on the grassy areas to play music, dance, and engage in outdoor activities.

shanghai lockdown

On June 1, a group of young residents went to have a picnic in Shanghai’s Pudong district. Image courtesy of Haedi Yue

While many are prioritizing outdoor activities, others don’t seem to mind staying indoors if it means getting in some retail therapy.

Customers line up outside of the Chanel store in Plaza 66, Jing’an district

June 1 saw the reopening of some of Shanghai’s biggest shopping malls, including prestigious establishments such as Plaza 66 and IAPM.

Dozens lined up outside their favorite luxury stores, ready for some revenge shopping after the two-month lockdown. To each their own, we say!

Unless otherwise stated, all images courtesy of Beatrice Tamagno

Beatrice Tamagno
Beatrice is a graduate student in sociology at Fudan University in Shanghai. Her writings have appeared on SupChina and ChinaNauts, an online magazine she co-founded with fellow researchers from Fudan. When she is not researching gender in contemporary China, you will find her playing mahjong or binging Chinese TV shows.

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