$40 Dollar Wash, Blow Dry & Simple Style
December 24, 2016
Part of my initial research, through Facebook posts, revealed a hair shop called Hair & Joy that was reasonably priced and had hairdressers who spoke English. I called the shop after I had lived in South Korea for nearly two weeks and made an appointment. I made the appointment because I wanted to see if I could live here and still maintain my usual hairstyle.
Usually, I maintain a straight shoulder-length cut with my hair parted down the middle. I have been going to the same hairdresser in Los Angeles for the last ten years. This may not be a big deal to some, but for African American women this is a trusted and lifelong relationship. If you’re looking for more information about how much African American women annually spend on hair care products, check out Good Hair a documentary by Chris Rock.
I booked an early morning appointment to beat the congested weekend traffic. It was my first experience finding a new location on my own. After getting the instructions from the website I walked about ten minutes to the subway from my dorm and went to Hongdae.
After reading the building floor map I discovered the hair shop was on the third floor. As I waited inside the elevator I took a deep breath. I wondered how I would be received? In Los Angeles, I understood the beauty salon culture. Because of the number of people getting their hair done I knew that it would take at least three hours from the time I went into the shop until I was ready to leave. Because of this, I needed to bring at least two magazines and a fully charged iPhone. But I didn’t know how the culture would be in Korea. I told myself that at the very least I read a good review in the Facebook group “Black In Korea.”
My new hairdresser politely greeted me and asked if I wanted any coffee, tea or water. She didn’t look at all shocked, I guess I wouldn’t have a “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” moment. A handsome guy named Jay took me to the shampoo bowl and washed my hair. As he washed my hair he asked if I wanted a neck massage. He gently rubbed the temples on my head and then moved down to my lower neck. In that moment I let go of my stress and decided to enjoy the experience. After blow drying and flat ironing my hair, which only took an hour, (During my subway ride home I seriously tried to calculate how many hours I wasted in L.A. sitting in a beauty salon) I was ready to go out into Seoul’s icy winter. As I paid forty dollars I remembered to adhere to the custom in South Korea not to tip the hairdresser. An unheard of practice back in the United States.
My hair wasn’t as bone straight as I was able to get in L.A. However, I was able to let my hair down instead of putting it into a ponytail. I felt as I always do once I get my hair done, an extreme confidence booster. As I walked back to the subway station I was reminded of my favorite poem “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou. I realized that I could live, work and play anywhere in the world and not be suppressed into living the same life as my family. My dream for myself is that when I get older, behind my “smize” and sophisticated hair design, I will have so many stories to tell at the dinner table.
If you want to continue reading about my life in Seoul, South Korea check out the next post in my travel diary.