Tuesday, 20 January 2015

My 1st 10-Minute Haircut at kcuts

  Kwik Kut, Time's Money.   Social Hair Analysis.   The Clash of 2 Not So Permanent Waves.

I usually have my hair cut at the unisex hair salon, which is the majority in the hair salons industry in Singapore (probably in all developed economies). One thing I don't like about some of them are their constant selling of other services like shampooing, hair dying (don't remind me I'm old!), perm, face-washing, and what have you. I just want a hair cut. Nothing else. They told me their bosses pushed them to do that. The boss pushes them, they push it to me. Naturally, I'm at the end of the food chain.

Another thing, because their haircut tends to be more expensive, so they take their time to cut your hair. They're tending to your hair like a tree artist making sculpture from a tree, giving you the impression that you're getting your money's worth.  C'mon, chop-chop ! Time's money ! I screamed at them with my inner voice.

Ok, I'm free to doze off when things are slow, but I prefer to sleep lying down, not in such undignified posture with a white sheet drapes over me (what does that remind you of?) Somebody may snap a picture of my drooling mouth, and it goes viral on the internet.

I could go for the old fashioned barbershop, which is usually run by Indian in Singapore. As I've negative sterotype about old fashioned barbershop (in any country), I think they may give me a square haircut. Square is fine for a bookshelf and some faces, but not my face. I'm a person who cares about face. So I need to look trendy, and kool. Not square.

kcuts barbershop, Holland Village outlet, Singapore
kcuts at Holland Village outlet

Well, what about a trendy barbershop? A really kool modern barbershop (you need to spell "kool" with a "k" to be kool) with young lady barbers instead old men who don't speak your fashion lingo. And what's kooler than a barbershop called kcuts that starts with a "k"? Another thing, it's kooler to start with a lower case letter in a name like eBay, iPad, etc.

I have walked past previously a number of Japanese based QB House that's well known for their 10-minute haircuts. I haven't tried it yet. There's one in Holland Village near where I live. To cut cost - and passing the saving to you - they tend to shy away from the street level where rents are higher. So they wouldn't be as easily discovered by chance.

QB House barbershop, Holland Village outlet, Singapore
Holland Village outlet. It's the small shopping mall with the windmill on top.

I had never came across a kcuts barbershop (for the last 5 years living in the little red dot) until today, when I found out they just opened their barbershop right next to the QB House in Holland Village.

Right now, Singapore is being hit by a k-wave (people call this social phenomenon a "Korean Wave" is simply unkool. They're probably sociology professors who get their haircuts at the old fashioned barbershops). If you've never heard of a k-wave in Singapore, you're probably over 55 or a Franciscan or Buddhist monk or an Amish. Surely, you old timer have heard of Gangnam style?

gangnam style
If you haven't heard of Gangham style, you're probably living in a grotto or ghetto with no internet access.
Big name celebrities from Lady Gaga, Madonna, Bieber, Chipmunks, Chipettes to Ban Ki-moon and
Barrack Obama had danced the Gangnam style. The question is, who hadn't ?

HK and Singapore, both are international-port island-states that are susceptible to tsunami originated from the Far East epicentres (read trendsetters) of Japan, and Korea. A couple of decades ago, the social landscapes of HK and Singapore were inundated by J-wave, today, the K-wave is flooding in, leaving all young S.E. Asian totally, hopelessly defenseless. K-pop, k-dramas, now kcuts are making their inroads into Singapore.

While kcuts are newer entry than the Japanese QB House in Singapore, but because the J-wave is falling while the K-wave is rising, more kcuts shops are expanding in the Little Red Dot. The force is strong Luke! The following 2 google trends charts tells the whole story of ebb and flow of the 2 waves in the last decade.

From these 2 charts, you can see that Korean didn't gain its trendsetting momentum until 2010. Japanese has been losing steam since the turn of 21st century.

google search term volume for "kpop" between 2004 and 2014
google search stats for the term "kpop" between 2004 and 2014.
It started to lift off circa 2010. Gangnam style occurred on 2012, during the heyday of kpop.
(click to enlarge)

google search term volume for "jpop" between 2004 and 2014
google search stats for the term "jpop" between 2004 and 2014

David Fenton from the Vapours
David Fenton from the Vapours
Photo: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
If the English band The Vapours wrote their biggest (one) hit (wonder) today, its title would probably be "Turning Korean" instead of "Turning Japanese". According to the singer / songwriter David Fenton, the song title doesn't have to be "Turning Japanese", it could be Lebanese, Chinese, or any other nationality.

Since it was written in the mid-1990s when J-pop was in its heyday, the word "Japanese" would naturally pop (so to speak) into the pop-artist's head. Speaking of head, nor would he wear a mullet hairstyle to appear in that music video if it's made today. Or would he?

Although "Korean" wouldn't roll off the tongue of this rock and roll song quite the same way as "Japanese".

And what it is that British rockers think mullet hairstyle rocks (at least to David Fenton, David Bowie, Rod Steward, et al), is it because they like to look business-like up the front while partying in the back?

There're fewer kcuts (17 outlets as I write) than QB House (39 outlets). This is because kcuts is the new kid on the block (or little red dot). While kcuts maybe just a kopy kat of QB House, but with the k-wave being so strong, its store opening could catch up, and may even surpass QB House, assuming Singapore has such market appetite. Of course, they might grow at the expense of the more expensive full service hair salons.

I'm guessing here, QB probably stands for "Quick Barbers(hop)". Maybe they should change it to "Kwik Barber" or KB to ride the K-wave.

Just a side note. There's also a 3rd operator in this 3-legged race of the 10-minute barbershops in Singapore. EC House has 33 outlets, which makes it somewhere between QB House, and kcuts in terms of market penetration.


So as I stood there between the 2 shops, my head shook from side to side, trying to decide. But the force of K-wave is simply too strong, I found myself being pulled into into kcuts the way I would be pulled in by Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker if they were having haircuts in kcuts. My left leg took the lead (just like social ballroom dancing). Help! Obi wan Kenobi! The force is too strong!

kcuts and QM House barbershops, Holland Village outlet, Singapore
Two 10-minute barbershop go head-to-head with each other
The junction where 2 social waves meet and...c-r-a-s-h !

I called these shops barbershops and the ones with more comprehensive service unisex hair salons. This is because I don't know the proper terms to be used in the industry. But don't get the wrong idea that these barbershops only cater for men. Maybe I should call them 10-minute hair salon. As you can see from the above photo, the seated customer isn't a man with very long hair. This is Singapore. No such thing.

I usually have long hair. I'm too old to rebel, I'm just trying to save money on haircuts.

kcuts barbershop docket / receipt, Holland Village outlet, Singapore
Just what Singaporean are used
to in all customer service centres.
Get a ticket from a machine,
and wait.
You need to buy a ticket from a machine at the door. There's not much room in the shop. Because this is haircut-only service without shampooing or blow dry, and so there's no need for any washing basin and its associated reclining bench, this further reduce the space and cost of the quick haircut shop, keeping its fee low for customers.

kcuts barbershop, Holland Village outlet, Singapore
kcuts @ Holland Village.
The tentacle of vacuum tube is sucking up
the customer's loose hairs.
While they save on space, they're generous
in the hygienic practice. (click to enlarge)
As you can see, there's not so much room to sit and wait. It's pretty much standing-only for the 2 barbers. Since it's a 10-minute cut, it's assumed that the wait won't be long.

There's actually a single spare chair at a corner (in the middle of the photo). The barber asked me to sit there and wait. I declined and much prefer to wait outside the shop where I wouldn't have to stare into the wall or the head of customer. Outside, I could get cracking on my photojournalism for this article. Outside, snap! Snap! Inside, snip! Snip!

Dunno if all kcuts shops are this squeezy or just the Holland Village outlet.

A promotional TV sits in front of you just below the mirror where they show you messages like, "Welcome to the Korean World of Style and Glamour". And selling the idea that they're targeting the busy executives.

QB House barbershop, Singapore
While there's no blow dry, there's a vacuum tube to suck up your dismembered hair. When the sucker got around your ears, they're louder than your usual hairdryer. But it's good that there's not much hair flying around the place like black (and grey) snow.

The QB House has recently raised their price from S$10 to S$12. After kcuts moved into next door with the $10 in 10 minutes deal, QB House had to respond by lowering their price to match. I don't know if this applies to the Holland outlet only because they're competing at such close quarters, or the QB House's price drop is island-wide. If not, QB House will have to if they want to stay competitive with kcuts. Singaporeans have quite keen noses for low prices, and they will follow their noses into kcuts shops.

I'm reasonably happy with the service for the given price. They try to make your hairstyle looking like k-actors in popular k-dramas (or TVB's Overachievers 2014 that was influenced by this k-wave). A hairstyle that's like the shorter version of the Beatles' hairstyle in the 1960s, which is kinda reverse mullet hairstyle. Youngsters in the last few generations needed to rebel, and so they needed their symbol of rebellion. Kids today aren't rebelling anymore. At least, long hair is no longer a symbol of rebellion. Not even a tattoo. Not even nipple or nose piercing. Rebellious symbols are hard to find these days. I guess that's why they give up rebelling. Rebel without a cause; that makes a lot of sense. Rebel without a symbol? How do you know that I'm rebelling? Forget it !

Overachievers 2014

Will I come back? Probably. But I'll probably give QB House a try as well, just to be fair. I probably won't try EC House any time soon because there's none nearby. I'm waiting for them to open a shop next to these 2 other barbershops (hey EC House management, the shop space next to kcuts is empty), and let the customers enjoy some barber's shaving-knife cut-throat competitions. $8 for 8 minute, anyone?


  1. Hello Francis

    I'm Agent G from Beauty Undercover, a website reviewing beauty salons in Singapore :)
    While searching online, we came across your blog commenting on K Cuts

    Would you mind if we publish an excerpt of your blog post and link to your page here: http://www.beautyundercover.sg/hair/kcuts/

    Your blog post would help others know more about an experience at the salon, make a better salon decision and at the same time, increase your blog traffic.

    Let us know :) and hope you have a great week ahead.

    Agent G

    1. Hi Francis,

      I'm doing research for the documentary series Barber Shop, revolving around barber shops around the world. In 6 separate episodes we meet 6 populations in a world in transition through the microcosm of the local barbershop.

      Singapore seems an interesting location to film one of the episodes and since you write a lot about Singapore and even have a whole blog post about barbers, you seem like the person who could help me out by answering some questions on the topic. Is there a way I could contact you to ask you some more questions about this?

      Thanks in advance!

      Best regards,


    2. I'm no expert on barbershop. But if you have any question, post it here. I'll see if I can answer them.

  2. do they provide styling as well?

    1. They only have one price. So I don't think they provide styling.