China: Around The Nation

Smoking hot: Chinese barber an internet hit giving perms with fire-heated tongs

Video of the elderly hairdresser using the traditional technique has gone viral online in China

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 2:36pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 2:44pm

Video footage has gone viral in China of an elderly barber using the traditional method of red-hot tongs to perm hair.

Wang Meimei, 74, from Jinshi in Sichuan province has used the technique - a popular method for curling hair before the 1980s - for decades, the Chengdu Economic Daily reported.

Wang charges only four yuan (58 US cents) for his perms, which can last as long as three months.

To create the curls, Wang takes his tongs from a fire, dips them in water and then roll them across people’s hair. In a video of his technique, the heated tongs can be heard making a hissing sound when they are in contact with hair, which then gives off wisps of smoke.

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Wang’s inconspicuous hair salon does not even have a name, but there are no shortage of customers eager for Wang’s perms, which the old barber says requires a pair of deft hands to execute.

If he moves the tongs too slowly, he might burn a customer’s hair, but if the temperature is too low, it won’t create effective curls, the report said.

Wang’s perms do not use harmful chemicals and he says he has never injured anybody after decades wielding the hot tongs.

He first learned his hairdressing skills with his brother back in 1959 when he was 17 years old. The brothers opened their own barber shop together in 1977.

The old barber is worried that the traditional perming technique will disappear, the report said. His son is uninterested in learning the method and three of the apprentices he trained all “found the job too difficult and low paying and gave up to find other jobs”.

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But there is still hope. Wang’s granddaughter has expressed some interest, so he is ready to pass his skills on to her.

Many people shared and commented on the video on the internet, praising his unique perming style.

“This technique could disappear, so we need to treasure it,” one person wrote.

Another said: “Say no more, I really want to try this.”